Not snitching reflects survival, not character

Alexandra OlivierThe unwritten code of not being a snitch allows criminals to go free. Olivier explains why this rule is often followed in some communities.

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 alexandra.olivier@temple.edu.

23 Comments

  1. This is not “Good Journalism.” It’s a blog written by a college student with the knowledge of an un-proven intern at best. Research would have provided Ms. Olivier with my explanations and history of addressing distrust of the authorities. Sadly, Ms. Olivier has no hope for black communities or the commitment to self-policing them for the greater good.

    Also, her migration from an area where she was more than likely profiled by neighbors (but not old enough to know it) and then to the ghetto is the result of a downgrade in social status – not core values. The main problem with Miss Olivier’s un-educated perspective is that people who come forward in places like the one she so-proudly referenced (cozy, predominantly white) are pro-active and view themselves, as “concerned citizens” not snitches!

    Furthermore, although today’s generation (black & white) has no concept of struggle and will kill each other over re-issued Concord 11’s, (Jordan sneakers) It’s a fact that determined people with the right curriculum can and do prevail. *I’m sure Temple University wouldn’t offer me a dime to speak on this much needed topic but if they hustled up a pitcher of grape Kool-Aid and a Salisbury steak, I’d go down there and educate them all like never before.

    Troi Torain

    CEO – Start Snitching

  2. Tori/DJ Star-Snitching has a negative connotation and you know this. Out of all the words in the dictionary “Snitching” was the only word you can think of. If the argument is to re-gain control of the word Snitching and change it to have a positive undertone…use another word. However, if the word “Snitching” was chosen to spark a debate and start a discussion. Now you have the platform to do so. However, you must admit the fact stated by Ms.Olivier is true. Who is there for the individual after snitching? If research shows that there is a distrust in the black communites with law enforcement, Ms.Olivier has given an option as to why that maybe so.

    It is of ill character on you part Troi/DJ Star to attempt to take jabs at an editor based on the content she presents. That College Student is the next generation CEO- Start Snitching. If your goal is to bring in a awareness to the issues of the black communities. Effectively, Tap in those communities. If you target is to inform those that are mis-informed,get Volunteers together and maybe ask the College Students to assist you. With some hope maybe the College Students can help reach out to the High School students of our community to get them motivated to go to college. And JUST maybe that might actually reduce the number of Black Children getting shot at or less going to JAIL. If you are so PASSIONATE about this cause, getting PAID should not be your motivator and your “Kool-Aid and Salisbury Steak” only solidifies the ignorance of your character.

  3. In Star’s defense providing information on senseless acts of violence that we witness is a great thing & your point on how the PD’s around the nation handle that witness is also a valid one. On a street level witnesses should bring the info to different local clergyman who could then bring the info to police. And politicians can make legislation to have the witnesses, lawyers, defendant’s and the jury in a private setting. Witnesses can be identified by number instead of name foe example example.

    L
    Flatbush
    Brooklyn

  4. The point is aside from the various issues we have in the Black Community that we already know exist. The young Black & Latin male that’s in the street where the violence is happening is having a morality crisis that even the older street guys seemingly can’t control. when pregnant women are being shot from rooftops while picking up children from school, 2 year olds shot in the face at 2:30 p.m. We must inform the police even if it’s done anonymously by pay phone or letter. Remember, when you or anyone you know has an emergency dealing with crime, your calling 911 not thinking street codes. You have to call the police anyway so you may as well do it smart & before the crime is at your door step. In closing Star has love for student’s committed to college & he respects the grind of the college curriculum. He’s doing this to make the streets safe for those good student’s & family members. Academics & Activism is an amazing combination once we can avoid the obstacles.

    L
    Flatbush
    Brooklyn, NY

  5. “Start Telling” just doesn’t have the ring of “Start Snitching,” right? Snitching won’t become a positive word, ever, but hopefully reporting crimes will. “Snitching” means not protecting a member of your group who deserves protection. Problem is, murderers and assailants in the kinds of cases both Star and Ms. Oliver are discussing do not deserve your protection, confidence or support. They’re the ones who deserve stitches. The sad part of Ms. Oliver’s column is her deep fear. It’s like automatically giving over the community to the bad guys. It’s teaching your kids to act right until you get scared; it’s ok to hide and duck and lie if you’re scared. Not snitching is not going to keep stray bullets meant for some other innocent from hitting innocent-you: that seems to be what Ms. Oliver and many others are missing, or deciding to ignore. Stop “understanding” and start reporting. Then we can get into defining who might, just might, actually deserve “protection” when they’ve done something questionable within the community. It’s a crisis moment right now, though, and the bad guys are winning; they’re even getting to teach our good kids that bad is good, with our “help” and “understanding.” MLK: “Only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” College is not the time to become conservative.

