you say gang… we say family…

Posted: July 18, 2012 in EBOOK Excerpts: If We Spoke..., For Educators, For Parents and Guardians, For Teenagers
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and it doesn’t matter if we’re white, black, hispanic, asian, indian, rich, poor, suburban, urban or in college… we’re all eligible for gang membership. and there are hundreds, maybe even thousands out there just waiting for another member.  bloods, crips, MS 13, latin kings, vice lords, surenos, nortenos, skinheads and white supremacists are the more common gangs, but there are countless other “sets” or factions in all regions of the world. each gang also has their own distinguishing features which you can keep a look out for. if you see any of us getting tatoos, doing grafitti, wearing beads, specific sports clothes, hats or team emblems or only some colors and not others, we might either already be connected, or we might be considering joining.  what we want you to keep in mind is that while the word “gang” often stirs fear and outrage, the factors that drive many of us to join gangs are very similar to the factors that drive people to join fraternity’s, sorority’s, high school cliques or even church groups. obviously, the activities of street gang members differ greatly from other groups or communities, but if you’re trying to understand us, or even influence our decisions to join gangs, having a greater perspective beyond what the media portrays will help.  for a lot of us, the main reasons we’re willing to mug, steal, hustle drugs, cut people, rob people or even die are simple. we’re willing to do all these things for loyalty. for the sense of belonging, safety and importance that comes with being a part of a community. we’re willing to sacrifice our futures, and sometimes even put our real family members at risk because the other gang members would do the same for us… and knowing this with certainty can make us feel amazingly powerful.

many people assume all gang members must simply be “rotten” or “evil” to do the things many gang members do, but it can be far more complicated. for those of us who grow up around constant violence and threats, we learn to seek safety in numbers and shut off our consciences or emotional switches. this “shut off” allows us to do some of the awful things we do without the regret, guilt or remorse most people would feel. and this doesn’t mean we are “evil”, it just means our survival instincts are overpowering our senses of right and wrong and our loyalty to our gang, our color, our flag, our neighborhood or the friendships we’ve made give us all the justification we need. sadly, any young person who knows deep loneliness, powerlessness, fear or invisibility is at risk of being recruited into a gang, especially the young people who don’t feel connected to or seen by their own families. so even if you don’t think the kids in your lives have any real reason to seek out the perks of gang affiliation, if you have any doubts, be sure to take a deeper look and ask the right questions… and than listen. this will give you the best chance of knowing where we stand, what we’re into, or what we’re considering getting into.

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