The term gang doesn’t always have a negative connotation surrounding it. Towards the beginning of its American origin, the term stood for friendship. “Let’s go gang” was one of the many ways it was used in the 1600s to define a group of people. Over the past few decades, the term has since developed a more negative overtone. “Gang” now inserts fear into parents and entices the youth across the world to engage in senseless violence. In 2005, the Department of Justice’s National Gang Threat Assessment calculated that there are at least 21,500 that are composed of more than 731,000 active gang members. This survey also found that gangs are more prevalent in major cities and account for half of all homicides.
A sociological study and survey conducted by sociologist Andrew V. Papachristos from the University of Massachusetts found that younger members join gangs in order to be recognized, protected, or to build to higher class status. Gang-related violence continues to tear through the homes of families with both direct and indirect impacts. Every day children are incarcerated or murdered due to the actions of gangs. From his studies, Andrew concurred that gang violence is a social problem. While there are several factors contributing to the leading cause of increased gang membership, research has found that the social construct of communities is the biggest cause of them all. Gangs are constantly increasing in numbers because the adolescent has been rejected by society in one form or another.
The first street gang was found in England around the 1600s, but in America, it began to emerge towards the end of the American Revolution. According to the National Gang Association, street gangs arose from the influx of poor European immigrants. Considering they immigrants didn’t hone many marketable skills and could barely speak English they had to make a financial gain by burglarizing their neighborhoods. There were no jobs available for the immigrants nor were there many places to live. At the entry point of immigration in New York City is where the first gang formatted. Gang formation eventually spread through the North and Midwest and grew more violent as they increased in numbers. During this time native-born Americans discriminated and attacked the immigrants causing conflict between the groups. With the tension already rising, the Europeans held no remorse for taking what they needed to survive. These were white families seeking a better life, who settled in urban areas and created communities in order to join each other in the economic struggle. These organized characteristics would not be shy from American history over the next few years.
One of the most popular, and now violent gangs of today are known as the CRIPS. In 1969 CRIPS stood for Community Resources for Independent People. This group was inspired by the Black Panther Party which had begun three years earlier in response to police brutality, harassment, and racism in America. CRIPS was originally designed to protect and serve the black community, but in the late 1900s, the dynamics had changed and distorted the original purpose of the organization. The damage to the image of this organization did not occur from the members alone.
The destruction was led by the judicial system who worked to pit like-minded organizations against one another, while simultaneously hauling the leaders off to prison for petty crimes or crimes they did not commit at all. by 1971, 2 million Blacks were being arrested each year. A black community developing a strong revolutionary movement put feat that more Malcolm X’s would rise and was the main reason behind such police action, and Edgar Hoover’s Counterintelligence Program. Police departments specifically targeted black communities which result in the increase of gang violence we see today. This is the same behavior we saw in the 1600s. One group being treated unfairly and forced to retaliate for survival.
Poverty is one of the top four reasons that people join gangs. To the youth and others, a gang can provide access to a money-making enterprise. By stealing and selling drugs, gang members can make large amounts of money. This is the road chosen for those who are faced with a lack of financial stability. Some who can’t make enough working at their current job will turn to a gang in order to make up for what they can’t earn at a legitimate job. Race plays a major part in this. With racial issues, there is always one group with issues of wealth, justice, health, and education which subsequently promotes violence, and death. Most people would hope that their jobs reflected their skill set and cognitive abilities, but it doesn’t. Thanks to the Racial Wage Gap the hourly earnings of white men surpass the hourly wages of other ethnicities and women. In 2010, the average wage for whites in just one week was $756 while Black workers brought in about $607.
One Harvard professor by the name of Roland Fryer conducted a study using the data he collected from unemployed workers in New Jersey. The participants were individual who consistently searched who for employment for 12 weeks. His study found that racial discrimination accounts for one-third of the wage difference. Fryer controlled the experiment by using the previous wages of the subjects, and the wage that they were currently searching for. He found that blacks received a wage that was 7 percent lower than whites who were doing the same job, with the same skills. Even though 7 percent seems like petty change, when added up it could make a huge difference in a person’s lifestyle. In 2000, the average black man’s median earnings were practically the same as the white woman in comparison to white men.
