Sunday, August 9, 2009

3. The resonance and reach of the "Stop Snitching" campaign

Back for Part 3 of my 7 part series. Part 2 got rave reviews (meaning about 3 or 4 people said that they liked it or found it interesting) so hopefully, readers can relate to this one as well.

First of all, this is truly absurd. You've heard the slogans, "Snitches get found in ditches" or "Snitches get stitches" and the like. You've seen the plain old "Stop Snitchin'" hats, signs, and paraphernalia before as well. In fact, most people have probably seen the following video as well.

You knew that was coming, right? Right. We don't seem to think enough of ourselves to know that we deserve to live in safe neighborhoods and to keep the things that we work hard for without worrying about someone breaking in, sticking us up, killing us, or endangering our children. Of course, here are the corresponding rap lyrics, this time from my favorite rapper, Nas. These are from the song "You're The Man" off his 2001 album, "Stillmatic":

"Wish I could flap wings and fly away
To where Black kings in Ghana stay
So I could get over my flesh right away
But that'll be the day
When it's peace, when my gat don't need to spray
When these streets are safe to play."

It says a lot about our culture that this mess is pretty much a PR campaign. Not only do we think it's okay to harm one another, kill one another, rob one another. From somewhere, we got the notion that we should also be accommodated by the very community that we victimize as we do so.

"Said I'd like to know where, you got the no-tion."
Maybe we got it from the fact that in the worst neighborhoods, police tend to take their time reacting to a disturbance? Maybe not. It's highly likely that the racial profiling and police brutality witnessed all over this nation is an important contributing factor to the lack of cooperation from those affected most by inner-city crime. No matter where the notion came from, it's time for me to rock the boat.

First of all, we should abstain from acting immorally or illegally because we make statements about ourselves with our actions. Let's go down the list:

If you fight someone, you're saying "I'm not intelligent enough to use my words to get out of this situation, nor do I have the self-control or self-discipline to walk away.
If you and a group of people jump someone, you're saying "I cannot win in a physical confrontation against this person on my own."
If you kill someone or have to use any type of weapon on them without just cause (meaning you were not in a kill or be killed situation), you're saying "I'm afraid to get into a physical confrontation with this person."
If you steal from someone, you're saying "I'm not intelligent enough or resourceful enough to make a legal living for myself."
If you break in and rob someone while bearing arms, you're saying "I'm not smart enough to enter without leaving a trail, neither am I man enough to take something without a visual aide to help me."
If you rape someone, you're saying "I'm not smooth, charismatic, or presentable enough to attract a woman's attention."

Are we noticing a pattern here? Good! Apply that pattern to any and all crimes not listed here.
Funny what these things actually represent as opposed to how glamorous they look in the media, huh?

Now that we've gotten the crimes out of the way, what does refusing to snitch, therefore allowing one's self to be governed by the "Stop Snitchin'" Campaign?
There's no list for this one. There's only two things being said.
Either "I welcome you to continue to steal from, rob, defraud, harm, or potentially kill me or my family members. I would not cooperate with the police to stop you from doing any of these things because I like having you in my community oppressing me and wouldn't want to put you in jail and keep you from doing this to myself or anyone else. Putting you in jail might also deter other would-be criminals. Can't have that!"
"I do not trust the police to properly deal with you if I cooperate with them and fear for my safety or the safety of my family members if I do. Therefore, although you do oppress this community, I would rather be oppressed than dead."
First things first, if the entire community banded together against criminals, there would not be such a fear of them in our communities. Too bad we glorify them, take up for many of them because we know them, or have such a distrust for the police that we cheer for the worst of the worst. We also are under a belief system that there are no other opportunities for a young Black man in America. The fact of the matter is that this is not true. There are plenty of opportunities for us, many of which we don't take advantage of. We're not reading. Many of us are not trying to learn anything. That's why the most lucrative, yet perfectly legal, opportunities seem to evade so many of us. Notice that I used the word oppress in the above statements. We have to come to a point that we see crime in our community for what it is, oppression. The same oppression so many of us accuse "the White man" of everyday. Of course, there are still racists out there who want nothing more than the destruction of minorities. Racism, however, has become more of a taboo in this nation - thus people hide their racist sentiments for fear of being outed and duly punished. Also, would-be oppressors have no more work to do! We do it for them everyday! Why don't we refer to those in our communities who have no respect for us or our rights to live and pursue happiness as oppressors. Next time we say "the White man" is keeping us down, some of us need to look around and see who really hates us for trying to have something, be respectable, and experience the American Dream as well as the upward mobility that comes with it. The fact of the matter is, a great deal of that hatred comes from us. Our hate is for us, by us - just like FUBU. Common chronicled this truth in a song, "Black Maybe," from his 2007 album, "Finding Forever." However, his non-rhyming, casually-spoken remarks at the end of the song are probably most poignant. He says:
"When we talk about black maybe, we talk about situations of people of color.
And because you are that color, you endure obstacles and opposition.
And not all the time from ... other nationalities. Sometimes it comes from your own kind, or even your own mind. You get judged, you get laughed at, you get looked at wrong, you get cited for not being strong. The struggle of just being you.
The struggle of just being us... Black Maybe."

It must also be considered, however, that many of us come from families where ends are not meeting, eviction notices are left, stomachs go hungry, etc. Then it does seem that there is no other place to turn than the street. I understand that, but prison or death looms in the future of that lifestyle. I think all of our families would rather have us safe and struggle than for us to risk our lives everyday so that we can live comfortably. Education is actually the "way out" for us, there just aren't enough of us who act like we know it. Young people who already seek education and knowledge must begin a concerted effort to reach out and recruit others in the community before they fall by the wayside.
As far as the police aspect, I said earlier that police and minorities need to come together and admit our wrongdoings and address our grievances in a face-to-face forum between the communities. All questions need to be answered, all issues need to be considered, and all problems need to be discussed in order to lead to solutions. Until such a meeting of the minds happens and until there is an understanding between both groups, "snitches" will continue to get, or at least fear, stitches or worse. Ultimately, we've got to have a resolution in our hearts and minds to once again be our brother's keepers and our communities' advocates - not advocates, friends, keepers, and aides of our neighborhood criminals.