Race and Ethnicity in Gang Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1761 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Race

Gang activity has grown substantially throughout the world over the past decade. For the most part the majority of gang activity occurs in densely populated urban areas. Over the years a great deal of research has been conducted as it pertains to the reasons for gang activity and the individuals that are most likely to join gangs. The purpose of this discussion is to explore race and ethnicity as it pertains to gangs.

History of Race and Ethnicity in Gangs

For the most part many studies concerning the prevalence of gangs have not been very exploratory as it pertains to race and ethnicity. According to an article found in the Journal of African-American History

Gang research from its beginnings, like urban sociology generally, has minimized the role of race. Frederic Thrasher, the "father of gang research," followed Robert Park, a noted liberal and leader of the Chicago Urban League, in arguing that gangs were the product of "natural areas" of the city. Racial segregation of African-Americans, the Chicagoans believed, was a temporary characteristic of a universal and assimilationist "race relations cycle (Hagedorn, 2006, pg.194)."

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The journal further explains that gangs from various immigrant populations have historically existed in different regions of the United States. The research explains that there were Irish, Italian and Polish gangs throughout Chicago and New York throughout the 1920's when Irish and Polish immigration rates were relatively high. The article explains that second-generation immigrant youth have historically joined gangs as a result of having difficulty in schools and problems with the police (Hagedorn, 2006).

Term Paper on Race and Ethnicity in Gang Assignment

As it pertains to race/ethnicity and the current structure or status of gang activity, the majority of gangs are composed of people of the same race or ethnicity. For instance, when two of the most notorious rival gangs, the bloods and the crips began they were composed mostly of African-Americans. These two gangs are no longer race explicit and they have been warring for decades with the largest concentrations of these gangs residing in South Central Los Angeles. However the gangs also have a presence in other regions of the United States. Although the Bloods and Crips and their rivalry are amongst the most infamous in the United States, there are also many other gangs throughout the United States. Again these gangs are most abundant in densely populated urban areas.

Becoming a member of a gang is often dependent upon what neighborhood an individual resides in. Many gangs recruit younger members. The recruits are then expected to undergo initiation. The initiation may consist of getting jumped in. When a recruit is jumped in, other members of the gang beat them for an allotted amount of time as a kind of test. Once the recruit passes the test they officially become a member of the gang. Other types of initiation may include committing an act of random violence, such as robbing shooting or killing a stranger, to prove loyalty to the gang.

Gangs such as MS-13, which began in El Salvador is composed of Hispanic individuals and in recent years it has been classified as one of the most violent gangs inNorth and South America. The MS-13 gang has strong holds in several American States including California, Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Alaska, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Utah, Washington D.C. And Oregon ("MS-13 gang"). MS-13 also has strongholds in Mexico, el Salvador and Guatemala ("MS-13 gang").

For the most part the members if MS-13 in the United States are individuals who are first or second generation immigrants. Some members were born in the United States while others immigrated to the country as children or adolescents. Initially, MS-13, like many gangs were formed to protect the immigrant community from becoming prey for other gangs and from harassment ("MS-13 gang"). However, when theses factors were no longer a threat to the community MS-13 began to turn violent against their own and others living in the community ("MS-13 gang"). Today the gang is involved in drugs and weapons activities, disturbingly violent acts, and the overall terrorizing of communities in which they have strongholds ("MS-13 gang").

The bloods, crips and MS-13 are but a few of the gangs that exist in American and throughout the world. Because America is a diverse place there are also Asian gangs, Arabic Gangs, and White gangs. Although many of the most notorious gangs are composed of individuals from minority groups, it is important to remember that most minorities are not members of a gang. It is also important to recognize that minorities that are members of a gang are not member simply because they are Black, Asian or Hispanic, but because they have been disenfranchised from our larger society. Indeed, there are some very real reasons why people of certain races and ethnicities join gangs.

Why People Join Gangs

For the most part members of these gangs come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. In addition many do not come from two parent homes and for the most part fathers are not present in the lives of the gang members. For the most part researchers believe that in the African-American community in particular, the breakdown of the family has contributed greatly to the presence of gangs and the prevalence of gang activity.

In addition as it pertains to the prevalence of gangs composed of individuals that are African-American and Hispanic, sociologists believe that racism and the treatment of these particular groups in America led to the formation and proliferation of gangs and gang activity. It has been argued that because it is more difficult for black and Hispanic youth to find employment and because these groups are often discriminated against because of the skin color or ethnicity, they are more likely to form gangs. When people from particular racial or ethnic groups feel disenfranchised they are more likely to form tight bonds with one another and in many cases these bonds become destructive gangs.

In addition to having a more difficult time obtaining jobs, many are gushed into gang activity because they drop out of school or the education system fails them. It has long been understood and generally accepted that people who do not finish high school are more likely to become criminals than those that do complete high school. Many jobs require a high school diploma, and as such individuals who have not received a diploma will have a more difficult time finding employment.

Additionally, many gang members are felons. A felony conviction can also have an adverse affect on ones ability to obtain lawful employment. For this reason, when many gang members are released from prison they often return to the prison system because they continue to engage in criminal activity. In fact the National Criminal Justice Reference Services explains that sixty-three percent of gang-problem jurisdictions reported the return of gang members from confinement to their jurisdiction in 2001. More than two-thirds (69%) of these jurisdictions reported that gang members returning from confinement considerably affected their jurisdictions' gang problem in 2001. A large proportion of these jurisdictions reported that returning members noticeably contributed to an increase in violent crime (63% of respondents) and drug trafficking (68%) by local gangs (Gangs, 2007)."

This becomes a cycle, that is very difficult to break. This is particularly true because many gang members have children who will also grow up without their fathers and will be more prone to becoming gang members.

As you can see, there are many reasons why people join gangs and why these gangs behave in violent and sociopathic ways. For the most part location, socio economic status, Social issues (racism, unemployment), and familial conditions lead to the presence of gangs and negative gang activity. These issues can be overcome if people are willing to confront them and work toward making them better.

Affects of Gang Activity

The impact of gang activity can be extremely negative and lead to specific racial and ethnic groups being more disenfranchised from the large society.

Gang activity leads to increased violence and unsafe neighborhoods (Chapman, 2007). This decreases property values and discourages investment of businesses in neighborhoods where gang activity is high. As such the neighborhoods continue to suffer from high unemployment rates and bad relations with the police.

Another major problem is the issue of Guns in the streets.

Neighborhoods that suffer from gang violence are more likely to have an abundance of guns. These guns are used to kill gang member and in some cases innocent bystanders. A book entitled Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgence "The violent, intimidating, and corrupting activities of illegal internal and transnational nonstate actors -- such as urban gangs -- can abridge sovereign state powers and negate national and regional security (Manwaring, 2005,pg2)." With this understood gang activity can greatly threaten the security of an entire region or the nation.

Regardless of the affects, it is obvious that gang activity, is not beneficial to the racial or ethnic groups that participate in such activities, particularly if they are already disenfranchised as a group. Gang violence simply adds to the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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