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Don't let American values get a bad rap

The Baltimore Sun

The saga of how rapper Lil' Wayne came to Baltimore went something like this.

Rapper is booked to perform with Juelz Santana (don't you love these rap names?) at the Clarence H. Du Burns Arena last Saturday. Rappers' appearance is protested by Donald J. Dewar III, a candidate for a City Council seat in the district where the arena is located. Dewar cites inappropriate lyrics of both rappers and says concert should be held in a nonresidential venue. Candidate urges that concert be canceled and one-day liquor license for event be revoked.

Bookers of concert pooh-pooh Dewar's notion. First Amendment rights are invoked. Concert goes off Saturday, but not without a hitch. Lil' Wayne performs only 25 minutes because one of the preliminary acts is held up.

Got all that?

The rap (yeah, I'm a little pun-happy) against Dewar is that his protest was politically motivated, that he raised the issue only because he's running for office. Now why is that said like it's a bad thing?

We need those in political office to speak out more about these things, not dummy up because it's safe. A couple of television news reports had folks chiding Dewar for not objecting to another rapper, Lil' Kim, who appeared at the Du Burns Arena on June 15. But Lord knows somebody should have.

Lil' Kim was born Kimberly Jones. She did a one-year stretch in federal prison after being found guilty of perjury in a case that involved rappers from her posse exchanging gunfire with rappers from another posse. (Don't you just love this rap terminology?)

Jones had a chance to tell federal authorities what she knew but chose to lie. She kept her street cred because she didn't "snitch." Jones may no longer be the Queen Bee of rap, which she was called at one time, but she's definitely the Queen Bee of the "stop snitching" crowd.

All of Baltimore's elected officials - the mayor, City Council representatives, judges, the state's attorney, state legislators - have condemned the "stop snitching" mindset. Fine. Their reaction to rap stars who come to Baltimore who adhere to that mindset has been less than admirable. Baltimore can't afford for elected officials to be silent when these "we won't snitch" characters come to town.

Baltimore reached 200 homicides shortly after Lil' Wayne and Juelz Santana left town. As the participants in the infamous DVD Stop Snitching so graciously informed us, snitching plays a part in the number of killings. "Bodymore, Murderland" is what some guys in the DVD called Baltimore, apparently unaware or not caring that their exhortations to "kill all rats" helps raise the body count.

So how do city leaders react when performers with known records of not "snitching" and refusing to cooperate with police about crimes come to Baltimore? With an eerie silence. None of them protested Lil' Kim's visit. Not the mayor, Not the City Council president. Not any member of the City Council. Not the state's attorney. Not any member of Baltimore's delegation to the state legislature.

The same thing happened in October of last year, when rapper Busta Rhymes, nee Trevor Smith, appeared at Morgan State University's homecoming concert. In early 2006, Smith's bodyguard was killed right in front of his eyes during a video shoot. Smith has refused to mumble one word about who's responsible to police.

That would be snitching, you know. Not good for the street cred.

No elected officials protested Smith's appearance in Baltimore either. Not then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Not then-Mayor Martin O'Malley. Not Sheila Dixon, who was then president of the City Council. Not city State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy. Nobody.

Before you say: "Perhaps they shouldn't have." let me present an alternate scenario. Suppose, instead of Lil' Kim or Busta Rhymes or Lil' Wayne or Juelz Santana, Lamb and Lynx Gaede were performing at the Du Burns Arena. That'll probably never happen, but humor me a bit.

Lamb and Lynx - bless their little sieg-heiling hearts - are twins whose songs glorify white supremacy, Adolf Hitler and other goose-stepping Nazis who gave us Kristallnacht, the Holocaust and World War II. Let's say a white supremacist wanted to book them in the Du Burns Arena, making the same First Amendment argument used to justify bringing in Lil' Wayne and Juelz Santana.

Does that concert go on? Do city leaders keep silent about it? No, they'd be tripping over themselves to get in front of television cameras to condemn it, and for good reason. White supremacy is not a mainstream American value. (Although, truth be told, it was at one time a mainstream American value, and not all that long ago, either. Remember John Wayne's 1971 interview with Playboy magazine in which he said he believed in white supremacy?)

"Don't snitch" isn't a mainstream American value. Criminals believe in it because snitches are inconvenient for them. They want to commit their crimes and not go to prison. But mainstream Americans don't believe in it.

When will Baltimore's elected officials speak out for mainstream American values?


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