We have a phenomenon that occurs in the black community-somewhere in the fabric of what makes some of us who we are and what we are, there is a misguided notion as to what is good and what is bad. It can be seen in our use of language. “That’s a bad ride” is not an insult. It’s a compliment. And those who rationalize using the word “Nigga,” try to claim that it is said with affection.
Our young people place gangsters on pedestals and embrace “gansta rap” as if that genre of music is beneficial to the community. The defense in all of this is that our young people were “keeping it real.”
Now I won’t pretend that some aspects of what young people rap about isn’t the truth. Just this past week, another report came out stating that African-Americans are the most likely folks to be pulled over and searched by the police. But if you saw 60 Minutes a couple of weeks back, they had a story about the phenomenon that is currently the rage among young people: “No Snitchin.”
The “No Snitchin” campaign has been around a while. One of the first people I saw wearing a shirt about it was Fred Hampton Jr. We were doing a cable access show, and I didn’t get a chance to ask him about it. But to this day, I’ve always wondered-if someone had information that could put everyone responsible for Fred Sr.’s murder in jail, would he consider that “Snitchin”?
Anyway, getting back to the 60 Minutes segment, they had a rap artist named Cam’ron, whose claim to fame is that he would never called the police no matter what happened. When asked by the reporter if there were a serial killer next door what he would do, well Cammie gave the real brave response of “Move!” Even more disturbing than Cam’ron’s answer was the group of young people they interviewed later. One young boy of around 10 gave some frightening answers regarding looking up to rap artists and what they represent to him.
“Mind your own business. Don’t snitch,” he proudly stated. On and on the young boy went with his lecture, surely making any mother with an ounce of sense cringe. Oh, how I longed to send that young boy a slap-a-gram upside his head in the hope an ounce of sense could be knocked into him.
As I sat last week bemoaning the state of our community with individuals like those being highlighted, a news flash came across my desk. Two police officers in Atlanta had been indicted for the murder of Kathryn Johnston. Ms. Johnston was a 92-year-old senior living alone in Atlanta when she heard the sound of her front door breaking open. She was able to retrieve a rusty revolver and fire off a single shot. In return, the police fired 39 rounds at her, hitting her 6-7 times. As she lay dying in her own blood and in her own home, the police handcuffed her and began their search for drugs. No drugs were found. The police had acted on phony information to get a “no-knock” warrant to enter her home. When they realized their mistake, they quickly concocted a story to justify what they had done.
After planting drug evidence, the police rounded up a known informant/snitch named Alexis White. They drove him around Atlanta and gave him a version of the story they expected him to tell. That story would have exonerated the police. The police allegedly held him for several hours and allegedly threatened to kill him. I have no idea what made Alexis White refuse to cooperate. Perhaps it was the vision of an old woman who looked like his own Big Mama being killed. Perhaps it was because he finally had a conscience.
Perhaps God sent him his own version of a slap-a-gram. But whatever it was, Alexis White refused to participate in that lie. He managed to escape from the police car, made it to a public area and called 911, telling them he was running from “dirty police officers”.
Alexis White was picked up by the feds and placed in protective custody. Months later because of him, those same cops, who had once been held in the highest esteem, broke down and told the truth. In a plea agreement, two of the police officers pled guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation and making false statements. A third is fighting the charges against him.
The Atlanta police chief recently announced some policy changes in light of the murder of Kathryn Johnson. Those changes include drug-testing its nearly 1,800 officers, better supervision of narcotics operations and of no-knock warrants.
To Alexis White: You are not a snitch. You are not an informant. You are a hero!