Looking back from the 2017 perspective, white women have made progress, while black men haven’t. For everyone dollar that a white man-made, the black man only made 69.7 cents. Black women only made 60.8 cents in comparison to the white man’s dollar (Brenner and Fernsten). This means that in 17 years, in supposed equality striving nation, there has been no progress on closing racial pay gaps. These statistics suggest that sustained progress has been hindered by the lack of effort put into giving blacks the jobs they work for and giving them the pay they’ve earned. Today over 30 percent of black men and 60 percent of black women have white-collar jobs (Brenner and Fernsten).
Brenner breaks these numbers down into more shocking results in her article by showing that out of the 2.2 percent of American physicians who were black in 1970 has only risen to 4.5 percent. These numbers show that the black family has only risen in income by 10 points since 1970. Discrimination in the workplace must be eliminated if blacks are ever going to progress in this society. If there hasn’t been any large progression for blacks financially since 1970, then how can we expect a decrease in gang-related issues like theft and violence. While not everyone who is poor joins a gang, and not every gang member is poor, the lack of social financial justice does play a role in poverty, which in turn becomes the key reason in the growth of the gang population.
Despair is another key factor in the increase of gang membership because many have been conditioned to the lifestyle of poverty. This is because many are accustomed to not having the finer or even equivalent things in life. By the time a black child is born, their families are more likely to already be suffering from poverty. Many having only one parent in the home if any due to violence or incarceration. In the text Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Coates warns his son about the world because he himself had a father who was present in his life, but unfortunately, there are thousands of blacks who grow up in a single-parent home thanks to police brutality, or racism. The black family in America is known for having incarcerated fathers who must leave their children behind. There are too many black fatherless homes which must lead to the weakening of the black community.
A study conducted back in 2007 found that about 52 percent of prisoners were parents, which amounted up to over one million absent fathers on top of the 120,000 absent mothers. Those results revealed that 2.7 million children have been impacted by this. Using those numbers in a different perspective, statistics state that thirteen percent of the American population is black, and 40% of the 52% of parents incarcerated are black (Clio Chang.,2016). This means that out of the 52% of parents that are incarcerated, only 12% of them are not black. If 2.7 million children are impacted by the 52% of parents incarcerated, and 40% of that 52% is black, then this only means that the justice system in place isn’t serving justice at all. They are breaking the black community apart and leaving the youth to fend for themselves. The only problem is, that the youth oftentimes turns to fight back in the wrong direction which ultimately keeps the cycle going.
From another perspective, in the United States, Blacks make up thirty percent of the American population, while Hispanics and other minorities make up 17.8 percent. The prison system has around 2.4 million inmates throughout federal and state judicial systems. Among the 2.4 million in prison or jail over sixty percent of the inmates are non-white. Number-wise that means 1,440,000 million people in prison are a minority. Research has proven that minorities are incarcerated in state prisons at an average rate of 5.1 times that of white Americans.
This average is what contributes to how much “justice” is being served. Now, we already know that those minorities who have managed to avoid prison are already suffering from financial discrimination. So, what happens when they get locked up for years, and must completely start from scratch with no home, no job, and no support from the system that keeps them in prison to “make them better”. Granted, criminals, and gang members being removed from socially and economically disadvantaged communities are a benefit. Not only is a person who would victimize others not able to do so, but the crime rate also decreases. Crime can destabilize neighborhoods when people live in fear and in turn, places a dark perception of the community in the minds of others. However, many criminologists fear is that removing too many people from the neighborhood will also destabilize it.
Incarceration causes collateral damage for both those locked up as well as the families and friends of those locked up. When a person gets locked up initially their debt then falls on the family and when they are released the debt falls on the family again. Those who serve federal time have a hard time finding jobs, due to the marks placed on their record. When they can’t find a job, they essentially become another mouth to feed for the family. This can, in turn, make that individual feel ashamed, hopeless, and like they must do something to pay their part for the extra expenses. It is that feeling that causes those recently released to return to gangs. It is the system created to trap minorities, and spend their lives being circled through the system.
