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Star Snitching 

The brotherhood of silence thwarts justice

We have all heard about the alleged gang rape in a Duke University-owned house leased by members of the men's lacrosse team. Two women hired to dance for a bachelor party were confronted by more than 40 members of the Duke lacrosse team, at which time they were allegedly assaulted, berated with racial epithets and sexually abused. The situation has essentially handicapped Duke University and has a community at a near boiling point.

One of the themes I have pulled from the intense media coverage of this incident is the stonewalled silence of the team when it comes to cooperating with prosecutors or the University. These guys have become a walking, living, breathing commercial for hip-hop's "stop snitching" campaign.

For the most part, the media has focused solely on hip-hop and its isolated use of the stop snitching tactic in regard to cops and crimes within the hip-hop community. Yet in these 47 lacrosse players and other witnesses, we see one of the grossest uses of the stop snitching theory from a group of Duke preppies. The lesson we should learn is that this is a cultural thing -- an American cultural thing, not a hip-hop cultural thing. These are rich white lacrosse players, not thugs in the street. It may take a different shape, but it's the same formula.

Working on a trading desk, I am able to watch CNBC at work and often see the daily updates on the trial of all the Enron executives who defrauded thousands of people and millions of investors who suffered from the stock market plunge. Each day these dudes testify that they either didn't know or they knew but couldn't say anything about the extreme fraud taking place. It's all coded language meaning that "snitching" would be career suicide. Finally, a female whistle blower had to come forward and spill the story.

This is the stop snitching movement.

This past month Charlotte has seen countless teens getting killed or killing other people after drinking and driving. Most notably, the young man who was recently charged with second degree murder for killing a couple on I-485. This young perpetrator had been drinking at a party. Did his peers take responsibility and call the authorities? No, that would be snitching.

All of a sudden, major league baseball is talking to Barry Bonds about whether he took steroids -- as if the industry doesn't already know exactly what was going on. The Bonds "investigation" is a crock of shit; it's just window dressing. Players know exactly who took 'roids. They also know that to "snitch" is to violate a crucial element of the guy code, and that staying quiet is more valuable to them than telling the truth.

The investigation into Barry Bonds isn't about him, it's about protecting guy culture. The entire sporting world knew what was going on, from the owners down to the bat boys. If they wanted to eliminate steroids, they would stop playing until someone fessed up. But that will never happen.

Not to snitch is at every level of being a guy, and largely being American. We are conditioned not to be a tattle tale. We grow from that into men who carry the same thinking with us. So a friend does wrong, our first inclination is to say nothing at all, because deep down we believe silence is loyalty.

The guys at Duke committed a heinous crime, but just as heinous is the silence of their friends. Their silence says that these young women, the community and the University don't deserve the truth. It says an arbitrary code of honor is more valuable than justice.

Decker Ngongang, a native of Charlotte, is a financial professional and committed citizen.

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