Thursday, May 04, 2006

Reality Show

“Two cars at a light on a Saturday night. In the back seat there was a gun. Words were passed…a shotgun blast. Troubled times they had come, to my hometown.”
-Bruce Springsteen

I was waiting to pick up a child in a foster home located in a very small town in the South. When I say small, I mean with a population of only about 3,000 people. Not a town one would think gangs would be operating in.

Especially the people who live there.

But right there across the street from the foster home they stood. A set of Vice Lords had been operating in the town for about 10 years at the time. Mostly young people are visible in the neighborhood as the adult leaders kept a rather low profile.

Most people if they knew about the gang would assume them to be “wannabes”. Of course they are “wannabes” who carry guns, deal drugs, and wear colors of the gang they claim to associate with. Which in reality just makes the term wannabe null and void.

But how did the group get into this small farming community? We know that family problems exist everywhere despite the locale or economic status of the area. And where families are broken and peer groups are unsupervised and unloved gangs tend to form. But how would a group of neighborhood kids become affiliated with one of the largest gangs in the country?

There are many reasons for gangs moving into new areas. These include purposeful recruitment of young people by adult leaders seeking to expand their drug market. It also includes young people who are transplants.

Kids who have moved from a bigger city to a smaller town and had gang affiliation in the big city. Those kids may have been low on the totem pole in their old neighborhoods but when they come to a new town they can start their own set. There they can be the gang leader. The superstar, the OG.

This is one reason that even Nation Gangs in different parts of the country will have some variation in the rules, symbols, and identifiers from the gang of origin. Basically some of these kids get information mixed up but make it as law in the new neighborhood.

Sometimes they create hybrid gangs in the new town. I’ve known a kid personally who attempted this. He took elements of his old gang, the Gangster Disciples, and started a new group in his town. One that had similar symbols of the GDN but that is where the similarity ended. Here in this small town he could be the big dog. He could create his own gang without violating the laws of his old gang.

Regardless of the reasons gangs move into smaller towns and suburbs they can only do so if one element is present.

It has to be a place where kids are losing hope. Where their parents are either absent, abusive, or role models for violence themselves. Our culture acts like it has no idea how to parent anymore. We are turning to Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Nanny 911 for basic parenting skills. The term “reality show” has become an oxymoron.

I cannot explain exactly where this parental impotence comes from. But I know where it is leading. To the formation of gangs and youth violence in places you and I might never have dreamed of in the past. To school grounds where bullets fly to backwoods neighborhoods where drugs like Meth are an easy way to get rich.

The reality is that kids only do what they have been allowed to do. We are allowing them to kill one another because parenting has become something that has to be taught on a “realty show.”