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Gangs Essay, Research Paper


I d like you to take a journey with me, would you please

close your eyes and imagine yourself cruising along the streets

of Oakland. You are driving and the light just turned yellow, you

stop at the stoplight. You see a little kid walking towards you,

while he crosses the crosswalk. You take special notice of him

because he was around the age of about 11 years of age, but

had a thick gold necklace around his neck. He looks at you, you

smile politely at him as if to give a small hello . He gives you a

smile in return and within that moment out of nowhere a gun.

What do you do? Its too late………..

How does gang membership become a problem to society? That is the question that most people do not really think about. When people think about gangs, it is assumed that they are a bunch of young people engaged in drugs and violence. People tend deny the fact that gangs is an issue and tend to not want to deal with it because they think it doesn t concern them, but eventually it will. Gang membership has become a problem to society.

Gangs can be defined in many different ways; most people interpret it as a group of people involved in sex, drugs, and violence. The California Penal Code Section 186.22[a] defines the term as “any person who actively participates in any gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, and who willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang.” To Smalls , a former gang member interviewed, views the term as … a group of people. Violent gangs go around looking for trouble, but its still a group of people. Gangs are a majority of youths united for security, respect, and power, who will go to the furthest extent to achieve those goals, despite the many consequences that may follow. Today, gangs and its membership is increasing by the day. Each day there are more and more gangs and gang members, most of which are teens, who are involved in acts of violence.

In the 1970 s, there existed approximately 2,300 different gangs having 98,000 members, ages varying. A report reads:

In 1993, the California Department of Justice estimated that there

could be as many as 95,000 Hispanic gang members, 15,000 Asian gang members, and 5,000 white gang members, including 400 skinheads throughout the state at the time. By the year 2000 there

may be as many as 250,000 gang members and membership

ranging from a few to 1000 members per gang. Gang members will be recruiting members from younger ages, some gangs have even existed for four generations. (Kinnear 75)

… gang members recruit and use juvenile gang members to commit crimes or carry weapons because juveniles are subject to less severe sentences compared to adult penalties. Juvenile gang members are often arrested numerous times before actually serving time in jail or the California Youth Authority. ( Robert Walker, American Justice Network)

There are many reasons why kids join gangs, they join gangs because there is no one around, they join because of racist discrimination, poverty, security, a sense of family, and they also join for money. When I was younger, my family was poor. I didn t have a place to stay. I had to worry about food, money, and a place to sleep. Much of it was because I was practically living on my own(Smalls) If a child s home environment is unsupportive and an unpleasant place to live, the child will most likely want to find that support elsewhere. My dad didn t even want to go to my eight grade graduation. He was never there for us…. unsupportive. (Smalls) When initiated in a gang, membership develops a bond, a deep sense of trust amongst the members. Most gangsters lack a place of home , if home is not provided by their biological family, then for them, their friends or their group are the only ones they would have left, soon considering them family in place of their own. Kids also join gangs for protection, they want to know that when they walk down the street alone or with their friends that no one will mess with them in any kind of way. They want to be able to walk down their street or go to school without being afraid or harassed. (Atkin 34) Power and a sense of belonging means a lot to these teenagers. They feel secure and at the same time powerful to know that they are respected amongst others.

Childhood development also has a lot to do with the membership of gangs. When asked about how he felt about schools being the location for gang recruitment, he says, Its true. But its not like they target schools or something, its friends. It s the friends that you know.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, everyday in the United States, ten kids age sixteen and under are killed each day by handguns. (Silverstein 9) In urban neighborhoods about 80% are killed by shootings. (Atkin 34) If we do not show our concern nor address the issue, especially with teens today, the effect will be drastic. Gangsters hurt people like you and I and our families. Schools, found that school-aged children were at a higher risk of suffering from violence in school than any where else*. Far from remaining neutral turf , schools not only suffer from gang-related violence spilling over from the streets, but are themselves rapidly becoming centers of gang activities, functioning particularly as sites fro recruitment and socializing( dig99.html 1 Bodinger ; 99.html Arthur).

Who do you blame for the faults of these gangs? There are different viewpoints on the encouragement of gangs, especially when it comes to the concept of rap. There are people like ourselves all over the world who enjoy rap. Rap is a vehicle for youth to express themselves. (Silverstein 38) The Billboard magazine writes:

Art is a personal expression of the honest reach one s ideals. It strives

toward the deeper, dimensional truths no mirror can hope to convey. It is a

creative exploration and reaffirmation……If given expression does not …..

embody these qualities, then it is not art; it may be…..at worst, a device for manipulation in the service of material gain.

However, other people feel … Gangsta Rap has glorified and made popular the use of vulgar language, our youth are routinely are referring to each other in disparaging terms and infusing their everyday conversations with profanity. ( Gangs, Opposing Viewpoints 20) Parents to a certain extent have responsibility to know what it is that is happening, however, should not be fully held for the crime of their children. …parents and elected officials need to be seriously concerned about Gangsta Rap because it is obscene and sexist. (20) Music has influence, but it does not trigger others to hurt other people.