  6. I disagree with Olivier’s stance on the subject. She stated, “Opting not to snitch is a mentality, not of fear, but of survival,” shows her logic is a fallacy of circular cause and consequence.

    Reporting crime to the proper authorities in one’s own community comes from being informed. If it is truly about the individual’s survival then their best interest would be to act as, “concerned citizens” as Torain has stated. Fear breeds ignorance, and according to science (Darwinism & evolution) survival comes from a higher level of cognition and being able to adapt to the changes in the environment. Hence the term, survival of the fittest.

  7. I like this arrticle, I think ya’ll both bring up good arguments. I believe we all want safer communities, and a change within our neighborhoods. But it is true when we snitch who protects us? It becomes a cycle… Someone snitches and they or their family suffer because of it so no one else wants to come forward. If we lived in a Utopian world then we wouldn’t have to even snitch unfortunately that is not our case.

    Growing up in a place where snitching is against the law of the streets and considered a sin you pretty much turn the other cheek. But I don’t know if you have seen the boondocks episode on the stop snitching campaign. We are all quick to be quiet when things are happening to others but what about when it happens to us or our loved ones. We start to rethink the stop-snitching campaign and try and acquire justice for them.

    it’s a sticky situation. One we all wish didn’t exist and unfortunately does. Now for Torain’s comments on you- He’s entitled to his opinion yes, but at the same time he’s ignorant. We all have different perspectives due to our nature and nurture circumstances… same reason he has his own as well. There are so many ways to disagree but for him to come out and call you un-educated and a college journalist is an oxymoron if I ever heard one. You are simply stating your opinion on a very prevalent issue in today’s society for many people including ourselves and our friends & family. Isn’t that the first step in trying to make a change anyways: awareness and having the ability to look at a situation from multiple perspectives?

  8. In reality, most people in these communities that inform the police will not be subjected to violent retaliation.

    Olivier stated, “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,” but as she pointed out she came from a “cozy, predominately white neighborhood” is very interesting.

    The reason why the neighborhood was so “cozy” was more than likely due to the members of that community:
    looking out for one another
    informing authorities and the appropriate channels if they witness anything suspicious or awry
    having strong core values

    They took preventive measures to uphold a standard of living that afflicted communities are trying to obtain. Therefore, starting to snitch is the first step people in a community can make to decrease violence. There are more upstanding individuals and families than hardened criminal savages in the “hood.” The savages are grossly outnumbered and START SNITCHING is the best strategy to combat their anti-social behavior. If more people come forward the criminals will fear the people of the neighborhood and will no longer be protected under the shroud of a savage street code of, “snitches get stitches.”

    @Adriana – How is Torain ignorant?

  9. Everyone has made some valid points. However, the question has not been answered to Who is there for the individual after “snitching”? Granted Anna has said “In reality, “most” people in these communities that inform the police “will” not be subjected to violent retaliation,” however, if this was true, more people would bear witness to a crime when committed. Which is currently not happening since this is the issue in these communities. The fact is Ms.Olivier touched a solid point. The point is Fear. People in these communities are afraid to come forward. The action step to be taken is how to reduce the fear in these communities in order for people to come forward. What has “Start Snitching” implemented to reduce that fear in these communities? The concept is great but in order for it to be effective you must attack the core issue which is to reduce the FEAR.

  10. Hopefully this will improve and bring down the crime rate in our community making safe for our kids to walk down the streets without having a feeling that they are about to get jumped or killed.

  11. Continuing to allow people to commit violent crimes as they please only supports a bullying mentality. There is a big movement in schools right now against bullying, so why shouldn’t that movement be brought to neighborhoods. I think the writer was absolutely right that more community centers would be great, but that is not always an option in some communities and takes a great deal of funding and hard work. Community centers also require police to ensure the safety. Involving the police in more aspects of communities is crucial to building trust between police and community members. In some cases, people have every right not to trust the police in their neighborhood which is why bridging the gap between police and community is so crucial.

