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March 15, 2007 -- (US Web)

Concerned Citizen, Witness, Or Snitch?

Providing Context For The Stop-Snitching Movement...

By Edrea Davis, author of SnitchCraft

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The media play an integral role in the way the world perceives America, especially young black men. It's been said, if you say something enough times, it will become true. Therefore, it is important to put the media on notice when they start to propagate negative stereotypes.

Case in point, Law & Order: CI. I'm a big fan of the show, but I can't let a recent episode go by without registering my outrage and sounding an alarm before mainstream media jumps on the bandwagon of the "stop-snitching" craze, spinning it to portray the black community in a negative light.

The episode, "Flipped," was about a rapper who was killed leaving a radio station. There were several witnesses to the murder. All of the predominantly black characters were afraid of being labeled a snitch and refused to cooperate with the police. Even the black police officer working for the gang unit sanctioned this "don't tell" manifesto. To add injury to insult, there were several young children -- about 8 or 9-years-old -- who continued to play as if nothing happened, despite the fact that the body of an assassinated snitch flew off the roof landing near their play area.

As a lifetime member of the beloved community, I doubt that there is one neighborhood in America so desensitized to murder that children would continue business as usual amid a dead body; certainly not a black neighborhood. I take offense that Law & Order would devote an entire episode to depicting the black community as a bunch of apathetic hedonists with questionable values, spooked by the thought of assisting the police in any way for fear that they would be labeled a snitch and assassinated.

It is true that snitches are detested in the black community. However, a person reporting criminal activity in their neighborhood is not a snitch. That would be a CONCERNED CITIZEN. Someone that gives an accurate account of a crime is called a WITNESS.

Snitches are the government-made parasites that drop a dime on people for a reduction in prison time, a get-out-of-jail credit, monetary payment, or a hit of crack. When necessary, these foot soldiers in the so-called "War on Drugs" embellish the truth. Quite often, they fabricate stories. Snitches are responsible for nearly 46% of wrongful capital convictions from false testimony, according to a study by Northwestern University Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions. They are also the reason that innocence commissions across the country have concluded that snitch testimony is false and unreliable. Snitches are criminals hustling the system.

Although the media has caught a hold of the "stop-snitching" slogan, the crafty snitch system has also spawned sayings like "Don't Go To The Pen, Send A Friend," and "If You Can't Do The Time, Drop A Dime."

I know many black people -- family and friends -- and have not met one yet that thinks Barak is an "Uncle Tom." As for Hillary, what "hood" is she from?

I would surmise that the poll you are referencing is an older poll. As a former first lady Hillary had a lot more name recognition early on. Obama was only popular among people who follow politics. He has now gained more national exposure to the masses and the polls reflect that.

So yes, I'm a card-carrying member of the "stop-snitching" movement, but I refuse to allow mainstream media to frame the issue, creating the illusion that the crime epidemic is fueled by the black community's reluctance to cooperate with police investigations.

The majority of black's are no different than the average American. They want to keep their neighborhoods free of drugs, gangs, violence, and other criminal activities. I'm not saying that incidents of witness intimidation do not occur, but honest people are not conspiring with criminals in some imaginary code of silence.

I will admit that average black is a little closed-mouthed when it comes to talking to the police. That can probably be attributed more to the fear of dishonest police than the fear of retaliation. An honest citizen might offer information one minute, then find themselves in custody for the crime the next minute. They know that when police officers go to court, whether it's on a traffic violation or for a murder trial, they say whatever will guarantee the conviction disregarding the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

In black and poor communities the police are not trusted, and for good reasons. Police lie, plant evidence, and strong-arm residents more frequently than anyone will admit. Unless the corruption receives major media attention like the Rampart debacle in Los Angeles, the Tulia case in Texas, or the gunning down of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston by police in Atlanta, gun-toting fanatics persist and are rarely held accountable for their abuse.

In the Rampart case, 30 officers and at least three supervisors were accused of framing people. According to the LA Times, the scandal resulted in the examination of more than 3,000 questionable cases. In Tulia, Texas, 46 residents were set up by an unreliable undercover narcotics officer. The victims were later exonerated. In Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard is seeking to indict three police officers on murder charges for the botched drug raid at Johnston's home. The magnitude of police corruption cases across the country proves that more than a few law enforcement officers are dishonest.

So let's get it correct. Black people are not a gang of quasi-criminals determined to obstruct justice. They are intelligent people who have learned from the constant injustices perpetrated on black people, that, regardless of our income level, we are presumed guilty even when proven innocent. Minorities and poor white people understand that they are jeopardizing their freedom talking with the police. Very much like the wealthy whites-they call it exercising their Fifth Amendment rights.

To the writers at Law & Order, and any of the mainstream media telling our stories, take care not to present a biased picture of the black community for the sake of "drama." To talk about the "stop-snitching" phenomenon without addressing the unreliable snitch-racket or police corruption is partial and misleading. The black community has enough problems; we don't need a media-driven movement added to the list.

Edrea Davis is a communications consultant and author of SnitchCraft, a novel fusing hip-hop with civil rights to shed light on the corrupt environment created by the use of snitches. ( or

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