It Takes Courage to Start Snitching

There was a fight at our local high school a few weeks ago.  Actually it was two girls attacking a third girl on school property (not exactly a fair fight). For these girls, any suggestion that things might be handled without violence just didn’t make sense to them.  They might as well stick their fingers in their ears and shout, “LA, LA, LA, LA, LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” that’s how receptive they are to advice.

Last week I asked one of girl’s involved what the situation was like now between her and the girl she had attacked.  She replied, “I don’t talk to her, she doesn’t talk to me.  If she wasn’t such a snitch though, I’d beat her ass again.” I have always found this type of thinking fascinating; absurd and repugnant, but fascinating nonetheless. The girl who was attacked would go to the authorities if she got ‘jumped’ again, and somehow this is a stain on her honour, somehow this makes her a disgrace.  She is a ‘snitch’ and she ought to be ashamed of herself.

What happens in the playground, stays in the playground.  You don’t tell the teacher, the principle and certainly not the police.  If you ‘tattle’ then you are weak. Even if you get beat up you are expected to show the honour and courage of taking it and not telling anyone.  It is a street ethic, a twisted morality which obviously benefits the perpetrator.

This is nothing new to the organized crime world. If someone gets ‘pinched’ (arrested), then they might turn into an informant (snitch, rat) and give information about the illegal activities of others in their gang so that they might receive some leniency and perhaps avoid jail time for their own actions. These ‘snitches’ are thought of as traitors; they are betraying their gang (their family) for their own benefit.  There is a rule of ‘silence’ in this brotherhood and if you go against it, your life might be the price.

It is also nothing new that a criminal organization might extend their intimidation for snitching into the community and beyond their members.  Some criminals even ‘care’ for their community so that the people in the neighbourhood will have more respect for them than the police who are part of ‘system’ that has left their ‘hood’ in poverty.  This was certainly the case for Pablo Escobar who poured all kinds of money into his town of Medellin, Columbia.  People felt a loyalty to Pablo Escobar and would even mule drugs for him rather than cooperate with the local authorities.  If you do defy him, many, and not just Pablo, would certainly make you pay for it.

What I have a hard time understanding is how this mentality has been adopted into the teenaged reality.  A girl gets assaulted and there is a threat that it might happen again.  Yet, somehow she should feel loyalty to some twisted code and protect her attackers.  Um... why exactly? In this case the ‘snitching’ isn’t the thing that might get this girl beat up, it is the fact that she can go to the police that is protecting her... so... great!!  I for one am happy that this girl would ‘rat’.  (I do however, think that ‘jail time’ won’t do anything to rehabilitate a violent person, but that is a different issue).

“Stop snitching” is a motto made by violent people to protect violent people.  It is not honour that keeps people bound to this code, it is fear.

Years ago a young man brought a knife to school in our neighbourhood.  He was flashing it around and people knew he had it.  One girl went to the office and reported that he had it... he was expelled. When the school day was done and people found out that she had reported him (because she told some people – usually the reason anonymity doesn’t work), it was her and not him that people were upset at.  She was called all kinds of names (rat, snitch, and a bunch of others).  But for some reason no one was talking about what an idiot this kid had been for bringing a knife to school and flashing it around when he knew the consequence of his actions.

Since when did someone who reports crime in our communities become the ‘bad guy’ and the one perpetrating the crime become the one in need of protection? 

You bring a knife into my school, what loyalty do you think I owe you?

You jump me and assault me, what loyalty do you think I owe you?

You sell drugs in my neighbourhood where my kids are growing up, what loyalty do I think I owe you?

I will still attempt to treat you with respect, but it is with my neighbourhood’s safety that my loyalty lies.  And where there is no loyalty, the only reason left not to ‘snitch’ is out of fear.  Fear of physical consequences, sure, but also fear of being ostracized, rejected and ridiculed by peers like this girl was.

I am proud of every single youth who reports a crime in our community. For one simple reason; they are not giving into fear and intimidation. I received an e-mail through the True Rebel site from a young lady who had been warned and threatened by some girls that they would assault her if she reported any of the stuff they were doing.  They are friends with her sister and she is worried.  She doesn’t want her little sister mixed up in it all and so is motivated to report their actions, but she is scared. I responded, “It takes a lot of courage to stand up and do what you think is right.  This is especially true when others are trying to make you afraid of doing the right thing. Fear is one of the most common tactics that people use to prevent people from doing the right thing.”  Is that going to make it easier?  Probably not.  However, I will always try to encourage people to do what they feel is right, even when they are afraid of the consequences.  Integrity and character are built on these types of decisions

Some say that if you stand by the code and don’t snitch you are a rebel.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  That is not a choice of rebellion but one of fear.  A True Rebel stands up in the face of fear and makes the STRONG choice to do what they think is right. I hope that will mean to do what will benefit the neighbourhood and the kids in it.  Even with safety and security in jeopardy, comfort and convenience on the line, a True Rebel will do what is right.  If it’s true in my neighbourhood that ‘snitches get stitches’, I will wear my stitches with pride and stand up against crime and violence on the streets that I walk everyday.

No matter what anyone says, you are under no obligation, rule or allegiance to not ‘snitch’.  In fact, if your desire is to be one of the good guys, if your allegiance lies with the peace of your neighbourhood, to stay quiet in the face of crimes and violence is what makes you ‘weak’.  When people stay silent, they betray their community, they are a traitor to their neighbourhood.   And even if you have made a ‘promise’ to not disclose information, there comes a time where the best option might be to break your promise. A friend who is using drugs more and more or getting involved in other things that are harmful to them might really need a friend who loves them enough to not keep that secret. And when the harm is being done to our communities, they also need a True Rebel who will stand up and speak out.

 “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.”  Edmund Burke

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