As mentioned above many of these same gang members committing violent acts have suffered from poverty, disabilities, or some form of neglect, but are set up for failure before they are given a chance to turn things around. The ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’ only makes it worse by nationally funneling children from the public-school system and into the criminal system. In Missouri’s Ritenour School District, 67% of black students vs. 33% white students were referred to law enforcement (2009). The ‘Zero-tolerance’ policy also criminalizes minor infractions that can’t be erased. Not only do African Americans have to struggle from discrimination at work which simultaneously places them in poverty, but they also must worry about their children in reference to the justice system as well.
Daniel J. Losen and Johanna Wald conducted an analytical study and found that black students represent 31% of school-related arrests. They also found that in comparison to their white peers, black students are three times more likely to be suspended for a similar incident which makes them three times more likely to have some form of contact with the law by that next year. Students of color are impacted by this because they are discriminated against and pushed out instead of giving alternatives. Additional educational and counseling services could assist with the inconsistencies some students experience with school, but instead, they are intentionally isolated, punished and pushed out.
The Advancement Project also found that the U.S. has increased its spending over the past 20 years to 127 %. This accounts for almost $70 billion each year just on incarceration, probation, and parole. In that same 20-year span, there has only been a 21% increase in higher education funding. If the same 127% of funding spent incarceration was spent on reestablishing the black education system, the black community would not have 31% of its children in prison. The common method of approach of the incarceration of the violent gang members is also failing. If the goal is to eliminate gang members then why would we continuously give them what they want? It is widely known that being locked-up and “holding it down” only increases the chance of more following in that person’s footsteps. Being is almost an accomplishment for those who come out alive.
Let’s not forget that jail isn’t a peaceful atmosphere: Its violent. They are treated like animals both inside and outside of prison and expected to change their nature. An across the nation study led in the year 1995 by the National Youth Group Center under the mandate of the U.S division of equity, office of adolescent equity and misconduct counteractive action, uncovered the accompanying patterns; the current networks inside the 50 states reported that there were around 652,000 posse individuals who were partnered to the 25,000 packs inside the Country.
These numbers are alarming. There is proof that there is an expanded pack and group related issues of 48% in the networks, this means the posse issues are just intensifying with little improvement of about 10% saw in certain states. The quantity of sheriff and police offices that revealed the group related movement remained at 1,974 out of the 34,447. Gang enrollment typically satisfies various factors in particular; the quest for affection, a sentiment of having a place or duty, a level of acknowledgment, the sentiment of intensity and expert, lastly a situation of acknowledgment for the posse individuals. In view of sociological research discoveries coming up next is a portion of the hazard factors that are related with joining packs that are significantly engaged with savage and unlawful exercises; illicit drug use, the plausibility of death because of illicit arms managing and utilization.
The elements that drive these adolescents to join these poses incorporate prejudice, destitution, impact from the media and absence of encouraging group of people (Source, look into, 1994, 2)The proof from the territory of Los Angeles has uncovered that in excess of 10,000 African American and Latino young fellows have been slaughtered because of pack fighting (source, vigil, 2002).
In order to prevent the youth from joining gangs, communities must come together on all levels especially in minority neighborhoods. Families must strengthen their core, just as much as the school system and police. Parents must be more involved with what their child is doing, and how they are doing in school. Schools must be more active in paying attention to when their students are struggling. Police must be more active in ensuring they are policing and not creating future issues.
If the police learn to control their guns and intentional brutality, while parents get more involved, and teachers get more involved academically, there should be no reason that the numbers for gang members doesn’t begin to decrease. Disruptive youth must be taught how to manage their anger, how to cope, and proper intrapersonal skills even among the discrimination experienced in their neighborhoods. The “zero tolerance” policies put in schools must be reduced so that it isn’t aiding in pushing children out and into the streets. More importantly, there must be programs in place for students who have no responsible parents at home to go to as a method of staying off the streets. Awareness is critical, but support is needed to back it up.