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Friday, October 14, 2005

Stop Snitchin' Apparel

News article this post references.

Almost 20 years ago, a white rap pioneer named Snow had his only hit, a little diddy called "Informer." In this song, the geeky-looking bespectacled Canadian talked about "going blam" on an unnamed "informer" who told the police about whatever racket he had going on at the time. One can only speculate about what phrases like "going blam" or "leaky boom boom down" mean, but they sure sound violent. The whole point was intimidation -- if you inform on Snow, he will go blam, and you won't like that. In the middle of the song, a real rapper talked about how the Toronto police were all up on him, trying to get him to become the next Informer on his boy Snow. Thankfully, the guy resisted, and presumably went to prison because he wouldn't cut a deal. Snow then got to continue his criminal activity unabated. I love a happy ending.

The whole debate over whether or not to talk to the police about neighborhood crime is coming to a head right now in Milwaukee, where t-shirts that say "Stop Snitch'n" are reportedly flying off the shelves, many even being purchased with real money. This movement is gaining ground, and local black community leaders(?) like Alderman Michael McGee have endorsed the shirts, saying that they're a positive message, i.e., "You should do the time for your crime rather than taking a deal from the police so that someone higher up can do more time." And while that kind of thinking is certainly unselfish, there's also probably a good reason why the police are cutting you a deal to get at your Crime Supervisor or whatever you call him (I don't know the titles, since I'm not really involved in crime). So it all depends on the entity you dislike more -- the criminals or the police. I don't think I have to tell you which side of that ongoing debate Mr. McGee is on.

There is a good question tucked in there somewhere about the rightness or wrongness of cutting deals to save your own neck. It certainly seems wrong, because it benefits you at the expense of others. Should you do it just because the authorities want you to? Maybe you should be asking why the authorities want you to rat out your superiors. If it's for the betterment of yourself and society, and at the expense of someone who's way worse than you, what do you do then? But for the criminal, this whole "informing" thing isn't really about the crime, is it? It's about honor, or at least a perverted concept of honor. Ever hear of "honor among thieves"? Well, that may help the thieves live in peace, but they still have our stuff and we want it back.

The police are there (as representatives of the people) to fight crime, not dispense justice. They will go after the person who they perceive to be the source of the crime -- they don't want to waste their time with small-time scum. The problem with the "Stop Snitch'n" idea is that it views the police not as representatives of the people but as representatives of the Establishment (commonly referred to as "the Man") who have been sent to oppress the people, criminals and non-criminals alike. If a man snitches, he is betraying the community to save himself from some jail time, in their view. It's no wonder these shirts drive the police crazy.

In the absence of a crime-fighting alternative, the view of "Police=The Man=Something to be Subverted" is clearly something that hurts the community, no matter what the community may believe. But are these shirts really part of a campaign to stop people from cooperating with prosecutors, or are they just the cool thing to wear right now? I tend to think the latter is true (especially among suburban kids who are on an endless quest to appear more tough), but if so, why are Aldermen coming out in support of the idea? Why are anti-snitching DVDs starring Denver Nuggets being made?

Every once in a while we (non-poor people) get a window into the attitude of poor urban communities. At the OJ trial, we learned that poor blacks will root for a black man to be acquitted even if he's filthy rich and guilty as sin. In this case, we can see that the inner city of Milwaukee is a place where the police can be worse than the criminals, where snitching can be viewed as worse than murder, and where there is no hope for peace and justice because the authorities get no respect. It's a pretty bleak picture, so it's no wonder why we shut the drapes and try to never look out that window again. This is not right, but it's understandable. Kind of like the "Stop Snitch'n" movement. Maybe from now on everybody should try being less understood and more right. Let's see if that works a little better.

So the next time I see one of those t-shirts on somebody, I'm going to wait until they're alone and stab them, confident that they won't tell the police anything. Because if there's anything worse than a snitch, it's a hypocritcal snitch.


  • At 11:02 AM, Blogger Bearded One said…

    Michael McGee is still getting elected in Milwaukee, huh? Yeesh.

    Haven't heard any of that nonsense floating around here, but I wonder how that plays with a case like this?

  • At 11:52 AM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    Yeah, I was kinda surprised he wasn't in jail, actually.
    That St. Louis case is awful. Here in Richardson, we just had a high school student killed in a Target parking lot after a football game. They didn't have any leads at first, and they were trying to get people to talk. I think they just arrested a few people yesterday. Getting info has gotta be frustrating to cops.


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