Race, Rats and Revolutionaries: Flippin ‘the Switch on the Snitch Myth

“I can’t win a debate, so they are sponsoring all threats against me. I wonder if Agent 800 is standing next to me? Immortal Technique (from the song “Young Lords”)

One of black America’s greatest leaders has been assassinated today. Minister Marcus Hampton was shot seven times at close range as he stood in front of a crowded auditorium in Chicago. Although there were thousands of eyewitnesses, due to the no-spy street code, the assassin, William Roberts aka Agent 666, simply walked to his car, cashed his informant’s check at the Stop and Go and set out to kill another black man. leader….

The release of the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” is sure to spark conversations around the role that FBI informant William O’Neal played in the assassinations of President Fred Hampton and Mark Clark of the Black Panthers of the United States. Illinois on December 4, 1969. But the bigger question is what have we learned from these murders and what impact are they having on the black community in 2021?

One of the worst things you can call in the neighborhood is a rat. This label, along with the anti-snitching movement, has resulted in the deaths of untold numbers of black men and women. Although “snitching” is generally a term used when a 10 year old girl is hit by a stray bullet and no one says anything because of the anti-snitching code of the streets, we need to take a hard look at the historical root. of the anti-snitch mentality in the black community.

Photo by Joel Spingarn: Library of Congress

Let us go back to the era of movable slavery. According to Dr. Claud Anderson in his book “Black Labor, White Wealth”, there used to be what was called meritorious emancipation. This allowed enslaved Africans to legally gain their freedom by performing “good deeds” for Massa, which included snitching against other slaves.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were even rats in Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, including James Wormley Jones, also known as Agent 800.

It should also be noted that not all informants during this period were black. According to the March 21, 1993 edition of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Joel Spingarn, one of the first white leaders of the NAACP worked for the Military Intelligence Division of the United States Army and obtained a list of 32,000 members of the association on the agency’s website. on behalf of.

In Civil Rights days, one should never forget that Malcolm X’s bodyguard Eugene Roberts, the man who attempted CPR on the dying leader at the Audubon ballroom, was actually a undercover agent of the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations for the New York Police Department. According to Karl Evanzz’s book “The Judas Factor”, BOSSI was “a top secret unit of the New York Police Department created by Percy Foxworth, then head of the New York bureau of the FBI”.

However, Roberts and O’Neal weren’t the only snitches during the Civil Rights and Black Power era. Kenneth O’Reilly, in his book “Racial Matters,” states that the FBI had at least 7,500 known “ghetto informants” who would tour the neighborhood trying to dig up dirt on black activists.

Even in the age of hip hop, as much as rappers talk about snitches, few mainstream artists mention government and law enforcement surveillance of artists from Paul Robeson to Tupac Shakur. (Read John Potash’s book, “The FBI’s War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders.”)

Although the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) is supposed to be a thing of the past, the late researcher Steve Cokely always warned us to be on the lookout for “Now-INTELPRO.” Sadly, it may be another decade before all the surveillance information surrounding the protests of the post-Trayvon Martin era comes to light.

Since America has yet to fully admit this dark side of its history, many whites cannot conceptualize black Americans’ innate mistrust of the police. Most alarming, without historical context, is the idea that “no seam” was used to allow certain blacks to be willing accomplices in our collective genocide.

The eternal question is, if we cannot trust the police, what is the alternative so that we can make our communities safe so that our children can play outside?

It all comes down to community responsibility. Those who murder other black people should be reported and ostracized by the entire black community instead of being protected. They should be disowned, so much so that their own grandmothers would not let them into the house for Sunday dinner. They must become such outcasts in the black community that even the young McDonalds cashier will throw their money in their face screaming, “Your blood money is no good here!” Even when they try to order a Big Mac.

Until we get to the true meaning of the word ‘snitch’, we will continue to see members of the black community suffering under this deadly code of silence without even knowing why.

Min. Paul Scott, of the Black Messiah movement based in Durham, North Carolina, can be contacted at PO Box 15123 Durham NC 27704 or (919) 972-8305. His website is BlackMessiahMovement.com.

Thelma J. Longworth

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