On Snitching and Malcolm X’s Assassination

Jose Vilson Jose

Malcolm X, Assassinated

Yesterday, Thomas Hagan, the only person who admitted to murdering Malcolm X, was released by the New York State Department of Correctional Services. The outrage from activists and anyone concerned with true justice has been enormous. That coupled with the recent Arizona immigration bill have made it a really hard week for those of us who seek justice daily to believe in this American system anymore than undocumented workers who’ve been dehumanized do. And that’s where we have to see the lens of snitching.

Yesterday, I discussed ways in which you can destroy any effort to build community. Many people who I’ve met and heard speak from the era of civil rights speak often about great expectations and missed opportunity. Their work, while certainly important, was often muddled by programs intentionally deployed to incriminate and confuse these otherwise tightly run organizations. The distrust of law enforcement agencies runs deep with anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of law abiding citizen, whether by race, religion, or beliefs. We can’t simply undo the damage of 500 years of twisted injustice just because it’s the “right” thing to do.

We do, however, have to find a way to build, and the injustices that persist in our community have become so internalized, some crooked law enforcement agents no longer have to interject themselves in the neighborhood’s business: the no-snitching policy implies compliance with the status quo. By definition, snitching is a means of alleviating oneself from a crime by telling on someone else whose committed a crime. Often, people in neighborhoods where this terminology is prevalent mistake this as talking to any law enforcement official, even if they haven’t committed any crime whatsoever. A big solution would be to increase the diversity of law enforcement officials from top to bottom and through the judicial and executive branches in this country, but we’ve seen many of those who look “like us” and yet carry out a whole ‘nother agenda.

Where this gets twisted is that, even to this day, speaking to some law enforcement officials can bind you in a crime you didn’t even know you committed. Check this video by Mr. James Duane, law professor at Regent Law School, where he explicitly discusses the implications of having any conversation with local police. Unfortunately, that’s how deep our system has gotten, and until we can fully trust in the executioners of justice, then we won’t see the “No Snitching” movement dissipate anytime soon.

I also wonder how a man who killed a national figure and great man like El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz can be let go so readily by the judicial system. Then again, 44 years ago, I might have wondered how an auditorium full of people never saw who shot and killed him, or how a band full of purported peace seekers can act so opposite. Malcolm X died needlessly, and that’s something our world can’t stitch up.

Jose, who’s shaking his head profusely …