I used to be a prison chaplain. I got very familiar with the phrase “snitches get stiches.” Among people doing time, blowing the whistle on someone was the vilest symbol of disloyalty.
We see this “keep it in the family” culture in other settings particularly among male athletes. The notion that what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.
The outing of the racist chant video performed by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma allows the opportunity to reframe snitching in a more positive light. After all, we would have probably never exposed the racists within this fraternity had it not been for a White snitch.
In this alleged post racial society we live in after the election of a Black president for two straight terms, maybe we are finally reaping the benefits of an inclusive society as White people feel safe to call out offensiveness in their own networks.
How is snitching conducive to an inclusive world? Snitching is just another form of being a cultural interpreter. Here is how it played out for the snitch that blew the whistle on Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He or she had to:
• Have empathy for Black people. They stepped out of the comfortableness of their own situation and put themselves in the shoes of a group of people who have been intentionally and historically oppressed by racism. They transcended their own perspective at least temporarily, to be an advocate for a world where everyone has an opportunity to meet their full potential.
• Reframe their cultural reality to see the world from a subordinate group perspective. Obviously, they had heard that racist chant before. It probably was a permanent and long standing tradition of this organization. It took a lot of guts to take a stand and say this crap needs to end.
• Recognize diverse cultural realities not as a barrier to understanding but as a set of dissimilar rules and behaviors to relate to others who are different. Instead of thinking this is really none of my business, they stepped out of their cultural norm and stepped into the world of Black people.
How are you a cultural interpreter in the workplace? Are you a snitch for inclusion? Do you acknowledge individual and group differences in others? Do you expose yourself to subordinate groups that need your help to regain the standing only afforded dominate groups? Are you able to be present with others, particularly those different from you? Can you see life from their eyes?
We have a ton of work to do to make our world and workplaces more inclusive. Yet the white person who ratted out the racists in Sigma Alpha Epsilon, gives us hope that one person can make a difference. Just think of the difference we all could make if we followed their example.