The saying that has been inculcated in the minds and lives of Blacks across this nation, "Snitches Get Stitches" came to mind as I watched a YouTube video with Yvette Carnell and Paschal Robert discussing Al Sharpton's role as a New York mob snitch. Ever since the latest, albeit, not really new revelations about Sharpton emerged, I wondered how we would receive it and what, if anything, we would do.
Since Sharpton is a highly visible, iconoclastic, activist and spokesperson for so many black folks, why not use his snitching to our advantage? Murder and violent crime are running rampant in the so-called 'hood; families are being torn apart by gun violence and left to grieve the loss of their loved ones. Our streets run red with the blood of our children as we cower in our homes, witnessing acts of murder but too scared to call Crime Stoppers, anonymously, and identify the perpetrator – and get some cash money to boot.
The gang mantra, "Snitches Get Stitches," works to our degradation and social deterioration. With Sharpton's example, we could change our mantra to "Snitches Get Riches." He has given us the model for doing the right thing when it comes to snitching; and he told on mob bosses, not neighborhood street thugs and small time hustlers. Al played in the big leagues of the snitching game, got rich and has been propelled into the stratosphere of political elitism and media visibility.
I can see them now, billboards, TV ads, bumper stickers, T-shirts, all featuring Al's picture, with the saying, "Snitches Get Riches!" Below would be a direct quote from him: "I did what anybody would do...other than a thug...I cooperated...I did what was right." Chicago could use that line of thinking (45 shootings and 10 dead during Easter weekend), as well as Cincinnati, Ohio, where a black person is shot and/or killed nearly every night.
I think Al's words could help start a snitching frenzy in the 'hood. A lot of black folks follow Sharpton; Why wouldn't they follow him by snitching on murderers? Now that he has stood up in public and said it's the right thing to do, his followers just might consider doing likewise. You know how we like to "get paid!"
In addition to just giving speeches and leading marches, Sharpton could certainly use his professed gravitas in the 'hood to make sure murderers are caught. With his influence, he could be the leader of a real movement – not just an event. Leading movements requires much more commitment than leading mere events. And what we need in this country is a snitching movement. Considering how close Al is to Barack Obama, maybe he could get the prez to speak on behalf of snitching too.
There was a terrific piece in the Michigan Citizen, titled, "Sharpton Fan Club," by Sam Riddle, political director for the Michigan National Action Network (NAN). He wrote, "...Sharpton has built a fan club not a movement. Strong local NAN chapters such as Michigan NAN must carry the movement torch...The ingredients of a movement are of stern stuff, not dependent on cameras and adoration...Campaigning by press conference is no campaign but serial photo-op ravaging. People in pain deserve much more to relieve their condition. So old informant revelations don't really hurt the fan base of one whose fans just want to make sure they can be in touch with the man on the screen. Celebrity activists ought to be required to plant and tend a garden with real dirt to work so they can see how to grow stuff, and learn that those cameras don't grow anything but energy depleting ego." Riddle's observations say more about the "fans" than about Sharpton.
Obama will be gone in two years, and the White House will be white again. Will Al Sharpton still be our black political inside man? Will he have started a real movement that will sustain us no matter who occupies the White House? Maybe a "Snitches Get Riches" campaign is a great start to an initiative to help black people assuage violence and build an economic foundation.
Don't fret, "Little" Al, as he is now known, will be fine. He's a real playa. Having survived and thrived for three decades doing his "thing," and ending up being best buds with the POTUS, one day he will ride off into the sunset, laughing all the way to his retirement villa in the Caribbean, and singing, "Everybody plays the fool," or maybe, "It takes a fool to learn." When he gets settled and starts reminiscing, he'll change to "What a fool believes" and "Chain of fools." Maybe he'll even write a new song, titled, "Snitches Get Riches." Uh oh, I feel a new political line-dance comin' on. "To the left, to the right, jump back, turn around; now snitch, now snitch..."
(Jim Clingman is founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce and an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati. He can be reached through his web site, blackonomics.com.)