Monday, April 23, 2007


On 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper did a segment on the Stop Snitchin' movement.

The message appears in hip-hop videos, on T-shirts, Web sites, album covers and street murals. Well-known rappers talk about it endlessly on DVDs. It is a simple message heard in African-American communities across the country: don't talk to the police.

"When I was growing up, kids used to talk about snitching…. It never extended as a cultural norm outside of the gangsters," says Geoffrey Canada, a nationally recognized educator and anti-violence advocate. "It was not for regular citizens. It is now a cultural norm that is being preached in poor communities."

Canada has been working with children in Harlem for more than 20 years. He grew up poor in a tough New York neighborhood, but says the message kids are getting today is very different and dangerous.

"People are walking around with shirts. People are going out making, making music. People are saying things that if you're a snitch it's like being an Uncle Tom was when I was growing up," Canada says. "It's like you can't be a black person if you have a set of values that say, 'I will not watch crime happen in my community without getting involved to stop it.'"

"So this slogan, this 'stop snitchin'.' It now extends to rape, robbery, murder, really any crime?" Cooper asks.

"Any crime," Canada says. "It's like we're saying to the criminals, 'You can have our community. Just have our community. Do anything you want, and we will either deal with it ourselves, or we'll simply ignore it.'"

Canada could no longer ignore it on Feb. 5, 2006, when Israel Ramirez, a student he had mentored and loved like a son, was shot to death outside a soundstage in Brooklyn.

Ramirez was working as a bodyguard for the rap star Busta Rhymes, who was making a music video.

A person who was there told 60 Minutes Ramirez was shot in front of Busta Rhymes. He died at the scene two days before his 29th birthday, leaving a wife and three children behind.

Busta Rhymes, along with at least 25 people, refused to cooperate with police. Apparently, he believes that allowing a murderer to roam free is preferable to assisting police.

Geoffrey Canada believes it's because Busta Rhymes doesn’t want to jeopardize sales of his music and videos; Canada says being labeled a "snitch" might have damaged Rhymes' "street cred."

"One of the things that sells music is when the artist is looked at as someone who's come up from the streets. Not just any streets, but the toughest, meanest streets of the urban ghetto. And that's called 'street credibility,'" Canada says.

..."I think that's horrid," says Canada. "I ask you Busta, as a man, if that was your son and you watched someone kill your son, would you remain quiet or would you get justice for your son? This is murder. This is murder. This is watching someone getting murdered. How do we walk away from this?"

I think it's horrid, too.

Are we to believe that a sizable portion of the African-American community is conscienceless?

Cooper talked to rapper Cameron Giles, known as Cam'ron or "Killa Cam." A couple of years ago, Giles was shot in both arms.

There were witnesses to the shooting but they aren't cooperating with police.

Asked why, Cam'ron tells Cooper, "Because with the type of business I'm in, it would definitely hurt my business. And the way that I was raised, I just don't do that. I was raised differently, not to tell."

...Asked if he thinks there is any situation when it's okay to talk to the police, Cam'ron tells Cooper, "Yeah, definitely. Say 'Hello, how you feel, everything alright?' Period."

"That's it?" Cooper asks.

"There's nothing really to talk about with the police, I mean, for what?" Cam'ron says.

"If there's a serial killer living next door to you, though, and you know that person is, you know, killing people, would you be a snitch if you called police and told them?" Cooper asks Cam'ron.

"If I knew the serial killer was living next door to me?" Cam'ron asks. "No, I wouldn't call and tell anybody on him. But I'd probably move… But I'm not gonna call and be like, you know, 'The serial killer's in 4E.'"

That's sick -- sick like Milwaukee Alderman Michael McGee, Jr.

McGee, the alderman who just won a recall election, a community leader, supports the Stop Snitchin' movement.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"Ald. Michael McGee supports what he sees as a different interpretation of the "Stop Snitch'n" movement and included it among the tenets of his "Respect Kampaign" aimed at promoting positive behaviors among youth.

McGee said the movement is misunderstood. He said it's aimed at criminals cutting deals with prosecutors to lessen consequences for their own crimes.

"If you did the crime you've got to serve the time," McGee said. "If you're a criminal you shouldn't snitch on somebody until you snitch on yourself. It's a form of hatred."

Cooper should have interviewed McGee to clear up the confusion on the movement.

McGee tries to paint the movement positively, as really being about criminals trying to avoid being held responsible for their own crimes.

That's just an excuse to be against snitching, and a very poor one.

The fact is McGee promotes the practice of blocking police efforts to keep the community safe.

In the end, being anti-snitching is being anti-justice.

It's reprehensible.

That's what passes for leadership in the city of Milwaukee.


Matt said...

I find hip-hops 'stop snitchin' campaign to be downright reprehensible. unforutneately rappers and other artists have the right to talk/sing about whatever they want in thier music (that is assuming that they can live with themselves being advocates of crime and violence.) If anything the responsibility relies with parents either not exposing their children to this kind of filth or sitting down with them and explaining why what they listen to is not the way in which they should conduct themselves. The best form of censorship is the 'off' button.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why the hell these chavs, these morons, think they're entitled to raping, killing, and making poor, lesser-off Americans into criminals, and then getting away with it.

Now, did rock, even heavy/death and punk (the two types most hated) stars, kill each other? Nope.