Wednesday, April 25, 2007

START SNITCHIN/ return of the mack/ whoa there amy winehouse

"I wouldn't be like the serial killer's in 4E"

60 minutes chose Cam'ron to educate the seeds on Sunday. The episode, which you've probably had forwarded to you from youtube like fifty times by now, featured a 10 minute segment on snitching, which can apparently also go (legitimately!) by "The Stop Snitchin Campaign." It wasn't until reading the wikipedia entry that I found out there was an actual DVD behind all those t shirts I started seeing on kids a couple years back. Like those inexplicably popular gangsta snowman tees, or the ones with like Tony Tiger iced up and counting cash, I thought the stop snitchin tees were a kinda silly fad, based on problematic ideas but ultimately harmless. And, in spite of the indignant protestations of half the country, I guess I still think they're not that bad.

The problem with "stop snitchin," as 60 minutes, a recent Essence article, and a growing number of jurisdictions around the country present it, is that people are so bound by this code of silence that it effectively breaks down the rule of law wherever it is the standard. Point taken. Especially after Cam told Anderson Cooper that he would just move if his neighbor were a serial killer, rather than alert the cops that a serial killer lived next door.

BUT, people seem a little too eager to elide the difference between providing information that will protect public safety, and selling out your friends. While these things are always hard to trace, I'm fairly certain that stop snitchin'/ a mostly black urban code of silence got reinforced kinda hardcore when law enforcement started enticing cooperating witnesses with lighter sentences in the war on drugs. This tactic not only makes the war on drugs a more effective tool against black folks (since it widens the net of people who'll get snatched up), it also further elevates kingpins and screws over the little guys (since it rewards folks with the most information). Under those (common) circumstances, who can really defend snitching- effectively selling out your equally guilty friends or associates to save your own skin? And, I have to admit, stop snitchin' resonates even more positively with me these days given the expanded use of grand jury testimony to persecute political dissidents under the USA PATRIOT ACT. White folks can get as huffy as they want about black folks not cooperating with the police, but this time I'm not drinking the kool-aid.

As always, I'm also kinda annoyed that it's only black appropriations of standard cultural mores that get such intense scrutiny. I mean, didn't Al Pacino win an oscar, as well as adulation and poetic justice for an eight-minute rant against snitching like fifteen years ago? And while the cops feel increasingly frustrated by witnesses who refuse to turn informant, there isn't a police department in the entire country that doesn't enforce the blue wall of silence. Not to bite Imus's defense, but rappers didn't invent the words "tattle, " "rat," "snitch," or any other pejorative for people who tell, and therefore incriminate others. Granted, crimes that are somewhat protected by "stop snitchin," like murder or drug trafficking, may be wreaking more havoc on black communities than others, but i have a hard time joining in on this public outcry. Especially when it's just the next event in a long history of pathologizing black people's behavior while leaving their white counterparts unexamined.

-dial 917

p.s. Oh, and I guess I'm back. On Wednesdays. Until Ash gets fed up.

p.p.s. Dear Amy Winehouse,
You went from patron saint of girls who like to drink and can totally handle it, whatever to patron saint of girls who have viewed a recent picture of you and are re-examining their relationship to the bottle. I'm not mocking you I'm just saying, maybe we should lay off the booze for a bit and just chill at home.


gatamala said...

I agree 100% w/ your last paragraph. Consider that some communities who don't cooperate w/ the police are considered "private", "protective", they "take care of their own" (like cops) or are otherwise considered "insular" at worst. Frankly, insularity seems to be a positive attribute in "tight knit [ethnic!] enclaves". Yet when black folks do it, it's a mark of criminality and no respect for the law (which takes care of itself better than any other).

Besides there is a HUGE distinction between snitchin & witness testimony.

917 160 49311 said...

Cam apologized for that mess!