Monday, May 15, 2006


my best friend was telling me about some drama that happened in the city we grew up in... some men went to this woman's house - they had some business with her son - and found him, shot him as he was coming down the stairs, right in front of his mother, before leaving. they did it during broad daylight. with children going to school. around the corner from a school. now that was bold to do with all those people running here and there. seems like to me that smart criminals would do their darkness in the dark. but my friend and i figure the reason for their boldness is the recent focus on the street adage, "stop snitching."

the code of the street. mm hmm. it ain't nothing new - as long as there's been hustling, there've been people who needed to understand that if you didn't mind your own business, you put yourself in harm's way. and you know what, i understand that. as long as we have things that people can do to get by or get over, people will do them. and as long as governments can profit from outlawing and persecuting an underground economy, they will. i don't approve of it - it ain't for me and mine, but i understand that factors are at work that persuade folks to make their money that way. but they run the risk of catching hell if they can't go on about their business without people staying out of their business. i also understand that the police can be friend or foe - that the brothers out there are hit or miss (and all too often, it's a miss) when it comes to whether or not they get railroaded by the police. and it seems this is the deciding factor for those who nod their heads in agreement when they hear, "stop snitching," and "snitches get snitches."

i won't lie. to some extent, i agree. i've seen or known of some shady things - not much, thank God - but in any case, when i did know something, i didn't feel the need to report anybody to law enforcement. say, for example that you know somebody who stands out on a corner, nickel-and-diming. what if you say something? (repeatedly, of course, 'cause a simple phone call ain't enough.) then (finally) the cops do a sweep, come out in grand fashion, lights flashing, sirens blaring, nightsticks swinging, barking orders, kicking asses, taking names. give it three days. then, in come the reinforcements. the corner is the most fertile ground for nickel and dimers - no matter how hard you weed, those strong roots - poverty, materialism, supply-and-demand, raggedy schools, raggedy parenting, elusive, unnamed, never prosecuted sources for product - keep on producing more nickel-and-dimers. it's pretty much how i grew up - ignoring those corner boys, minding my own business. they and student loans have one thing in common: like herpes, they won't ever go away. and i'm not snitching.

but i do have an exception to my general policy on snitching. see, i think the concept of stop snitching is lacking in that it really only is a good thing when the community is full of neighborly people who would be just to each other without the help of the police. justice doesn't always happen in court. in fact, it often doesn't happen in court. say, for example, some man beats on his woman. this woman, bloodied up and swollen, runs out into the night to get her family's help. her brother sees her broken body, goes to her man's place, and beats the living shit out of the boyfriend - drags him outside where everybody sees it. they should identify the brother to the police, right? he committed assault and battery - that's bad, right? naw, man. he SHOULDA beat that man's ass. and if i was there i wouldn'ta said nothing, 'cause that was justice. justice moreso than the woman pressing and then dropping charges on this man she loves, despite herself... justice moreso than the boyfriend pressing charges on the brother and succeeding in court. and that brother ain't no danger to nobody except whoever harms his family. i can't be mad at that. that's about blood.

but say, there's a hustler who has an issue of money with some of his associates. the associates decide to administer their own underground justice to remedy their underground issue. so they go over to where this man lays his head, push his mama around, then blow his innards all over her stairs in front of her horrified eyes. they leave, after shocking a neighborhood with the sound of their gunshots, passing neighbors who are both watching and not watching, both terrified and curious. the men hop in cars and drive off, long after the sun has made their exodus visible and plain. justice? perhaps, for these men, there was justice in their murderous revenge. but these men are dangerous. they're a danger to anybody who gets in the way of their profit. i can be mad at that. 'cause that "anybody" could be a grandmother, a little child, or me. that's about money, not blood. and you know what, if i was that woman's neighbor, i'd be an anonymous tip leak - no, a fountain - well, depending on the amount of information i could give, i'd be a waterfall. to be silent would be to contribute to the genocide implosion.

oh, the difference is dubious, i know. downright arbitrary to others, perhaps. but i'm okay with that. i've talked about this on the blog before, but here it is coming up again, and i really needed to get at this topic. we have to make our choices in this world, and mine is to snitch when necessary. 'cause it would be nice if we didn't need police - if we knew our neighbors, cared for them, looked in on the sick, fed the hungry, raised the children, swept the stoops, protected the weak, respected each other - as a community. as a family. but it ain't like that, and sometimes we do need police, because sometimes we're unjust, and sometimes - too many times - the community don't care bout you - won't care about you.

i love my block, still, to this day. i've been gone almost ten years, and most of the people i grew up knowing are gone. but my memories remain. i knew the neighbors' names and faces and which cars and children were whose. we generally respected each other's property and our own. silent squabbles over parking spaces or domestic arguments were the worst things that would happen. and because everyone worked for what they had, everyone was watching, and the street was safe enough. interloping nickel-and-dimers knew better than to come to our block 'cause people cared too much and paid too much attention to the goings-on - our parents stayed by the phone and snitched if necessary - and it worked, even if it only kept the boys a block away. it wasn't totally my utopian vision for communal love, but it was reasonably warm and cordial. there was an understanding, a respect, that lived there. i drive through now and some of the houses are better and some are worse, the kids ain't kids and/or ain't there. today's kids are loud and wild - like we were then. there is still joy on my block. there is love there - people with families.

threaten that joy and that love, and i'm telling. yeah i said it. my answer to wannabe gangsters who say "stop snitching" is that people work for what little stuff and safety and peace they have, the least you can do is respect it. and when you don't - my loyalty ain't going to you or the police, it's going to the people. 'cause old ladies should be able to sit on their porch and be happy. babies should be able to play outside. have some respect for that and do your darkness in the dark - away from the babies and the straighter and narrower folks. don't put us in a position to choose between snitching and not snitching. such boldness deserves to be snitched on and punished. so that our homes can be homes and not war zones. be about your business, and stop being so sloppy with your amateur ass scarfa.ce impressions. professionals don't have to worry about snitches - they keep their shit in the shadows where it belongs. nobody knows their business. be professional about your shit. and don't forget, when your little niece or daughter gets blown off a tricycle by a semi-automatic - brain matter and plastic barrettes mixing with discarded nickel bags and used cigar tips on the sidewalk - that there's no point in you getting on the news asking for tips unless, suddenly, "stop snitching" means nothing to you. 'cause at the rate we're going, it's not an if, but a when.