Thursday, May 10, 2007

Crab Cakes, Orioles Baseball, and Terrorism

Jeremy Kahn has written an absolutely heartbreaking story for The Atlantic Monthly -- here published for free on another website -- on witness protection and the culture of "Stop Snitchin." Shows like The Wire, DVD's featuring current NBA allstars, and popular websites featuring "Stop snitching" merchandise" have documented and popularized a phenomenon where testifying against gang violence becomes impossible due to fear. Baltimore witness intimidation has long been considered the most brutal. "In many Baltimore neighborhoods, talking to the law has become a mortal sin, a dishonorable act punishable by social banishment-or worse," Kahn writes. "Prosecutors in the city can rattle off a litany of brutal retaliations: houses firebombed, witnesses and their relatives shot, contract hits on 10-year-olds." Baltimore's ignominious connection to places like Baghdad and Rio de Janeiro is clear.

Anyone who has lived in The Charm City long enough has experienced some kind of personal connection to this story. More often than not, it's hearing about someone you vaguely know, or someone living in the same building as a friend, getting shot. While Kahn points out that one in every four homicide witnesses themselves have an outstanding warrant for their arrest, their reason for being one of the most short-lived of any American human being is more often than not simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They saw a crime occur, and the next day a bounty is put on their head to stop them from talking to anyone about it.

There's a long list of reasons why this problem is a rather intractable one. It can only come to an end when there are witnesses to testify against the murder and intimidation of other witness. It requires a neighborhood-police relationship that has significantly deteriorated during the past forty years. It requires Baltimore's elite political and social class to devote resources, energy, and possibly lives to solving a problem which remains essentially confined to already impoverished neighborhoods, and to a "black on black" nature.

It's a sickening reality, and when I think of white middle class kids wearing a "Stop Snitchin" t-shirt to be cool, it makes me want to vomit. These drug gangs are as senselessly violent and ruthless as the worst of any ghetto. I hope that articles such as Kahn's will continue to put increasing pressure on the municipal, state, and federal levels to devote the resources and attention to begin to stop this terrorism.


Blogger Scantron said...

Hey Robot I just want to agree-Stop Snitchin' just ain't cool. I propose the creation of an anti-stop snitchin campaign featuring some McGruff-type cartoon dog character or something along those lines. How about Snitchie the Federally Protected Panda?

9:21 PM  

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