Sunday, January 20, 2013

We Have A Gang Problem?! (Gasp, Shock, and Awe!)

During my second to last year in California I was watching the local news at the college town I was attending, when a reporter on location at a nearby town reported that (gasp!) "I was stunned when I heard that the (town's name here) had a gang problem." (Shock & awe!) I stared at the reporter on the television and snickered at this shock. I was thinking that I didn't see where his shock or surprise was coming from. Having grown up in my hometown, gangs were just familiar, maybe that's why I thought the reporter to be an idiot. I was thinking about my hometown and how no one reported on their gang problem, but then again, the news usually only did a report if there was some type of incident that consisted of a shooting or some of other type of altercation between "Hispanic male suspects." I was frustrated with that reporter, because even to me he sounded like an ignorant dumbass, almost as if gangs didn't exist at all. Or as if they didn't exist in that region of California. Or maybe he was just really sheltered by his parents. I don't know what it was, but that reporter annoyed the shit out of me because of that statement. Maybe because even our college town was known to have a gang, but it was centered specifically in one area of town, not far from campus.

Actually about maybe 5-6 months ago, a friend called me from that region of California. He was originally from my area, grew up in a city about 20 minutes away from my hometown. He actually was in a gang and eventually chose a different path. He went to college, where he and I met, and he is now employed about an hour away from the university we attended. During our conversation he asked me, "hey bro, where ever raza is, is there always a gang?" I asked him why he asked me this question. He said that in the current town he was living in he noticed some cholillos and he was tripping out because he didn't think they had gangs there. I was somewhat surprised that he was surprised. But then again, he'd gotten out of that turmoil that involved la vida loca, and had experienced the quaint college town, even stayed up in that area to work, and continue to experience that tranquil life.

But watching shows like Gangland and even the reporter's short coverage of the "gang problem" something becomes clear. All it takes is one person. I've known family that want to move their kids out of our barrio and into a town without a gang problem. I'm of the belief that trouble can follow you, unless you're willing to make a serious change in your way of thinking, on par with Extreme Makeover (the original, not the home edition). Like my friend above, a total change in perspective is needed, and since he's done that, trouble didn't follow him, nor did he try to bring trouble where he went. But when a person is transplanted from the barrio that has the gang problem, and if he/she was a part of that gang problem, then they end up in a community where gangs are nonexistent, all they need to do is start telling their war stories to the kids of these neighborhoods, who in turn become awed by the cholo life style and want to bring that to their town because they want to replicate it, because they're missing out on la vida loca. And the next thing you know, a gang has a new chapter or territory, and then you have a reporter on the local news saying "Golly gee willickers! We have a gang problem in a town that is in the ass crack of California! Well, how did this happen?"

Me and my friend didn't get to finish our conversation because he had to go, but it was a good question he asked, and left me in deep thought about it. The majority of the population in his current town is Middle Eastern. Definitely the first thing that came to mind, was well, there isn't a disproportionate amount of Middle Eastern males in prison, that's why there isn't a "Middle Eastern gang problem" in my friends current town. But there is a good amount of raza locked up, and having been a part of that life, my friend would have a better understanding about how it filters from the prison back out onto the streets. I just think he didn't expect it to filter into the town he currently lives, because there isn't a big Xicano population there, nor is it a place where many people would want to live, there's something there for those who might have a job and don't want to leave because of their job, but don't expect parties and fun every weekend.

I'm not sure where I was even going with this. It's just one of those things that had been on my mind since I first saw the reporter stunned about the gang problem in that small town. I knew I wanted to write something about it, I'm just still not sure what. I think that what bothered me about the reporter was his reaction, and my response to his shock about the their "new" (at that time) gang problem, is what the fuck? This isn't a new phenomena, even if you think it's new to your town, but it seems that it only becomes a problem when it happens to those towns far away from it and that think they're sheltered from it. When it occurs in their communities, that's when they realize, there's a problem. It's an interesing paradox that I've been wrestling with, on the one hand the ignorant reporter that didn't realize the problem until it happened where he reported, and on the other hand my friend that knows that problem all too well, but even then is still just as shocked as the reporter to learn that there may be a gang problem in the town he currently resides, believing he had left that life behind.


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