The Real Deal on Gangs
By Anonymous Bloods, Latin Kings, Crips.
It seems as if we can't go at least one day without the topic of gang violence or murder entering our heads. And with all of the bad things that we have heard about gangs (like how they slice you for wearing their gang colors, or kill people for no reason), I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to join a gang. But although gangs are feared, there is little that is known about them. It was very difficult for me to find gang members who were willing to talk. But when I finally found those teenagers, they had a lot to say. And some of what they had to say might change your views on gangs. More and more young people may be joining gangs, but nobody really knows why these children are joining. I asked Joseph, 18, who lives in a group home and is a Latin King. "[Me and my family] were having a lot of fights. I really wasn't getting any love from them."
I talked to Gerard, (whose "organization" name is "Crazy Blood"), a 16-year-old who also lives in a group home, and is a member of the Bloods. When asked what was going on in his family life that made him want to join a gang, he said, "My mom's was flipping. She was telling me to do things that I didn't want to do. So I was like f-ck it. I was getting money [from my mom's] but I just started hustling with my dogs." And I had the pleasure of talking to a 16-year-old female who prefers to be called "Taz." Taz is not a gang member, but wants to join. When I asked her why, she said, "The Bloods are all about being a family, sticking together, going out for theirs and getting that dough. And that is what I'm all about." But not all teenagers join gangs because of family problems. Napz, a 17-year-old male who is down with the gang known as La Familia, when asked if he joined his organization because of family problems, simply said, "My family life and my life was good." If your family life is good, there are other reasons why people join gangs. Joseph said, "[The Latin Kings] are always there for me when I have beef." By this short but straight-to-the-point quote, I got the understanding that many teenagers join because they need someone to help them out when they get into physical confrontations. Taz finalized my conclusion: "You will always have someone to look out for you, and to be there for you when you need them."
As the number of teen gang members becomes larger and larger, I wonder: Is it is really that easy to get into a gang? I mean, if you want to join, do you just say, "Can I be in your gang?" When I asked the "experts," they shed some light on the subject. "I grew up with Latin Kings," said Joseph. "They asked me if I wanted to be down with the nation." "People kept on asking me to join. Family members, cousins and my best friends," said Napz. "I used to hang out with a lot of [dogs], so they asked me to be down," said Gerard. From these quotes, it seems like one of the reasons why teenagers join organizations is because they want to belong to something. When a teenager is asked to be in a gang, it is like being asked to join a private party. It makes you feel like you're special.
"We're Like a Family"
Sometimes the love that teenagers get from gangs is greater than the love that they receive from their own families. "We're like a family. We do sh-t together, we get money together. I'm going to bang for my dogs and they are going to bang for me," said Gerard. But I wasn't satisfied with just one opinion. So I went to Joseph and asked him if he considered the Latin Kings to be like a family. He said, "Well, they are not like my family, they are my family." Taz said if she joined the Bloods, she would "get the satisfaction of having another family." With these three quotes, I put three and three together. Joseph, Gerard and Taz are all in the foster care system and they are all in gangs. Are these teens trying to recover a missing part of family that was lost a long time ago? Are they creating their own family because they honestly don't have a family? I came to the conclusion that a lot of kids think that the only way they will ever have a real family is to join a gang. Joseph told me that by joining the Latin Kings he gained acceptance, love and respect. These are things that most teenagers should be receiving at home. But instead, some have to sink as low as joining a gang.
Girls in Gangs
I remember when I used to watch movies about children who stuck together, sort of like a gang. But never did I see females in the group. Or if I did see a female, she was trying to get in the gang, only to be told by a boy that she couldn't get in because she was a girl. Well, today it's different. Every gang that I know about has girls in it. And sometimes you have a case where the females are rolling harder than most of the males in the organization. I had a lot of questions about girls in gangs. Like, is it harder for females to be in gangs than boys? I was told by Gerard that girls in the Bloods get treated the same as the boys. When I asked Joseph, he said that the females in the Latin Kings aren't treated differently. He said he couldn't tell me how they weren't treated differently, but he did tell me that they don't get "sexed in" like they do in some other gangs. When I asked Napz, I got a very different answer. He told me that it is harder for girls in La Familia, because the boys expect to have sex with them. I wondered if a female would have something different to tell me. So I caught up with a 15-year-old female who lives in the Bronx. She goes by the name of "Bloody Jucks." She, of course, is in the Bloods. Bloody Jucks told me that it is harder for females because they can't make as much money as the males. They are not allowed to sell drugs and the boys are. She said that "Ruby Reds" (a name for female Bloods) can get cut quicker because male gang members take females as a joke. Bloody Jucks said that they go through a lot to get respect.
