Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Desensitization to Crime, Apathy, and No Snitching ... Unless There's a Monetary Reward

This morning I decided to take a stab at riding the Metrobus because I had to attend a meeting with a branch of the DC governement. After stopping at Starbucks for my usual Venti bull's eye (regular coffee with 3 shots of espresso), I boarded a bus heading in the direction of my final destination and overheard several people talking about the rash of weekend violence that claimed the life a 13 year-old in Washington, DC.

Now to put this child's senseless death into context and to discuss what I overheard, I think it's woth mentioning that the neighborhood in which the shooting occurred has been designated as a NSZ.

NSZs or Neighborhood Safety Zones are implemented in Washington, DC by the Police Department. Checkpoints are set up around a perimeter of the NSZ and police require all vehicular traffic to stop, identify their purpose for being in the neighborhood, and require drivers to have valid identification. In true DC reactionary, knee-jerk fashion the NSZ was implemented in a neighborhood that police had forgotten about until the rate of gun-related homicides began to increase exponentially. As a result the NSZs were announced, the residents of the NSZ complained and are suing the city (with the assistance of the ACLU) for violating their Civil and Constitutional rights.

I'm ambivalent about the efficacy of the NSZs because of a variety of factors, but since I do not live in a NSZ (yet... DC is GHETTO... all of it!), I can't necessarily sicount them completely.

As I listened intently to the conversations occurring during my semi-short bus ride I became enraged and then disgusted and then ashamed and then mortified. Apparently, people in DC are so accustomed to crime and lawlessness that fear isn't keeping them from engaging in crime prevention and community policing; apathy and opportunism are.

The 13 year-old boy was killed during a drive-by shooting in which his 23 year old cousing was the target. The 13 year old was visitng from Mobile , AL and was staying with his great-grandmother during her initial chemotherapy to treat her cancer. His mother was also shot but was not critically or seriously injured.

The animals who killed this 13 year old approached the grown cousin and said " wassup" then began to rain gunfire on the man on the boy. When the smoke cleared, the boy was fatally shot and the grown man still alive. The killers were never apprehended and the 23 year old isn't talking to police too much. a 50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the punks responsible for the shooting and apparently that's not enough for the people on the bus to be motivated to "snitch" on someone.

Much to my chagrin, the excerpts below are parts of a conversation that burned in my mind as I began to think about writing this post.


"Chile Fiddy Thowsin!?!?! (with expression of incredulity for emphasis)" , "Dat ain't no munney ta git me tawlkin! Ah needs about Two hunnid befo' ah snitch!"

I looked in the direction of the man stupid enough to actually utter such nonsense and my facial expression radiated my disavowal, disapproval, and disbelief. As if random acts of murder, rape, and violence aren't enough, people now have to have an incentive to take pride in their community and actively engage in crime prevention.


"Yeah, Ah know whut you sayin' cuz my cuzzin was kilt ovah in Muhrilyn and dey ain't git nobody ta tawlk unteel dat munny got right."

I sighed as the conversation had just gone from bad to much worse. At this point the bus driver chimed in.

Overheard (from the bus driver):

"Well, Ah grew up in da hood, but Ah'm a big ole' SNITCH and Ah need dat fiddy thow! Ah wish ah knew sumthin'! Hell, I'll tell on you anyway if you doin' sumthin' wrong! Ah werk too hard to be scared in mah own damn house! Damn that!"

I SMILED. Then I began to join the conversation. I asked the man why a 13 year-old's life isn't priceless and why ANY reward money is necessary for anyone to do the right thing in the first place. He responded by telling me that he was just keeping it real and that he didn't want to be a snitch. I got off of the bus because I had reached my destinantion although I missed my stop because I was running my mouth.

It's okay for him to be an opportunist though and the sad thing about this whole sordid conversation was the fact that many people on the bus, all of whom were black, nodded in solidarity. Then I thought to myself, Is this why our communities and families remain broken? Have we become so jaded by crime that in order for us to do anything about it we have to expect some type of monetary compensation?

A while back, Gina McCauley coined a phrase, "immoral indifference" to describe Black Leadership's response to a brutal gang-rape that happened in Dunbar Village. A few month's ago I cross posted a piece by Professor Tracey of Aunt Jemima's Revenge about The Soul on Ice Effect on the lives of black women. While Professor Tracey's piece was specifically related to the lives of black women and children, it has implications and relevance to this discussion.

What a sad chapter we've reached in the annals of black life that makes us collectively, immorally indifferent to crime.

What would you do if you knew information about a crime?


poetess58 said...