    The majority of people out there want to do good and don’t want to continue to live in violent communities. It is time that these people are empowered and supported to come together and end the mindset in their communities that allows violent criminals to thrive.

  12. To be frank, the connotation around snitching has receive too much power. It’s time that communities remove the poisinous venom from the word
    and utilize it to impact and inspire greater cooperative community policing efforts.

    We live in world where technology is evolving by the minute. Thus the release of confidential news and information— which is nothing more than snitching, are valued commodities, especially in the realm of social media platforms. So why not use the word? And if so, re-authorize it to mean something beneficial to our communities.

  13. I hate when smart people say dumb stuff. Calling it a survival tactic is dumb. It’s really ignorant, I almost can’t respond but I feel you need to hear it. Your motivation sounds like fear. Telling will get you killed. Obviously for thousands of years man has not wanted to be snitched on and sometimes act upon that fear they have of getting caught. Such as killing a witness. Yeah, we get it but to make it normal to NOT snitch is dumb. Not all police are great, but I bet you’ll call 911 if you need it. Even as a kid I’ve learned not to be a tattle tale. I actually dislike most police, but can you imagine nobody snitching or speaking to the police? Are you kidding me, it’s only for the hood? Stop it, you sound silly. It’s a fad and it’s not helpful when your neighbors’ families are grieving and you know what happened. Nobody is asking you to be a cowboy or the next Dog The Bounty Hunter. What I take from the Start Snitching campaign is that violence is bad, obviously, but it’s worse to give violence shelter in the knowledge that nobody will tell for whatever reason. I for one will not allow that “code” to stand where I am. I can understand if some dumb laws being broke are ignored or some minor offenses, but when it’s real turn in some anonymous info at least. If you know nothing then keep it moving, but don’t be a part of stop snitching because it was or is in rap music. It’s ignorant. I’m not a fan of living with fear. I’m a veteran of multiple Iraq tours and grew up in the projects. This isn’t coming from anyone who hasn’t lived. I’m someone who grew up in a crackhouse and chose to be better. To be what they (the bad people we fear) always told me to be, better. Be cool with your people here and everywhere. Don’t just go against something, take your bits and pieces and make something. I’d agree if you made it clear to being situational or conditional or something. You have to do what’s right.

  14. So let me get this straight, your solution to the problem of senseless acts of violence towards innocent people (old women, small children, civilians, etc.) in urban communities is to not tell who did it even if you saw it for fear of retaliation? Correct?
    See, therein lies my problem. Of course if you are an 80s baby you were raised on the mantra of “stop snitching” but what you dont realize is that the cowardice excercised by those who came before us which is instilled in us through phrases like stop snitching is the core of the reason we still have these problems in 2012. You cant contiously blame the slave master for what we have done to ourselves. The fact that you believe not turning in the murderers of innocent babies and elderly people is the way to stop crime in “the hood” shows just how far we are from a viable solution.
    “Start Snitching” is not about randomly turning in innocent people just so new prisoners can be created and new prisons builts, it is actually the complete opposite. “Start Snitching” means let these low life creeps & cowards know that if you shoot into a crowd of children, someone is going to make sure you pay for it. If you dont agree with that, you are just as big a part of the problem as the one holding the gun.

  15. I agree with Alexandra’s point on snitching I know plenty of people who witnessed murders and choose not to go to the police. It’s survival when you grow up in certain type of neighborhoods you live by, “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” because once a snitch your labeled and become a target and a outcast in your community.

  16. To Veronica:

    The word snitching is obviously used to make a connection with the youth or young men and women to strike a cord with them. It’s to use a specific word associated in the realm of negativity and use it for something positive. You also attempt to hold yourself on a higher plateau, yet when Mr. Torian answers his critic, he chooses the word uneducated, while in your critque of his answer, you opt to call him ignorant for effect.

    Despite the fear one may have with “snitching”, I doubt all fear of retalition is eliminated one one says nothing. The general point is that someone witnessed a violent crime, someone saw that person witness it, and now they live in fear. That fear is not alleviated if one says nothing. He/she will still wake up the next morning fearing retaliation of some sort.

    The fact that Busta Rhymes has a bodyguard that actually DIED doing the job he was paid to do, yet the man he was paid to protect acts if if he saw nothing is a total disgrace! This man saved his life, yet Busta chooses not to give his family any peace of mind as he probably chose to pay for the funeral service as if that makes everything ok and he’s done “all he could”. Most negative elements back off in the face of adversity. If nothing is done, it will thrive.

