See no evil

Making a point by making your life worse never made much sense to me. In 1967, the residents of of the nation’s inner cities made their unhappiness known by burning down their neighborhoods. Point made, but when all was said in done, they ended up living in bombed-out neighborhoods.

President Lyndon Johnson created a commission to study the violence and it concluded that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white–separate and unequal.”

Violence cannot build a better society. Disruption and disorder nourish repression, not justice. They strike at the freedom of every citizen. The community cannot–it will not–tolerate coercion and mob rule.

Violence and destruction must be ended–in the streets of the ghetto1 and in the lives of people.

Segregation and poverty have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans.

What white Americans have never fully understood–but what the Negro can never forget–is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain, and white society condones it.

stop_snitching.jpgNow, fast-forward 41 years. America’s cities are still burning themselves, only now it’s called a “Stop Snitchin’” campaign.

A cover article in Broadcasting & Cable this week profiles the difficulty for reporters trying to investigate crime stories, focusing specifically on a typical situation in Kansas City.

… says the code of silence surrounding violent crime, the product of a grass-roots campaign called “Stop Snitching,” has a chokehold on Kansas City. At various times while he’s been interviewing witnesses, someone will walk by, repeatedly muttering “click-clock, click-clock”–simulating the sound of a gun cocking and firing. As one might expect, the witnesses promptly clam up.

So goes investigative reporting in Kansas City and several other markets in America, as the Stop Snitching movement gains momentum and leaves residents scared to death of anyone with a badge–or a microphone or notepad. “To this day, the question remains: How could two people get gunned down in front of so many people, and two years later, no one’s been charged?” Nigrelli wonders. “The answer is, no one will talk. ‘No Snitch’ is loud and powerful here.”

Highly regarded crime reporter Carolyn Lowe at WCCO found Stop Snitching to be alive and well in the Twin Cities, when she did a story on it last year.

“It’s a message that really leads us down a path of destruction. It’s a path that leads us to more bloodshed,” said St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington in the story. Harrington said he intended to start an anti-Stop Snitchin’ campaign.

One is already underway in Minneapolis, sort of. MPR’s Jess Mador September story on the killing of a young girl, found the group Mad Dads at least trying to talk some sense into the community.

“I suggest that you get out and when you see something in your neighborhood that is not right that you say something about it,” said Smith. “Stop having that ‘stop snitching’ attitude and start organizing, mobilizing and reaching out to some of these hard to reach kids and making a difference in their lives.”

In many cases, the Stop Snitchin’ campaign is stoked by rap artists. Hip Hop News today, for example, has the story of one such link.

Unlike the neighborhood burning of the ’60s, the Stop Snitchin’ campaign has no chance of at least getting attention to the perceived societal ills. It’s more likely to spawn a shrug of the shoulders and a “if you don’t care enough, why should I?” attitude.