Words By Matthew Mundy
All too often in hip-hop, the refusal to snitch can be boiled down to it simply being the â€˜code of the streets.’ Fair enough, I suppose â€“ having not grown up in an area or an environment where this was an issue, I can’t really bring to the table any learned, personal opinions on the matter.
However, boiling it down to this simple moral arithmetic leaves a lot to be desired, for it doesn’t make things any clearer. It allows the sneering buffoons and denigrators of hip-hop to seize the reins of the debate and steer it wherever they want, leaving us with a grotesquely one-sided discussion of the issue, where hip-hop artists are portrayed as walking in perfect, immoral lockstep with criminals, context be damned.
What M-1 did here â€“ and, funnily enough, by throwing M-1 on a couple times during the Imus and Cam’ron/snitching controversies, Fox gained a brief, begrudged smidgeon of my respect â€“ was properly contextualize the issue.
The issue isn’t about aiding and abetting criminals, it’s about community control, as he pointed out. It’s about a justified wariness of the justice system. It’s about steering clear of a vicious, rotten appendage of an economic, political and cultural system that has done nothing but criminalize, brutalize and politically, economically and demographically eviscerate people of color.
With hundreds of years of mistrust and skepticism of the justice system hardwired â€“ for good reason â€“ into poor communities of color, is it really any surprise that snitching is frowned upon? With the names of Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima and Sean Bell, among many, many others, still haunting police-community relations, and the ongoing onslaught of the war on drugs continuing unabated, it doesn’t take much contextualizing or critical thinking to get to the root of the matter.
Unfortunately, apparently it does, and M-1 should be commended for digging a little deeper. Without this context, hip-hop artists and community leaders run the risk of letting an opportunity to critically engage the justice system â€“ which is what this should have been about â€“ fall by the wayside. Dead Prez were right â€“ it is bigger than hip-hop.
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