  17. Response to Rashied:

    In response to the first paragraph, I did conclude in my comment that if the word ““Snitching” was chosen to spark a debate and start a discussion. Now you have the platform to do so”…I don’t understand, why, you would think I wouldn’t agree with you, in regards to your statement about the word “Snitching”. As Sean clearly stated in his comment another word would not have the same effect, which is true. And now we are having a discussion about it, which I stated in my comment.

    Now in regards to the second half the same paragraph. I did not attempt to hold myself on a higher plateau and yes, Mr. Torian said his critic had an uneducated perspective. My comment to Mr.Torian is based on the lack of professionalism; he has towards the editor and the University.

    “This is not “Good Journalism.” It’s a blog written by a college student with the knowledge of an un-proven intern at best.”……“*I’m sure Temple University wouldn’t offer me a dime to speak on this much needed topic but if they hustled up a pitcher of grape Kool-Aid and a Salisbury steak, I’d go down there and educate them all like never before.” – Troi Torain

    So you are not willing to agree with me that this comment is disrespectful, not only to the Editor but to the University as well. He started out insulting the Editor and then concluded by insulting the University. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But I stand by my comment to the “ignorance of his character,” his comment is not coming from a place of facts. It based on his reaction to the article, which he is clearly annoyed by. I would have preferred if Mr. Torain provided some insight to his “Start Snitching” campaign.

    No one has commented on the major issue, which Ms. Olivier has pointed out. Even though, you may not agree with the article. She has pointed out FEAR is an issue. What are we to do about reducing the FEAR in these communities?

    Please read the article from Metro Philly below:
    Reyna Aguirre-Alonso: Fed up, and gunned down
    http://www.metro.us/philadelphia/local/article/1079715–reyna-aguirre-alonso-fed-up-and-gunned-down

    How are we going to protect the “Snitch” after reporting/telling the cops?

  18. **Survival is not living**

    **Fear is a crippling monster that allows bad people to continue behaving badly in the day of light**

    Although I intellectually understand Ms. Olivier’s argument, I cannot morally agree with it. That argument has allowed Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and too many other thugs to grow beyond small communities to the world stage with detrimental effects. If we as a society and individuals are not willing to stand-up for what is right and true in the face of DEATH, these parasitic thugs will flourish and consume the future of our children and destroy us all [which is the trend, as we speak, in many inner cities].
    The fact is, this is a war we as a society cannot afford to lose. These cowards, like many before them will hide and run when the collective society stand-up in spite of retribution…they can’t kill us all. If those that stood-up for righteousness (albeit a bit late) in WWII simply wanted to survive, we would have a different world today.

    Furthermore, I would not call defending one’s community, property, and family from thugs (hood rats) as snitching. A snitch is simply a thug telling on another thug to increase his turf or protect himself. Those who “snitch” do it for self interest not self defense. Those who defends themselves , family, community, and country are simply heroes.

    **Silence is acceptance and culpability**
    **It is better to die standing-up blinding darkness with light, than to die sitting in the dark**

  19. Personally, I was born in the 70s and raised in the 80s & 90s. After my mother divorced my father we moved to north philly. I can truly say that I have experienced different realms of both spectrums at a very early age, into adulthood. What happened to “stand for something or fall for anything”?
    It is sad that this no snitching has become such the norm when research reflects through Philadelphia Federal Prisons that 78% of the inmates make plea bargins to get lesser time. In other words they “snitch”. Philadelphia is heavily known in this past decade to now produce a city of criminal snitches. There is no honor amongst theives, yet our inner communities band together to an unlawful street code of “ethics”. They shield the criminals by not coming forward, when these same animals cannot even shield each other. Programs like ones of Jeff Canada in NY have shown when the resources are there, the children of the inner community vastly excel. We will not be able to build as a community, as a people, as a unit, until everyone becomes distgusted with the killings, the robberies, the rapes, the flash mobs. Start Snitching isnt a need, it’s an absolute MUST in order to not just survive, but to begin “living”.

  20. Everyone who is bashing Mr. Torain is missing the point. Snitching is considered a bad word. Whether or not you agree with the methodology is your business, however this fact cannot be argued, your talking about the issue, which is more than anyone else has gotten you to do. Who cares how the message is sent, get it out there that violent criminals will no longer have normal citizens staying silent out of fear ofdeath!! All this other talk is superforolus at best.

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