Friday, August 03, 2007

The California Report, Murders, and Other Violence

This will be quick because I'm really tired but I couldn't leave this one alone. A black reporter and newspaper editor was shot and killed - assassinated, really - in downtown Oakland because he had written negative stories about Your Black Muslim Bakery, which is apparently not affiliated with the Nation of Islam, but whose leader has been in all sorts of scandalous new stories in the past few years including being accused of statutory rape. With multiple girls.

Since then, there's been an outbreak of violence which may or may not be related, but lots of people are being killed in Oakland.

At least city officials and police officers are finally realizing that there's a big problem in the community - especially around gang violence - with people who won't cooperate with police. The NPR California Report did a broadcast that you can listen to here that made me think about the same thing, because they talked about the Witness Protection Program, which doesn't really protect witnesses.

I've seen this happen a lot, as many of my former students have been witnesses to violence. It wouldn't even cross their minds to cooperate with police most of the time. I know many of us who are not in the area think, "Oh, how horrible, they're just continuing the cycle because they won't help be a part of the solution..."

Well, think about it. The gang culture abhors being a "snitch" above everything else, and this has spread to greater pop culture, with T-shirts being sold in stores all over Oakland (and the nation as a whole). The T-shirts usually say something like "Stop Snitchin'" and some of them have a bullet hole, or say "I'll never tell." There's some argument about what exactly the shirts are referring to, but, according to my students, you just know that you'd better not be a snitch if you see something happen, or you're next.

The California report broadcast talks a little about that, and the courage that one woman from San Francisco had to testify after her 2-year old son was killed. She says she'll have to look over her shoulder the rest of her life.

I don't even know what I can say. I want the community to take a stand and not put up with any more of this violence, since I have had to see firsthand what it does to the families in the area. I don't want the killers or the people hiring killers to win. On the other hand, I can't imagine being the person who did take the stand and knew that I would have to spend the rest of my life looking out for my life and the lives of my family members. In the end, I can't blame them for not snitching, no matter how much I believe in the snitching.

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