In for Life
I was told by Napz, Joseph, Gerard, Bloody Jucks and Taz that once you're in a gang, you're in for life. There is no easy "in and out" for gangs. And if you try to get out, there can be some very serious results, sometimes even deadly ones. For the Latin Kings, I was told by Joseph that there is no way to get out of the gang unless you die. For the La Familia, I was told by Napz that you have to go to the leader and if your reason for wanting to get out of the gang is a good one, then you won't be bothered. But he also added that you might get beat up or killed. When I asked Gerard how you leave the Bloods, he said you get an "X" cut on your face. And when your ex-gang members see you, they get to slice you and beat you up. Doesn't that sound nice? But hold on-it gets better. Bloody Jucks told me that you can get blooded out, which is the whole process that Gerard explained with the X. Or you can get out the same way that you got in. Like if you slice somebody to get in, you have to get sliced to get out. It depends on who you are dealing with because some gang members will kill you. But what kills me is the fact that people join gangs and don't even realize what they are getting themselves into. Then they have the nerve to want to get out of the gang. So I asked Taz, who hasn't joined yet, if she was worried about getting out: "If I join a gang, it ain't going to be no in-and-out sh-t. It is going to be for life."
From what you have read so far, you probably think that being in a gang is all work and no play. (Did you catch the hint of sarcasm in my voice?) But what good is a gang if you don't have any enemies? The Bloods are in conflict with Latin Kings and Crips. The Latin Kings are in conflict with Bloods and some La Familias. And the La Familias are in conflict with Latin Kings. Why are these gangs in conflict with each other? "We try to chill but every time the [Crips and Latin Kings] see that red flag [scarf] they go crazy," Gerard told me. "Once Latin Kings and Familias were together. Then because of some beef we split up. Ever since then, we don't click like that," Napz said. "There is different reasons [for not liking each other]. Not everyone is at war with each other," Joseph said. Like Joseph said, there are different reasons for war against each other. But I don't think that there is ever any good reason for teenagers to go to war with other teens.
It's So Sad
The sad part is that teenagers in the gangs think there is nothing wrong with going to war. They all said they don't regret joining their organizations. These teenagers told me that they have robbed stores, gotten involved in shoot-outs and cut fellow teenagers. These are things that I would have regretted. But they are everyday things to these teenagers, and to me that is very sad.
For a problem as big as gangs, there really isn't any solution, but there is always "prevention." If you are a parent and you don't give your child love at home, don't be surprised if you discover that your child is in a gang. One of my final conclusions is that gang life is not as easy as everyone I interviewed made it seem. It is true that you do get another family. And from my experience hanging out with gangs, I can add that kids in a gang are regular people. But the lives they lead are far from any life that should be led.
Advice from Gang Members
As I have tried to stress during this whole article, gangs are not a joke. But I feel this article would not be complete without advice from each gang member. I asked them the same question: "What advice would you give to young people out there who are thinking about joining a gang?" Gerard said, "You should grow up and get a job first. You should not try to repeat what the past did." He meant that you shouldn't join a gang because family members or friends have joined one. Napz said, "Don't do it. Once you join, your whole [life] is going to change." Joseph said, "Think about what you are doing first. Learn more about the nation." Even though Taz is not a Blood yet, she still gave some very good advice. "Yo, getting into a gang is something that you have to think hard about. You can't do nothing that you are going to regret. If you think that you ain't going to regret it, then do your thing. If not, don't start nothing that you can't finish. 'Cause it can get finished for you." I hope each reader realizes how serious this gang thing has gotten. And before you think of doing something stupid, read this article again and follow the advice of the gang members at the end. If you know somebody who is about to join, tell them to read this article. Because trying to be with the "In Crowd" can get you with the "Dead Crowd." "Reprinted with permission from Foster Care Youth United Copyright 200X by Youth Communication/New York Center, Inc. ()."