Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Start Snitchin

Street credibility is killing us. After watching CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s report for 60 Minutes, I’m convinced, more than ever, that many of the well paid Hip-Hop artists need to be taken to Big Mama’s house for a spanking.

The report exposed how “Stop snitchin” is a catchy hip-hop slogan that encourages the attitude that makes those who go to the police the bad guy. The slogan can be found in music videos, on T-shirts, Web sites, album covers and murals. The rule in the streets is never talk to the police.

As a result, police say witnesses are not coming forward and crimes are going unsolved. African Americans have a long history of disdain for the police. Regarded as the enemy of those in the inner city, police departments are forced to contend with the sad reality of the past. The rise and change of focus of the Black Panther Party was stirred by out of control police brutality in Oakland, CA. The movement spread to other urban centers due to the prevalence of police corruption.

In recent years, African Americans have witnessed a series of highly publicized examples that make it difficult to trust the police. Most notable is the Rodney King case and the underlying racial issues during the O.J. Simpson trail. “Stop snitchin” is, for those who promote it, an affirmation that the police are adversaries rather than positioned to protect African Americans living in inner city communities.

“Stop snitchin” is about communities witnessing corruption and a disparity in how crimes involving African Americans are handled versus those involving whites. This law of the streets is designed to bring balance to the system. It brings poise to an arrangement that, in the minds of many, keeps African Americans poor, incarcerated and lacking resources needed to alter their condition.
How bad is it? "People are walking around with shirts. People are going out making, making music. People are saying things that if you're a snitch it's like being an Uncle Tom was when I was growing up," says Geoffrey Canada, an anti-violence advocate, on 60 Minutes. "It's like you can't be a black person if you have a set of values that say, 'I will not watch crime happen in my community without getting involved to stop it."
Canada decided to speak out after Israel Ramirez, a student he had mentored and loved like a son, was shot to death outside a soundstage in Brooklyn. Ramirez was working as a bodyguard for the rap star Busta Rhymes, who was making a music video. Witnesses have confirmed that Ramirez was shot in front of Busta Rhymes.
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says there were at least 25 people who may have witnessed the shooting. But he says nobody has come forward to testify. "The people that we've located, either were inside and didn't see anything. Or you'll get a version of, 'I have to work in this business. Ask Busta Rhymes what happened,"'Commissioner Kelly said during the 60 Minute report.
Geoffrey Canada said he believes Busta Rhymes refuses to talk because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his “street cred”. To talk to the police would violate the law of the streets-“stop snitching”. "One of the things that sells music is when the artist is looked at as someone who's come up from the streets. Not just any streets, but the toughest, meanest streets of the urban ghetto. And that's called 'street credibility,'" Canada said during the broadcast.
Rap star Cam’ron got shot in both arms in 2005. The shooting occurred in front of members of Cam'ron's entourage, but to this day, neither they, nor he, have cooperated with police. Cooper asked him why. "Because with the type of business I'm in, it would definitely hurt my business. And the way that I was raised, I just don't do that. I was raised differently, not to tell."
"If I was shot, I would want to know who did it. I would want the guy to get caught," Cooper responded.
"But then again, you're not going to be on the stage tonight in the middle of, let's say, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, with people with gold and platinum teeth and dreadlocks jumping up and down singing your songs either," Cam'ron snapped back. "You know what I'm saying? We're in two different lines of business."
"So for you it's really about business?" Cooper asks.
"It's about business but it's still also a code of ethics," Cam'ron replies.
Asked if he thinks there is any situation when it's okay to talk to the police, Cam'ron tells Cooper, "Yeah, definitely. Say 'Hello, how you feel, everything alright?' Period."
"That's it?" Cooper asks.
"There's nothing really to talk about with the police, I mean, for what?" Cam'ron says.
"If there's a serial killer living next door to you, though, and you know that person is, you know, killing people, would you be a snitch if you called police and told them?" Cooper asks Cam'ron.
"If I knew the serial killer was living next door to me?" Cam'ron asks. "No, I wouldn't call and tell anybody on him. But I'd probably move… But I'm not gonna call and be like, you know, 'The serial killer's in 4E.'"
That’s a steep price to pay for “street cred”. There was a time when people didn’t snitch because the police were the enemy. Cam’ron is promoting a code of ethic to promote his music. Cam’ron has taken on 50 Cent in a recent video viewed more than a million times on YouTube. He attacks 50 Cents “street cred” for being a “snitch” for allegedly cooperating with a police investigation.

Cooper met Victoria, Alex, Derrick, Darnell, and Tess through a church-based organization called Uth Turn. They’re 14 through 19 years old, and they told 60 Minutes the "stop snitchin'" code doesn’t just apply to rappers.
"A snitch is a tattletale, a rat, somebody who goes around telling other people business instead of minding they own," Alex tells Cooper.
Asked if he believes that, Alex says, "Yes."
Anybody who comes forward and talks to the police about something they witnessed, a murder or a crime, are they a snitch?" Cooper asks.
"Yes… It's a crime, remember, in our community, to snitch," says Tess.
Most of these kids had witnessed at least one violent crime but had not helped the police identify the culprits. Victoria saw someone get shot a few years ago; she says she was scared to talk to the police then, and she wouldn’t identify the shooter if the same thing happened today.
Asked why, Victoria says, "Because that's the rules."