I think much of the indifference has to do w/ real possibility of harm if you are tagged as a snitch. There are people who help the police and are killed so maybe that is why the conversation alluded that $50K wasn't enough. Wasn't it D.C. or BMore that had homes of witnessed being firebombed some years back. Also there's distrust of the police and the feeling that involving them will cause more problems, all those things factor in to apathy. I lived in a duplex once and overheard my neighbor being beaten by her husband who had just been released from prison. He was literally throwing her against the wall and still, she got mad at me for calling the police, rather than just yelling at him to leave her alone, cause he was going to have more problems with his p.o. She felt like he was good to the children and she needed his help. She really felt I had caused her more harm than good. "I can take an ass whoopin;now who gone walk the kids to school in the morning when I'm at work?" There's more to it than just apathy. I still would call if I heard my neighbor screaming and sitting here at my computer imagining a hypothetical shooting,of course I'd testify. In reality, who knows? Money wouldn't be my challenge but I would be concerned for my child's safety.

BLKSeaGoat said...


Thanks for the comment and visiting my blog. Respectfully, I have to disagree with some points in your assessment of this very serious situation.

Here's why:

Black community apathy has been rampant since the mid 80's and much of what exisits in our communities is there because we created an environment to allow it to grow and fester.

Instead of being self-reliant as we were during the pre-integration era, we bought into becoming dependent upon the government to rear and educate our children, financially support thouse of us who cannot be gainfully employed, and we've allowed the "thug" construct to corrupt our moral base.

I get what you're saying about personal safety, but this was not the case. The gentleman clearly mean that his life was worth 200K before he'd talk if he knew something and that's a VERY grim situation.

It was Baltimore where people's houses were firebombed, but NOT because they were informants, they simply had the courage to say enough was enough. Unfortunately, they paid with their lives. I believe it was a mother and her 5 children who were killed after surviving 2 previous bombings before. She received no rewards, but did the right thing regardless of her personal safety. It's that kind of commitment and passion I'd like to see from some of our people who are still living under delusion and apathy.

Fear isn't the issue anymore; apathy and desensitization to violent crime is. We have accepted as cultural norms, that are neighborhoods should be riddled with crime, violence and lawlessness. We cry about police distrust and aid criminals in evading capture because we think we are leveling the playing field and sticking it to the man.

Instead of rearing our children with morals and accountability, weve allowed media and liberal social policy to replace common sense.

We must change.

Mari-Djata said...

The type of person I am, I'd call the police for little ish. My way of thinking is --I pay taxes for these fools to work, they better work! However, they seem to come quicker when there is no real emergency so I wouldn't keep my hopes high for justice.

Yep, I'm a snitch... and proud of it.

BLKSeaGoat said...


How have you been? How's your internship coming? Thanks for your comments and for visiting the blog.

I've been missing you on the podcasts, but I'll be starting my own soon. I would really love for you to call in if you have the time. I know Spelman starts around mid-August, no?

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

rael men snitch for good and others
punks snitch to save their lives

Woman in Transition said...

I'm the biggest snitch there is in my neighborhood and my family and I do NOT need any kind of incentive. My husband thinks that one day I'm going to get killed. (He's a big chicken...) If it were my husband, my son, my friend, whatever that was met with that bullet, I would be begging everyone I could to please come forward with any information.

Lord, how did we get here and when are we leaving? I wonder about black folk sometime....

Mari-Djata said...


I didn't get my internship, sadly, but I am taking summer classes, and those are going well, although boring. Next semester, I will have more options for internships instead of relying on just one. Thanks for asking!

I have been AWOL on the podcasts lately, just busy and neglectful. I haven't forgotten about ya'll. I am so ready for your podcast, I know you have things to say that needs to be heard.

Class starts on the 27th of August, but I am going to try to return in the week of the 11th.

BLKSeaGoat said...


Keep me posted and if you need assistance in obtaining information on DC internships and fellowships, please let me know.

mrshadow33 said...

Hey my Brother. I apologize for responding to your message you sent a few weeks again sooner. I would be happy to appear on your podcast(I don't know if you started it yet) Contact me at mrshadow33@gmail.com

Anyway to your topic, I see much of that attitude in many of the students I am teaching during summer school. You try to talk to them and show them a better way and hope that some of what you said makes an impression.

I have been listening to Marvin Gaye's classic album "What's Going On" and the more I hear it the more I am inspired to try and help address the many ills of the world that Marvin so expertly sang about. Reading your post immediately conjured up the song "Save the Children" in my mind. If you have time, please listen to the entire album. Hopefully it will give you some inspiration.

Felicia said...

Well, I would check my digital camera and make sure that all the photos and the "movies" were all intact and viewable. Then I would make 2 copies give one to the family and the other to the police.

DJ Black Adam said...

"What would you do if you knew information about a crime?"

That all depends. If the victim was a person who I had a personal relationship and I knew the culprit, I might decide to handle them Black Adam style myself and avoid a cost to the tax payer for the court trial and Incarceration.

Otherwise, I'd just call the police (perhaps anonyously depending on who the culprit was, i.e. organizzed crime or terrrrist group).