Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Obvious Truth about Snitchin'

Once again, the mainstream media got it twisted.
Today, an article appeared on Yahoo! News (supplied by Reuters) entitled Hip-hop's Code of Silence Hurts Police Work. The title says it all and irked me to no end. I didn't have to read it to know that (1) it was about the underworld code against "snitching" and (2) it would attribute this code to hip hop.
This code is not new. In fact, it is so old, it predates hip hop. Do we really believe that before the 1970s, gangstas and wannabes ratted each other out to the police until rap music came along and proposed this code of omerta? Are we supposed to buy into the implication that only those engaged in illegal activity who are of a certain hue or geography maintain this code while their counterparts of other races or locations snitch to their hearts' content?
Get real. Once again, hip hop subculture is being equated with thug life as if they are one and the same. And for what really? If you snitch, someone's going to die. If you don't snitch, someone else is still going to die. So to snitch or not to snitch is a ridiculous question. What we need to discuss is how we got into this dangerous corner and what does it take to get us out of it? All I know is that hip hop did not put us there so don't expect it to get us out. But hip hop can make a contribution and we can start by challenging the media's penchant for using hip hop and thug life synonymously regardless of which forum the byline appears.
I'll give the journalist who wrote this particular article credit for soliciting an opinion from Chuck D who proved that not everyone in the hip hop community, industry, or generation ascribes to this code of self-destruction. But Chuck's voice was alone amidst a litany of "evidence" that "the rise of hip-hop culture has heightened the phenomenon by transforming street thugs into role models." Meanwhile, glorifying criminals has always been and continues to be as American as football, apple pie and low voter turnout.
When is someone going to ask that with mainstream radio stations, film studios, publishing companies, news outlets, and cable networks playing major roles in relentlessly promoting only a certain kind of hip hop, who truly benefits from it?
Here's a hint. Since people of color do not own or control these entities, it ain't us. And debating the phenomenon of snitchin' isn't going to change that.