It’s the rule! Is that what you say to the mother who just lost her son? It’s the rule! That’s what you say to the woman who has been raped? You look her in the face and say, “I know who did it but I can’t tell you because that’s the rule.”

The rule promotes the continuation of crime and violence in inner city communities. Those who live by it deny themselves the right to live void of the fear of crime. The criminal is honored more than being safe. That’s not a law, that’s insanity.

Making things even worse is how the slogan is promoted to give “street cred”. I suppose it’s easy to do that when you no longer have to live in the hood.; when your talent has provided you the resources to move on up to the East side.

Cooper asked Cam’ron an important question. "If your record label said to you, 'Look, we're not going to promote you, we're not going to distribute you if you keep calling Curtis Jackson a snitch.' Or you keep, writing about guns and selling drugs, would you stop?"
"No record company in the world would say 'We're not promoting if you keep calling somebody a snitch. They know what makes money," Cam'ron says. "A record company would never be that stupid. Ever.”

Go back to the plantation. Mr. Charley said you still a slave. We ain’t free.


  1. I didn't know the details of the Israel Ramirez murder until the 60 minutes episode. So is street cred and keeping it real protecting your boy's killer? What happened to "holding it down" and "having your back"?

    Agreed these kids don't realize they are allowing themselves to be enslaved mentally by the record execs.

  2. And this is an issue that is pertinent to Durham as well..There have been several cases where there have been witnesses to major crimes in Durham who have said they fear revealing what they know for fear of reprecussions and being labeled a snitch..Some high profile cases have even had the defendant give the indication that they and their peers would view the witnesses and in some cases even the jurors as snitches and would hand out reprecussions..this has led to a climate of fear..Fortunately so far it has not led to some of these folks being taken down........And as one who has worked in music for numerous years, it is very true that major record labels can be just another form of plantations..This is something Prince has tried to fight again, often in very unique ways........I agree with Krista we need to have the back of the larger community and make sure we are not harboring those who are only causing greater downfalls...

  3. You know what! I saw a white man writing down my neighbors tag number and looking up to their apartment. I called her to let her know and gave her the tag number of the car he was driving. I hung up. I get a phone call from number with no name so I answered it. This is the Charlotte PD.....If you saw someone doing something you felt was suspicious why didn't you walk up to him and ask him what he was doing? "Are you crazy, I am walking with my children and I have interest to protect. For all I know he could have been repossessing the car." The cop then proceeded in a smart tone asking me what do you think that she could have done from work... From her tone of voice I will never snitch. Don't ask me I won't tell. Here I am thinking I am doing something good for the good of the neighborhood only to get smart mouthed and talked to like a child. I will never snitch. Its the cops job to walk to criminals and ask what they are doing not mine. I have a little wisdom give me that. I leave it to my European neighbors to go ask all the questions. Black people typically don't walk up to criminals and ask them questions in the middle of the crimes. That's why European Americans always get killed in a
    movies.Being nosy and telling can get a person killed in this world.
    Really think about it people are their own cops in the underworld. They don't mind taking another life in order to protect their own. Would I snitch? Uhm....Will you pay for me to go into witness protection..... I can tell and have peace in my conscience but have fear in my heart going out the door. You decide. I can see both sides of the coin. What would you do if Jesus was the one telling you "You know and have kept the law, go and sell everything you have." You know the law and what you should do but selling out may cost you all that you have worked for. This is your bread and butter. Judge for yourselves what you would do, and stop judging others. Who else is buying thug music but the thug life identifiers.

  4. I am a grieving mother. I lost my 24-year old (step)son in a violent crime in Durham less than 2 years ago. He was brutally executed along with his cousin and two roommates. And I grieve heavily for them all.

    As I read this article and the accompanying comments, I became physically ill from pain, anger and overwhelming sadness. Can you see my tears?

    This street philosophy of "no snitchin'" enables murderers and other criminals to continually victimize our communities. They wreak havoc un-checked on ALL OF US and are supported by silent witnesses.

    Silence has a long history of consenting and supporting and upholding misdeeds in this country and around the world. Silence supported slavery and lynchings. Silence upheld the holocaust and the trail of tears. Silence consents to the genocide in Darfur. Silence gives a wink and a nod to the men who killed my boys. Can you feel my tears yet?

    As long as this "no snitchin'" mentality prevails, we will all be victims over and over - one way or another. And as long as we are silent, we are complicit in our own victimization.

    Fear is mighty tool. It paralyzes and cripples. It can also enable mass oppression. We don't need another Hitler, we don't need the KKK, we don't need dirty cops. Their places in our communities have been supplanted by silence.
    Can you hear by plaintive wails?

  5. Shanda you are a straight up DONKEY!

    "Thats why white people get killed in MOVIES?"

    WTF is wrong with you??? People NOT helping police are the reason BLACK PEOPLE ARE KILLED BY BLACK PEOPLE EVERYDAY IN REAL LIFE!


    A young girl getting raped by the neighborhood drunk is NOT A MOVIE.

    You IGNORANT FOOL! I wish i could smack the hell out of you! And you know something... You wouldnt even have te BRAINS to tell and have me arrested for ASSAULT!


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