Is it nature or nurture that are making them commit these crimes? Kids like Columbine students growing up in suburban homes with well off parents, is it more likely for them to commit crimes, or those like Charles Manson who grew up in a home of murderers. Nature or Nurture, I believe that there are those who are born with it, the bad seed , but i strongly believe that the environment encourages it a bit more. The surroundings, friends, whomever they hang out with affects their overall outcome. There were friends influence and living on my own, I just went along with the crowd. I m a human being, I want friends, I want support. ( Smalls) If a child is raised up with violence, they are more prone to become violent themselves. …kids learned from their parents that violence is the way to express anger, frustration, and disappointment. ( Silverstein 13) Sources say that that murder rates for adults have dropped, while murder rates for teens have tripled in the last ten years. Its easy to find a gun. You re thinking this person is gonna hurt me. So I m gonna get me something in my protection. I ended up killing a girl. I didn t mean to. But I was held accountable because I pulled the trigger. (Silverstein 28) In 1990, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that 329(30 percent) of all homicides in the city were gang related homicides, while in Chicago, the police department reported that 101 (11 percent) of all homicides in the city were gang related. ( Kinnear 75)

Too many children are losing hope and finding gangs a solution. As a society we are losing the fight and people are dying and getting hurt each day. Many of us are not well informed on gangs, and others just don t want to know.

…gangs flourish when there s a lack of social recreation, decent

education or employment. Today, many young people will never

know what it is to work. They can only satisfy their needs through

collective strength — against the police, who hold power of life and

death, against poverty, against idleness, against their impotence in

society.( Luis Rodriguez , Kinnear 119)

The media has highlighted the activities that gangs have committed, yet there seems to be no good result from that, it seems like with the media broadcasting the crimes the gangs are getting free publicity. Ultimately, however, prosecutors believed that early intervention with children and youths and more effective services designed to strengthen families were necessary to prevent gang violence and crime. (Washington D.C. : Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement)



Where were you born?

In SaiGon, Vietnam

When did you come to the United States?

In 1988

How was your childhood growing up in the United States?

It was kinda rough. Where I was living, I didn t have a place to stay. I had to worry about food, a place to stay and money. I was the oldest son in my family and I didn t really get along with my dad. He didn t even want to go to my graduation. It hurt, but I didn t care because I proved to him that I could do it.

Why did you join a gang?

Because being raised in a poor family, I didn t have much. I didn t have anything. There were friends influence and living on my own, I j ust went along with the crowd. I m a human being, I want friends, I want support.

Do you think schools can be a location for gang recruitment?

Yes, but its not like they target schools or something. Say you know this guy at school and then you go and kick it with him and his friends. You feel like you belong and want to continue hanging out with them. Naturally, you re one of them.

How would you describe yourself?

I m an ass sometimes and I can be nice and kind hearted. 50/50. If people treat me good then I ll treat them good. Other times I can be cold and fucked up

How do you define gangs?

A group of people

Do you believe in an eye for an eye ?

Yes, I strongly believe in that. I guess it really depends on how close the person is to you. Depends if the person is an acquaintance or a friend. If the person was my friend, I d ask who did it and then bring it out, if they re just an acquaintance then I ll just tell them to try to work it out.

You moved away for a reason. Wasn t to leave everything behind you and start a new life?

Yes, I did. It was hard at first, being away from everyone. I almost gave way to temptation.

What are your dreams for the future?

My dreams for the future is to be able to afford what I want. To do whatever I want and not have to worry. I want to have a house and go faraway and not have to worry. about money

Do you plan to follow through on that dream?

Of course. If you don t plan to follow that dream then why have one.

Would you choose that path again?

In all that I ve done, I was glad to make a decision on my own instead of listening to others. I did what I wanted to do.

Even if its the wrong decision?

Yeah. I made the decision even if its wrong. At least I know that I took that turn and that I m man enough to handle the consequences. If I took a fall, I know I can get back up.

What gang activities were you involved in?

I didn t take drugs the only thing I tried was bud. I robbed houses everything but never got caught.

What would you suggest to teenagers who want to join gangs?

I d ask them if they re man enough? Are you doing because of the gang or the games? Are you in it because your friends are in it, it yeah then you re a follower. I just can t tell them to not be in it, that its bad for them. I got to prove it to them. A lot of people say I thought you were a G, I guess not anymore, I don t need to respect you. For those people, I don t care what they say. I don t need their respect. Their respect don t mean shit. Their respect don t mean money either. I m living form paycheck to paycheck, but I m happy.

How do you think gangs affect our society?

What do I think about how gangs affect our society? Well I think it gets people into an unpleasant mood. I think that there is good and bad to it. Good because it gives those who don t have family a new family. People need support and in ways they need protection. If your friends treat you like a brother then you will be down to things. In a way, it is bad because, well gangs weren t made to make society violent. People like to categorize.


Voices from the Streets: S. Beth Atkin Canada1996

Kids Who Kill: Herma Silverstein New York1997

Gangs- Opposing Viewpoints: Greenhaven Press San Diego1996

Gangs: Karen L. Kinnear Santa Barbara1996

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