Sunday, February 19, 2006

Do Snitches Really Get Stitches?

"[I]t's not in [Yayo's] character to speak to the authorities." -- Tony Yayo's attorney speaking in response to questions about his client's knowledge relating to the killing of Busta Rhymes' security guard outside of Busta's video shoot.

For years, the saying "Snitches Get Stitches" has been used as a way of enforcing/confirming (however you want to look at it) the fact that black folks generally don't report crimes that occur in our neighborhoods. Historically, when crimes are committed in our neighborhoods, we turn our heads and act like we didn't see anything. Why is that? Is it because we are afraid of retaliation? Or is it because we just don't like the police? Either way, I think it's a topic that needs to be addressed. In this case, is silence really golden, or is honesty the best policy?

I can only imagine how the family of a murder victim feels knowing that there are people out there who know what happened to their family member, but who refuse to come forward with that information. If it were me, of course I would want to know everything about the murder, and would want the persons responsible prosecuted. But if the shoe was on the other foot, and I had bore witness to a murder, I can't say for sure that I would be willing to come forward with that information.

What responsibility, if any, do we have to each other to report the crimes that we witness, be they major or minor? Of course it's easy for those of us who no longer live on the block to say that those who do should report the various drug deals, gang activity, and whatever other crimes plague the neighborhood. We don't have to live around and see these people everyday. But by not reporting even the most minor crimes, I think we jeopardize our ability to complain about the status of our neighborhoods. We have to take it upon ourselves to be responsible for the things that occur in our neighborhoods. And we have to stop hiding behind fear and the police to do so.

Just my two cents.



Curry said...

How ironic ..

On Friday night I drove to the 7-11 two blocks from house because I ran out of water and was about to pass out. It was raining, my daughter had just fallen asleep about 30 minutes prior, and my brother was guarding the fort. When I left 7-11, I got to the first stop sign and two guys walked up to my car and decided to use me for target practice. They walked up to the passenger side of my car and began shooting. I heard 5 or 6 shots as I was speeding away, one of which shattered by passenger side window and spit glass all over my face. Another bullet went through the hood of my car and into my engine.

About 4 or 5 minutes later the police arrived. They asked me a few questions, did a once-over of my car, gave me a report number, and left.

Now, I'm not familiar with the intricacies and details of the law, but I believe there should be some sort of loophole or amendment that would allow people to testify anonymously if they have real information regarding a crime and the party (s) that perpetrated it. I know that if accused of a crime, it’s our right to have a chance to face our accusers, but if doing so means putting our own lives on the line, what incentive do we have to do the right thing? Someone should literally be able to go to the police and say “Yes, I know who did _______ .” “ His/her name is _______”. “I will testify to this but I would like to do it anonymously.” Forgive my ignorance, but I really believe it should be this simple. The fact of matter is that most of the time, the people with the most information aren’t exactly people of character and have no reason at all to volunteer to do the right thing. Especially if doing so means that they now become a target. I’m sure by now there are at least a dozen people who know the names, birthdates, and ages of the two guys that tried to take my life on Friday. And I could even venture to say that out of the dozen, 1 or 2 would be willing to speak on it to the police. But not if they’re eventually going to have to look that person in the eye one day in a court room, move to another city, and start a new life.

Needless to say I am ok and in good health, but if I had gotten shot and died this weekend ( the thought!), my family deserves answers. I personally would like to have a few rounds with the cowards that blindly decided to take my life. I’m necessary.

Notta's Sista said...

Wow Curry...I'm sorry to hear about that. It can be quite traumatic just thinking about the possibility of losing your life as a result of a senseless act of violence. I've been there myself. When I was a broke college student living smack dab in the hood a crack head decided that he was going to rob me at gunpoint in my own apartment. The thing that haunts me the most is that at the time I had my 2 year old cousin with me and I recall him pointing the gun toward her multiple times. He wanted to know where the money was. I remember thinking, “WTF...the money? I’m a damn college student, I don’t have any money.” How do you convince a crack head of that? Now my cousin is a beautiful young lady in her early teens and thankfully has no recollection of the incident; but again, just thinking about the "possibility"...makes my stomach turn. It's unfortunate that these types of crimes occur every day and go unmentioned without any closure. I can understand why the people that have to dwell in these communities don't feel obligated to speak up. More times than none, the crime won't get resolved and the same criminals that commit the first crime go back to the same neighborhoods to commit the second and so on and so on.....

Decent Exposure said...

