Archive for Saturday, February 7, 2009

Cowardly ‘no-snitch’ culture

February 7, 2009


In Los Angeles, there is a park named in honor of Griffith J. Griffith, whose claim to fame is that he made a fortune speculating in gold mining and gave the city a large tract of land.

In Chicago, there is a park named in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, whose claim to fame is that he commanded Union forces in the Civil War and was the 18th president of the United States.

And in Miami, there is, as of last week, a park named in honor of Sherdavia Jenkins, whose claim to fame is that she was shot to death in 2006 while playing at her own front door.

Thus do we attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible and sanctify the profane. A 9-year-old girl takes a bullet in the neck in the crossfire between two gutless, brainless, soulless punks, and we put her name on a sign in a park.

I don’t mean to disparage the park. It is a fitting and proper way of keeping that little girl’s name alive. It just hurts that we were unable to keep the little girl alive. So we are left making these after-the-fact gestures that are lovely and heartfelt and utterly impotent to stem or even address the violence that wracks our inner cities.

Indeed, even as Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park was being unveiled, her neighborhood was grappling with its latest atrocity: two dead, seven wounded, after some individual with an assault rifle opened up on a street corner craps game. Fifty people were on hand, but police say they have few witnesses.

Apparently, everyone was struck blind at the same time.

The Rev. Al Sharpton came to town last week, part of what he calls a national campaign against the so-called “stop snitching” culture within the black community. Speaking at a church rally, he called out those folks who suddenly went blind. “You are traitors to our race and denigrating our community,” he said.

Amen. This idea that we as black people owe some debt of silence to the corrupters and killers among us who shoot our babies and frighten our mothers and steal our sons is — pardon my French — bassackward, yet somehow, it has taken root in our community.

You see it in that T-shirt some black men wear, the one with the old Warner Brothers WB logo and the legend that reads, “If you see da police warn a brother.” You see it in a street saying: snitches get stitches. You see it in “Stop Snitching,” a DVD sold in Baltimore a few years back that threatened snitches with death. You see it in the rapper Cam’ron saying in 2007 that he wouldn’t snitch even if there were a serial killer next door.

You see it in the blind eyes of 50 witnesses.

Yes, some of us have a well-founded and deep-seated distrust of the criminal justice system. But you know what? It’s the only system we’ve got. Does it really make more sense to make common cause with people who are trying to kill you, to be loyal to those who have no loyalty to anything, all out of some idiotic notion of solidarity, or even out of plain old fear?

African-Americans have never been a weak and cowardly people. Weak and cowardly people do not risk their lives running to freedom. Weak and cowardly people do not stand against government and guns, dogs and fire, demanding freedom. Weak and cowardly people do not produce Harriet Tubmans, Henry Johnsons, Rosa Parkses, Martin Luther Kings, or Barack Obamas.

But this right here, this so-called “stop snitching” culture? It’s as weak and cowardly as it gets.

Until and unless we find it in ourselves to confront and roll that culture back, our inner cities will remain blighted places that never see their full potential, places where businesses fear to locate, good people fear to walk, a child is unsafe at her own front door.

And blind people stroll in the parks.

— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CST each Wednesday on


50YearResident 9 years, 1 month ago

Wow, this is the second recent article that I fully agree with Pitts. Now if he can convince others that this is the problem, things will get better.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 1 month ago

This isn't about "black" people. It's the human condition. Fear rules.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 1 month ago

[ tangedit ]This isn't about “black” people. It's the human condition. Fear reigns.

jonas_opines 9 years, 1 month ago

If you can't have the Snitch, then how are you going to end the Quidditch game?

black_butterfly 9 years, 1 month ago

I agree that it isn't about black people, it is about people in general. It is about fear. I am black and I don't live in a no snitch "culture" as Mr. Pitts calls it. I would gladly and promptly report crime to the authorities because that is what I believe in. However I did not grow up in a crime infested neighborhood, and I doubt if Mr. Pitts did either. I can not judge them. I do not have to live around drug dealers and other criminals. Those people have to do what they feel is necessary to keep their families safe. Mr. Pitts will continue to be a famous, award winning writer because he constantly writes negative things about the black race which is what mainstream america likes about him. He makes many generalized statements and rarely says anything positive. IF he does say something positive it is preceeded or folowed by much more negative. He makes comments about a whole race of people based on what a small group does in some part of the country. Congratulations Mr. Pitts on your fame, but what are you doing to improve conditions in the "black" community that you so often criticize? Get off your high horse and do some hands on interventions instead of just pleasing mainstream america by feeding the stereotypes.

