A Snitch’s Dilemma

By Alan Bean

A Snitch’s Dilemma” takes us inside the world of a typical Atlanta street hustler.  His name is Alex White.  It’ a long piece, but this isn’t the kind of story you can tell in 700 words.  White made his living as a drug dealer and a snitch.  Narcotics officers knew he was dealing but didn’t care; the men who supplied him with drugs may have known he was a snitch but looked the other way so long as he only set up “nobodys”. 

Then a gang of Atlanta narcotics cops killed an innocent old woman in a botched drug raid and Alex White’s neat world came apart.

Ted Conover wrote this piece for the NYT Magazine.  He doesn’t glamorize his subject or his life on the streets.  Instead, he gives us a portrait of a man trapped by the streets.  When federal authorities urge him to get out-of-town for his own safety, White is terrified by the thought of leaving his familiar streets.  He can’t survive anywhere else.

Alex White is smart.  Smart enough to have excelled in school had he been so inclined.  But, in the words of his on-again-off-again girlfriend, he was too “hoodish” for the straight life.  But did he choose to be that way or was there are a certain inevitability about it?

A Snitch’s dilemma takes us inside the world Alexandra Natapoff describes in “Snitch,” the best book I have seen on the subject of criminal informants.  But this isn’t really a story about a snitch; it’s about the neighborhood that shaped Alex White and the social and economic conditions that shaped that neighborhood. 

This is also a story about the futility of a drug war that perpetuates the evils it was ostensibly created to eliminate.  Highly recommended.