After moving from my cozy, predominantly white neighborhood to a predominantly black neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. when I was nine years old, I quickly had to learn a whole new set of rules. Rule No. 1: Snitches get stitches, and then end up in ditches.
Troi Torain, also known as DJ Star, wants to encourage people to do the complete opposite with his campaign “Start Snitching.” Torain feels that snitching is used to protect “animals,” but he neglects to discuss the distrust between the community and the police force, the vulnerability placed onto the snitch and the violence created after a “snitch” comes forward.
“It’s a culture of ignorance that protects these little animals for no good reason except for some ‘keepin’ it real’ bull**** that prevents people from doing the right thing,” Torain said while announcing his campaign at City Hall in June 2011.
Although this culture does protect criminals and can withhold a family’s right to justice, I agree with a community’s – especially Philadelphia’s – apprehension and resistance to start snitching.
There are a slew of media depictions of snitches and negative consequences to being one. In a popular episode of “Law and Order,” a witness’ family is made vulnerable despite his courage to step up and speak out against a murderer. After his family is placed in danger, he lies on the stand to save his family from any more harm.
In much of rap music, lyrics excite and inspire communities to never snitch and respect “the code of the streets.” Contrary to “the code of the streets,” it is courageous when a community comes together and chooses to speak up to make their streets safer. For many communities, the streets are infested with gang members, violence and drugs, but the installment of more police isn’t always the answer – in many ways a community center and its members are what bring change to a community.
Regardless if the alleged criminal is behind bars, there is no guarantee that a snitch and their family or friends are safe. The lack of funding to protect every witness often leaves a witness’ family vulnerable to possible attacks.
There are no positive aspects to snitching and its lack of incentive doesn’t incite community members to “do the right thing.” It is easy to tell someone who witnessed a crime to report exactly what they saw, but after the police have left who is left to protect them?
It is not the police force’s fault that they are unable to protect these individuals and it is also not the fault of a community member who opts not to snitch because they don’t want to walk around paranoid in their own neighborhood.
Opting not to snitch is a mentality, not of fear, but of survival. In many stories where an individual is murdered in a group and no one comes forward to reveal the shooter, whether they saw him or not, is heartbreaking, but the mentality is to keep living and not end up dead.
Torain wishes to inspire people to come forward and speak against these murderers in situations like these particularly, but after snitching the prospect of violence doesn’t decrease.
While I would want someone to come forward and help the police arrest the person who killed my friend or family member, I can understand why they would choose not to.
In neighborhoods where opportunities may be limited, merely living is the main priority.
Alexandra Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.