A few days ago one of my regular readers, Gyamfua (what’s up girl?!) emailed me and asked my opinion on the “no snitching” phenomenon in the black community. After thinking about it for a while, and watching the video link* she sent me, I realized that haven’t thought much about one of the most notorious codes of the streets in some time. It was a major theme in my teenage years, but after going to college and starting a family I moved away from those kind of topics. But the part of her question about teaching my son about the “downfalls of not telling” and how I would “protect him from the criticism that comes with telling” gave me pause. Suddenly I understood that I would be the person that gives my son advice on snitching, and a thousand other things that my own dad never did.

It was a coincidence that she asked me about snitching when she did. During Devin’s birthday weekend we went to visit his five year old cousin C.J. Whenever C.J. did something that could be deemed naughty (jumping down a flight of stairs, throwing a toy, etc.) Devin came to me and, well, snitched on him. At first I wanted to be supportive of my boy who has recently decided that it is his job to police all kids (at the Zoo a few weeks ago he shouted to a group of kids climbing on one of the guide rails “Hey, get down from there that’s dangerous! Behave yourselves!”). But eventually I had to tell him that he needed to stop tattling on his cousin. Part of the reason that I told him to lay off the ratting was that it was getting annoying. Another part was that I didn’t want my son to become a snitch.

I’ve lived in good and bad ‘hoods most my life (after my father shipped all his sons off from Homestead Florida to Bed-Stuy Brooklyn). I’ve seen my share of crimes go down, and I’ve had my fair share of friends murdered. Ironically several of my family members are police officers with the NYPD, but even with that I have never able to reconcile the streets and the law. Regardless of where I stand my goal is to teach my son to make good decisions. I also want him to know that a real man does the right thing even in the face of adversity.

My sincere hope is that I’m in a better ‘hood before my son is faced with the task of learning the code of the streets – if you don’t live in the streets there is no reason to know its rules. Sadly, some of the rule-based decisions that kids have to make these days can be soul crushing, especially when they know that doing the right thing may get them hurt, or even killed. I think that’s what it comes down to in the end: The code is about fear of reprisal, not about protecting criminals. That said, if my boy is not in a better environment, I’m going to have to do what I have to do, and say what I have to say to ensure his safety. If I have to break the code (which one?) in the process, so be it….

My son has been literally hanging over my shoulder as I finish this post. He just read the second to last sentence (I helped him with “ensure”) and asked: Who’s safety, mine or yours? “Yours” I replied as I gave him a kiss.  He bursted out laughing.

(*I’m still having trouble embedding links into my posts. Here’s the URL of the video that Gyamfua sent me: http://60minutes.yahoo.com/segment/60/stop_snitching)