Imagine a world where you never worry about paying for something, always having food, and can go anywhere you want whenever you want. Now imagine a world where there is no such thing as money. No such thing as income, loans, or credit. Now imagine the exact same world except you’re the only one in that world. The only one in that world and being inside a world that demands you have those things. Imagine a world where you must pay for everything but you don’t get to make any money. A life where you work all day long; never getting to see your son except on the weekends when he must go to work with you. Imagine only eating a bowl of noodles, a thing of spam, or a can of soup for lunch every other day. Now imagine you are 15 years old, put on yesterdays’ clothes. You get on a school bus at 6:30 in the morning, you don’t eat lunch today because it’s Friday and your $10 for that week is out. When you come home to an empty house you cook a ramen noodle soup and eat half so you have some for tomorrow then go to bed. Tomorrow you get up early in the morning and go to work with your father, whom you only see on the weekends during work, hanging siding on a construction crew.
Imagine if you had nothing, and nobody else around you has anything except one group. They have cool cars, lots of money, and fancy jewelry. They have new shoes, they even have more than 1 pair, and they have clean clothes. These people always seem to have someone else around, they do whatever they want, and they have everything you want but don’t have. There are three extremely strong allures to gang life; Money, Power, and Family.
One of the most common gang related (illegal) activities is related to the buying and selling of drugs. Many gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities to become more organized, adaptable, and influential in large-scale drug trafficking. NDIC survey data indicates that 69 percent of US law enforcement agencies report gang involvement in drug distribution. Drug Trafficking brings in over $400 Million dollars in the US alone. Now just imagine having no money and plenty of bills to pay. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a slice of that pie?
There are approximately 1.4 million active street, prison, and OMG gang members comprising more than 33,000 gangs in the United States. Gang members are migrating from urban areas to suburban and rural communities to recruit new members, expand their drug distribution territories, form new alliances, and collaborate with rival gangs and criminal organizations for profit and influence. Local neighborhood, hybrid and female gang membership is on the rise in many communities. Law enforcement in several jurisdictions also attribute the increase in gang membership in their region to the gangster rap culture, the facilitation of communication and recruitment through the Internet and social media, the proliferation of generational gang members, and a shortage of resources to combat gangs. Now instead of coming home to an empty house you go across the street and hang out with your set. You have a sense of belonging and a newfound “family” feeling. One of the strongest ties for a gang member is the desire to fit in and belong to something, be it good or bad. Being a part of this new community causes you to feel more powerful as well. Suddenly you are making money, having fun, and all with the support of an entire brotherhood behind you. You are respected, and feared, by a lot more people now and have pride in something.
Being in a gang offers a lot of things including several good things, although unfortunately they come with the bad too. There is no way to completely eradicate gangs, or the negative side effects of them, but perhaps we can alter the negative connotations associated with the bystanders. We have all heard someone say that gang members are all poor people, or that poor people become gang members, or talk about how gangs are only present in “ghettos” and low class areas. You hear someone say that poor people are lazy, stupid, or don’t try hard enough. I have no problem with any of this except the fact it isn’t always true. I would even go so far as to argue the exact opposite in many cases. I would like to see awareness of the facts to rise. Gang members represent less than .5% of the population while poverty represents 15% of the US population. That means that around 3% of poverty stricken people would be in a gang, if it was only people in poverty that comprised gang members. Gangs are not limited to socio-economics; there are several middle and upper class members because the allure of gangs applies to everyone, not just the poor.
I propose that we start bringing the truth to light. Since there is no way to stop the source of the stereotypes, change everyone’s view on it. Show them that poverish areas do not always mean gang membership. Speak out against the ignorant discrimination and share the success stories. Have people testify to the good character of the unsung hero, spread the word that given the chance someone from a poverty stricken area can do just as much as someone from a wealthy neighborhood. Put together a campaign against the corrupt thinking of those that have never experienced hardship