Snitch or Not To Snitch?
by Nicholas Ashton, CEO/CIO, CommSmart Global Group
I thought I knew what the word and expression, “snitch”, meant. I was right and oh so wrong!
It is a problem both socially within families, neighborhoods and in the workplace. With so many with mental issues, families and friends must speak up on the problems, it will save lives!
Snitching -- and its sibling, witness intimidation -- is much in the top of the news these days, the result of a series of high-profile killings and shootings. But there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about it, not just among people in the community or the workplace, but also among law enforcement and government officials and the media.
Nobody wants to be a snitch -- not even in an environment that's supposed to define what exactly snitching is.
Business is a breeding ground of gossip and snitching. Mostly to get a leg up on the ladder of success. Tattle-tales, nosey narks, and other such labels that are applied to such people, really do not describe the issue. For a business to be a success, all information must be on the table and in full view. Hiding information or situation does nobody and good whatsoever. There is nothing wrong with laying the facts out in front of everyone and moving forward. Knowledge is power and known knowledge is even more powerful.
Snitching sees no color, except it seems in African/American communities. Everyone has snitched, told the truth, shared concerns and information at some time or another.
In speaking with community and business leaders, we must deal with realism:
You are never going to get black people to agree to snitch, I was told emphatically. The reasons are rooted in history and culture, and the realities of so many inner cities, where human life is cheap.
On the dark (criminal) side, those on the other side of the law will say, that if you work at it, you can persuade witnesses to violent crime to come forward and tell all.
For those that live in high-crime areas, there's nothing new about witness intimidation, it is part of everyday life. Criminals threatening or even killing citizens who could testify against them. Several recent incidents have brought wider attention to this issue.
A gentleman I met to discuss the problem, told me, that explaining to young people about snitching, if they see someone killed, it's their obligation to help make sure that the killer is punished. “The government works for us, and together we can hold it to higher standards.”
He continued, “Words and connotations are powerful". And to many of us, the word "snitch" brings to mind a distant memory of a house slave telling the master when another slave tried to escape. We're a long way from the days of slavery, but the adversity that those of us trapped in communities with little money, education and police protection share has forced us to create our own codes and coping strategies.”
“So often, even law-abiding residents try to close ranks and deal with our problems on our own instead of working with law enforcement, which many of us consider the enemy. It's a code…”
As we spoke more, he went further, “This is the true definition of a snitch: someone who commits a crime but then blames an accomplice so that he can negotiate a lighter sentence or even go free. Often he tells lies and incriminates the innocent. People like that are the real snitches and they are cowardly. Snitching is a way for criminals to play the system.
But not everyone who talks to police is a snitch. If you're a victim of a crime and you or someone you trust cooperates with them, you are not a snitch. If you try to get rid of negativity in your community, you are not "hot" or a snitch.
I blame the hip-hop industry for spreading confusion about the definition of snitching. I also understand that the artists are just trying to sell records by glorifying a criminal and prison culture they often know nothing about.
Understanding snitching is not just a theoretical exercise. It is critical to the survival of our communities.
Just as we have a right to be safe from drive-by shootings, murder, intimidation, and disrespect, we have an obligation to uphold the laws that ensure public safety. When a citizen witnesses a crime and decides to be civically responsible, this doesn't constitute snitching; it's doing the right thing.
Police also need to be more sensitive to the culture of the streets. Showing up in uniform and knocking on someone's door could get an innocent person killed. If police are clumsy in their investigations and let the word out about who is cooperating, that can also lead to more bloodshed.
Among the responses: "Kill them." "Cooperate." "Retaliate." "Go tell the police." And something that I have seen all too often: "Already happened. I would go look for them and talk to them face to face and ask them why."
People in the community want peace, and they want justice. They just don't want to be anybody's snitch.”
It is not telling tales, it is about building safety barriers and stopping the violence in the streets, homes, and workplace. Bullies, killers, and overall rotten people feed on their actions and further their intimidation by the silence. This signals their success and feeds their want, to do more. No matter who it harms or kills.
I believe we have a problem, Houston!
SNITCH OR NOT TO SNITCH THAT IS THE QUESTION...