I wanted to comment on "snitches get stiches" I am a firm believer in the truth and in doing what is right....I know some will argue that what is right to you may be wrong to me. However, that doesn't fly with me. The word "right" by one definition (look it up for yourself) is in accordance with fact, reason, or truth. I try to always look at things from what i would want someone to do if it were me. If everyone started to look at things from that point of view I honestly don't think this would ever be a topic. It seems as if the truth changes when it has nothing to do with you. From the example in the blog.... If it was your daughter, son, or whomever was murdered or died from a drug overdose you would want to know who killed them or supplied them with the drugs that killed them. We should learn to stick together and do what is "right" as Spike Lee said "Do the right thing" because if we stand for nothing, we'll fall for anything


r. parrish said...

I was sorry to hear about Curry's recent confrontation with his own mortality. It is never an easy thing to face the reality of how fragile and easily wasted one's life can be at the hands of those who don't value it as they should.

I've thought about Notta's question and have a couple of ideas about the lack of crime reporting in black communities. Before I get into my thoughts, however, I must share an anecdote as an illustration.

My parents are in their late 60s and have lived in the same home & neighborhood (the same home I grew up in) for the last 20 years. The neighborhood has gradually deteriorated from a relatively safe working class area, to one dominated by crime and drug dealers. Their house had always been on the border of gang & drug territory, but is now squarely within it.

My point is this...for at least the past 5-8 years a series of drug dealers have moved in next door or across the street from my parents. My parents and the rest of the neighborhood knew who these people were and what they did, but NO-ONE EVER called the cops on them. People watched them and weren't happy about their pressence but did nothing to stop them. Eventually, the police would catch on and arrest them, but no-one from the neighborhood was ever involved in calling the police (I know this because I have asked around).

Why didn't anyone ever call the police when it was apparent drug dealing was taking place within their midsts? I can think of two reasons. First, when you are older, like my parents, what develops is a certain kind of truce born out of fear between the dealers and the community. My parents and their friends were legitimately frightened, but they knew if they left well enough alone and minded their own business, that the dealers wouldn't bother or hurt them. These people can't afford to upset that balance and risk reprisals by going to the police. My parents and the other neighborhood folks tolerated the dealers in order to maintain some semblance of peace within the neighborhood.

It's a bit more complicated for me and some of the younger folks. By the time the dealers had really moved in, I had already left and went on to college. I always hoped my parents would move but knew they never would. So...while I was not happy with the dealers either, part of me felt the same way as my parents, I didn't want anything to happen to them, and another part of me felt like I shouldn't call the cops because dealing was the only thing some of these cats had going for them.

I rationalized that dealing was a somewhat victimless crime where violence was not necessarily a component of the transaction. I would take a completely different stance on murder or a number of other crimes, but as far as dealing was concerned I think most people in my neighborhood (including myself) were willing to look the other way as long as the dealers weren't hurting other people directly. If you've lived or grew up in an economically depressed neighborhood you begin to realize how few opportunities there are for black folks and it becomes very difficult to dissuade someone from a life of crime if you've got no alternative to offer them. You realize that only a few of us were fortunate enough to make it out, while others are left scrambling to carve out an existence. I never felt comfortable with the idea of "snitching" on folks who had been denied most of society's advantages and had resorted to crime as their alternative. It's not that I condone it, but not everyone has easy access to the "American Dream" (I sure didn't; I had to earn a athletic scholarship just to get to college). Realizing that, I have always had a difficult time with the idea of reporting folks to the cops, especially where the criminal justice system is willing to lock up a petty drug dealer for the same amount of time as a murderer.

Biznessman said...

This one is close to my heart….. My sister was shot and killed just over 100 days ago in Gary, Indiana. Sadly here we are months after her burial and no has came forward with any information. The last time I "conversated" (had to get that in) with the homicide detective working on my sister's case he said all they needed was one witness to come forward but know one wants to be labeled as a snitch………. So maybe we do need more people who are willing to stand up for what's right Maybe I am a little bias but, it hurts my heart knowing that my little nice and nephew have to go the entire life with a mother...

shanabean said...

I know I am a bit late, but after reading I couldn't help but add my two cents...
I agree whole heartedly that people do not snitch due to fear, possible relatiation and the whole "leaving well enough alone" mind set. However, I think more often than not, the negative relationship that the African American community has with the entire legal system is the real culprit.
If we knew for sure that the police could really protect us from getting hurt after snitching, or that if we have our own record that they would not use that against us, or even if we thought that they actually cared about our community, perhaps we would be more inclined to help. The fact of the matter is that the criminal justice system has, and still does discriminate against communities of color. We are stopped, arrested, convicted and get longer sentences than whites.

If a person sells crack (more commonly sold by low-income people of color) and another sells the same quanity, but in the form of powder (cocaine which is more commomly sold by whites) the sentence for the crack seller is much longer. Why???

My point is this... they dont trust us and many of us dont trust them... So until that relationship is healed, I doubt many people will be stepping up to work with the police on any matter.