Gangs: A Socio-Historical Study Thanks to Popular Research Proposal

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Gangs: A Socio-Historical study

Thanks to popular forms of media, gangs have been depicted different ways (Branch, 1997). Such portrayals of gang members have ranged from the glamorization to the dangers of their lifestyle (Branch, 1997). Gangs are feared and their members are seen as menaces to society. They are often held responsible not only for attracting violence where they go but also for provoking it.

Nevertheless, there are various aspects of the gang that the media fails to show and many are unaware of (Branch, 1997). Gangs that have persisted throughout history and still exist in today's society are well-organized systems, which command from their members undying loyalty and commitment to the group and, in return, their members are given a sense of security and get to be part of a group or more so, a "family."

What, exactly, are gangs? The term "gang" has been given several definitions. Gangs were considered simply as "groups of delinquent young people" (Salagaev & Shashkin, 2005, 64). Thrasher (1927) viewed gangs as

"an interstitial group, originally found spontaneously and then integrated through conflict. It is characterized by the following types of behavior: meeting face-to-face, milling, movement through space as a unit, conflict and planning. The result of this collective behavior is the development of tradition, unreflective internal structure, esprit de corps, solidarity, morale, group awareness, and attachment to a local territory" (Thrasher 1927, as cited by Branch 1997, 16).

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From that early notion, arose other ideas of a gang. Various scholars have offered other conceptualizations of gangs. As Conly et al. states "gangs are groups of youths and young adults with varying degrees of cohesion and structure, who have regular contact with one another, ways of identifying their group, and rules of behavior within the system" (as cited in Ruble & Turner, 2000, 117-118).

Research Proposal on Gangs: A Socio-Historical Study Thanks to Popular Assignment

Miller (1981) states, "a youth gang is a self-formed association of peers, bound together by mutual interests, with identifiable leadership, well-developed lines of authority, and other organizational features, who act in concert to achieve a specific purpose, which generally includes the conduct of illegal activity and control over a particular territory, facility, or type of enterprise" (as cited in Branch, 1997, 16).

Fagen (1996), on the other hand, identifies two kinds of gangs: party gangs and social gangs. Party gangs engage not only in drinking and drugs but also in drug sales. Social gangs are those that use drugs and commit petty crimes (as cited in Branch, 1997, 16).

An underlying theme of these definitions is that gangs are attractive to young adults because as they get to be part of a group whose goals and ideals are bigger than themselves (Branch, 1997). By joining a gang, the young adult or the adolescent feels that he belongs not just to a group but to a surrogate family (Gibbs, 2000). Harris (1994) states that through his gang, the member is given a "source of status, identity, cohesion, self-esteem, and a sense of belong" (Ruble & Turner, 2000, 118). Also, by sacrificing his own personal needs for those of his gang, he is also given a sense of purpose (Branch, 1997). Thus, he then gives his gang his loyalty by shunning the company of others and he pledges his "blind allegiance" (Branch, 1997) often engaging in fighting to protect his gang from outside threats and committing crimes and multiple forms of illegal activities (dealing drugs, stealing cars, and robbing homes) (Sheley, et al., 1995) just to serve the needs of his gang. In short, his gang becomes his entire life and he may eventually lose his life to his gang.

How, then, did gangs come about? As Branch (1997) contends, gangs have existed since the days of knights. Gangs and communities were able to live in a "peaceful" coexistence, as long as neither violated the implicit terms of their relationship (i.e. doing harm to a powerful political family or police arresting cooperative informants) (Branch, 1997, 10). Gang members considered themselves as keepers or guardian of social morality (Branch, 1997). They were involved social control functions and were able to win over the moral support of the community (Branch, 1997). Gangs often practiced moblike demonstrations, which were aimed at "deaths, scolds, cuckcolds, and upcoming mismatched marriages" (Branch, 1997, 9). The point of these acts was to cause chaos in the community and harass the victims until they paid bribes just to stop the ruckus (Branch, 1997).

Gangs began to flourish in the 19th century, as evidence by the increase in the number of gangs in New York and Chicago (Branch, 1997). To many socially marginalized individuals and immigrants, a gang was the medium through which they were able to engage in community life, gain in economic benefits and, in the end, get other people to notice and recognize their presence (Branch, 1997). Gang members became involved in politics by associating themselves with saloons and political parties (Branch, 1997, 10). They helped in the elimination of competitors and in the rigging of elections in order to obtain favorable results for their chosen candidate.

The composition of gangs has evolved throughout history. Early studies from Thrasher (1927) would argue that gangs are made up of very poor, marginalized boys who are most likely to be residents of a slum or ghetto, and fleeting (as cited in Branch, 1997, 11). Expounding on Thrasher's idea, more modern theorists would contend that gangs have expanded to include girls, that they are also relatively permanent fixtures in certain societies, and that participation in gangs is now not restricted to marginalized individuals (Branch, 1997, 11). In fact, gang members may take the form of star athletes or even political leaders (Branch, 1997).

From the 1920s to the 1940s, gangs shifted from life in the ghetto to life in the political arena. Gangs were and are still typically ethnically homogenous (Branch, 1997). Examples of ethnically homogenous gangs are the Sugar House Gang, composed of Jewish merchants in Detroit as well as the barrios, composed of Mexicans who migrated to southern California (Branch, 1997). In New York, the Harlem gangs had a single ethnicity and only a small number were involved in delinquency (Branch 1997). However, members were hostile and exhibited violent behavior toward non-members. Gangs differentiated themselves through a unique manner dress.

It was in the 1950s, during the postwar era and the civil rights era that the most popular images of gangs came about (Branch, 1997). Numerous gangs began to migrate. Many of them came from the East Coast and found a new home in the Midwest. Examples of these gangs are the Blackstone Rangers and the Latin Kings (Branch, 1997). Also noteworthy is the penetration of gangs into the penal system (Branch 1997).

In the 1960s, debates over what gangs really were raged on. For some, gangs were synonymous to juvenile delinquency (Branch, 1997). Internally, however, members thought themselves to be social and political activists, who engaged in political activities (i.e. voter registration drives) but nevertheless still sometimes participating in antisocial activities (Branch, 1997, 13). As Convey, Menard, and Franzese (1992) pointed out gangs were also deviating from typical gang activity and were now involving themselves in social activism. Heightened social activism was demonstrated by gangs like the "Vice Lords," the "Black Panthers," the "Young Lords," and the "Black Liberation Army" (as cited in Branch, 1997, 13).

In the 1970s, gangs expanded even more due to the creation of superhighways (Branch, 1997). Now that cars are readily available to gangs, they were able to migrate from the West Coast to the East Coast (Branch, 1997). Gangs infiltrated towns like Kansas, Illinois, and Nebraska, where there was minimal resistance from the community (Branch, 1997). In the 1990s, gangs also moved to more suburban areas and "gangstas" running in elections were proclaimed openly and many New York gangs embarked… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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