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Three score and ten or more

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Snitches

I don't know how many watched Sixty Minutes today. I used to watch it faithfully until I caught them in some intentional lies about subjects with which I was directly involved. After that, I just tuned in occasionally to watch Andy Rooney.

Tonight I tuned in, almost accidentally and heard the most chilling discussions that I have ever heard on television.

To put the discussion into context, however, I need to mention an article in my Sunday paper about two young African American men, both businessmen, sons of an Army First Sergeant, who were both shot, one killed by police outside a club in Atlanta (one of the two police officers was injured as well, her partner sprayed her in the eyes with pepper spray while trying to spray one of the men killed.) Both of the men were unarmed.

Now to the subject at hand: The interviewer was talking to some famous rap star who bragged that he made millions and owned two Lamborghinis (sp). The rap star said, in answer to a question, that he would not report a serial killer who lived next door, even though he had seen the killer commit the crime because real men don't "snitch". This was somewhat shocking to hear coming through the mouth of this physically beautiful, somewhat androgynous looking rap singer. Rap performers have a long history of contempt for the law, and during the discussion he noted (or someone did) that he had often used his own experiences as a drug dealer as part of his act.

The shocking element was the next one. The interviewer talked to six or eight young African American young people, apparent ages from about 12 to about 18, who were interviewed in the context of being in a church group. They revealed that they (almost all of them) had seen murders, drive by shootings, that sort of thing, but that they had never told anyone at the time, and would have refused to tell policemen if they had been asked.

One young man volunteered that "Those are the rules, snitches are worse than gang bangers or liars or anything else." An older young lady agreed, not that it was out of fear of the results (which is certainly a possibility), but that "real" people don't talk to police.

It was clear that the "rules" were totally societal even with these young folks who were part of a religious organization. I find that terrifying.

What scares me more is the context. There is such lack of trust, even between the good kids and the cops, running in both directions, that explosions are imminent and understandable. The youngest boy in the group made the point that he had often been picked up by police while going to school and walking to a neighbor's house.

Can you imagine two inexperienced cops who trust nobody in an African Neighborhood and who are trusted by nobody in that neighborhood, and in a case where neither has more than two years experience being called to what one said was a "fight scene", meeting two large young men, brothers, rough housing outside a restaurant (been there a lot of times). Did the young men trust them? Probably not, maybe one shouted "I haven't done anything" at an said inexperienced cop. Who knows, but with the attitude of the young people who are growing up to be businessmen etc. it's hard not to imagine an escalating level of violence that is beyond this old white guy's imagination.

No, I am not going to propose a solution. Frankly, in this case, to quote the old Christmas Carole "My little brain isn't very bright"at least not tonite, but I see things going down hill rapidly.

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