Jaylee 9 years, 1 month ago

watched a few episodes of gangland in a row the other day. the series highlights major gangs in major cities all over the almost every gang though, there was a strong representation of the idea that the neighborhood belonged to the gangs. they originally were there to "protect" the families because the police wouldnt, usually in exchange for some goods or services or just the right to roam around and call it their territory.honestly, if a gang situation were that bad, i would just move. all the real bad areas though didnt just have a couple of good guys gone sour. there were gangs hundreds strong walking the streets and making sure people knew not to mess with anyone or anything in their area. in the end, they just perpetuate the violence though cause all they do is swell up their chest and try to show off who is tougher and there is ALWAYS gonna be some douche who thinks he is tougher and wants to prove it.too bad the only people this article needs to influence are not ever going to read it.pitts should buy scrolling marquees in ghettos and publish his articles that way so people will read them. or just a video of him reading his articles. always trying to make a difference by way of word to people who will never hear.not that i condone everything pitts says, its just silly to act like something you write is going to reach people you dont even write to.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 1 month ago

black_butterfly-- as you acknowledge, he wasn't really addressing this to you, so I don't understand why you take such offense. And what sort of "hands-on interventions" should he be doing?I also don't think it's fair to assume that no one in inner city black neighborhoods ever reads newspapers which would carry his columns.

Whip101 9 years, 1 month ago

black_butterfly, I don't see how you can condemn Mr. Pitts for not doing "hands on interventions". What are you doing for the black communities besides condemning someone who condemns their conditions? What was your last "hands on intervention"? I think the problem is not just the black communities but is the black mindset in general. And I think black_butterfly epitomizes the average blacks idea that someone else should be responsible for the improvements needed in blacks lives, (communities and otherwise). Blacks have been conditioned to believe everything wrong in their lives is everyone elses fault. If they don't start taking responsibility for their own lives and actions, start raising their children with morals and a sense of self and dignity, then they are doomed to sink deeper into the quagmire that is their reward. Every opportunity is handed to blacks via Affirmative Action and other socialist, (communist) programs. Yet very few have the desire to take advantage of them. Mr. Pitts is not responsible for the actions of blacks and their communities. He has qualified himself as a commentator on the black condition. He has worked hard to become who and what he is and is respected for it. Instead of insulting him, I would advise using him as an example to all people as to what can be accomplished through work and dedication. I find it strange that the poorest people in this country, (until recently) were the Whites of the Appalachians. Yet, they had the lowest crime rate in the nation. How could this happen in a White area and not in black areas? Black parents need to become PARENTS. Not drug buddies and hip hop worshipers. They need to put down their 40's and their crack pipes, quit blaming Whitey for all their problems, stop breeding like rabbits and go to work and teach their children the fine art of being quality citizens.

Godot 9 years, 1 month ago

I learned in grade school that the Nazis in Germany and the Communists in Russia made being a "snitch" a virtue, to the point that children were told they should "snitch" on their parents. If their parents spoke against the party line, the children reported them. Pitts' intended audience, as he would lead you to believe, the gangbangers, are not reading this editorial. So what good does it do?The real intended audience is the readers, the writers, the thinkers, and he is subtly alerting us that the tide has changed: snitching is in. Turn in your neighbor, your co-worker, your family....if they dare to dissent.Call me tinfoil if you want; this is one of the trial balloons, one of the warning shots over the bow of freedom of speech.

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