Analysis of Gangs


Gangs are a violent reality that people have to deal with 
in today's cities. What has made these groups come about? 
Why do kids feel that being in a gang is both an acceptable and 
prestigious way to live? The long range answer to these 
questions can only be speculated upon, but in the short term 
the answers are much easier to find. On the surface, gangs 
are a direct result of human beings' personal wants and peer 
pressure. To determine how to effectively end gang violence we 
must find the way that these morals are given to the individual. 
Unfortunately, these can only be hypothesized. However, by 
looking at the way humans are influenced in society, I believe 
there is good evidence to point the blame at several 
institutions. These include the forces of the media, the 
government, theatre, drugs and our economic system.

 On the surface, gangs are caused by peer pressure and 
greed. Many teens in gangs will pressure peers into becoming 
part of a gang by making it all sound glamorous. Money is also 
an crucial factor. A kid (a 6-10 year old, who is not yet a 
member) is shown that s/he could make $200 to $400 for small 
part time gang jobs. Although these are important factors they 
are not strong enough to make kids do things that are strongly 
against their morals.

 One of the ways that kids morals are bent so that gang 

violence becomes more acceptable is the influence of television 
and movies. The average child spends more time at a TV than 
she/he spends in a classroom. Since nobody can completely turn 
off their minds, kids must be learning something while watching 
the TV. Very few hours of television watched by children are 
educational, so other ideas are being absorbed during this period 
of time. Many shows on television today are extremely violent 
and are often shown this from a gang's perspective. A normal 
adult can see that this is showing how foully that gangs are 
living. However, to a child this portrays a violent gang 
existance as acceptable. 'The Ends Justifies the Means' 
mentality is also taught through many shows where the "goody 
guy" captures the "bad guy" through violence and is then being 
commended. A young child sees this a perfectly acceptable 
because he knows that the "bad guy" was wrong but has no idea 
of what acceptable apprehension techniques are.

 Gore in television also takes a big part in influencing 
young minds. Children see gory scenes and are fascinated by 
these things that they have not seen before. Older viewers see 
gore and are not concerned with the blood but rather with the 
pain the victim must feel. A younger mind doesn't make this 
connection. Thus a gore fascination is formed, and has been 
seen in several of my peers. Unfortunately kids raised with 
this sort of television end up growing up with a stronger 
propensity to becoming a violent gang member or 'violent-
acceptant' person.

 "Gangs bring the delinquent norms of society into 
intimate contact with the individual."1, (Marshall B Clinard, 
1963). So, as you can see if TV leads a child to believe that 
violence is the norm this will manifest itself in the actions of 
the child quite, often in a gang situation. This is especially 
the case when parents don't spend a lot of time with their kids at 
the TV explaining what is right and what is wrong. Quite often 
newer books and some types of music will enforce this type of 
thought and ideas.

 Once this mentality is installed in youngsters they become 
increasingly prone to being easily pushed into a gang situation by 
any problem at home or elsewhere. For instance, in poor 
families with many children or upper-middle class families where 
parents are always working, the children will often feel deprived 
of love. Parents can often feel that putting food on the table 
is enough love. Children of these families may often go to the 
gang firstly out of boredom and to belong somewhere. As time 
goes on, a form of love or kinship develops between the gang 
members and the child. It is then that the bond between the 
kid and the gang is completed because the gang has effectively 
taken the place of the family.

 The new anti social structure of cities also effects the 
ease in which a boy/girl can join a gang. " The formation of 
gangs in cities, and most recently in suburbs, is facilitated by 
the same lack of community among parents. The parents do not 
know what their children are doing for two reasons: First, much 
of the parents' lives is outside the local community, while the 
children's lives are lived almost totally within it. Second, in a 
fully developed community, the network of relations gives every 
parent, in a sense, a community of sentries who can keep him 
informed of his child's activities. In modern living-places (city 
or suburban), where such a network is attenuated, he no longer 
has such sentries."2, (Merton Nisbet, 1971).

 In male gangs problems occur as each is the members tries 
to be the most manly. This often leads to all members 
participating in "one-up-manship". Quite often this will then 
lead to each member trying to commit a bigger and more violent 
crime or simply more crimes than the others. With all members 
participating in this sort of activity it makes for a never 
ending unorganized violence spree (A sort of Clockwork Orange 
mentality). In gangs with more intellegent members these 
feelings end up making each member want to be the star when 
the groups commit a crime. This makes the gang much more 
organized and improves the morale of members which in turn 
makes them more dangerous and very hard for the police to deal 
with and catch (There is nothing harder to find and deal with 
than organized teens that are dedicated to the group). This 
sort of gang is usually common of middle or upper class people 
although it can happen in gangs in the projects and other low 
rent districts too. 

 This "one-up-manship" is often the reason between rival 
gangs fighting. All gangs feel powerful and they want to be 
feared. To do this they try to establish themselves as the 
only gang in a certain neighborhood. After a few gang fights 
hatred forms and gang murders and drive-by's begin to take 
place. When two gangs are at war it makes life very dangerous 
for citizens in the area. Less that 40% of drive-by's kill 
their intended victim yet over 60% do kill someone. This gang 
application is one of the many reasons that sexual sterotypes 
and pressure to conform to the same must be stopped.

 Lastly one of the great factors in joining a gang is for 
protection. Although from an objective point of view, we can 
see joining a gang brings more danger than it saves you from, 
this is not always the way it is seen by kids. In slums such as 
the Bronx or the very worst case, Compton, children will no 
doubt be beaten and robbed if they do not join a gang. Of 
course they can probably get the same treatment from rivals 
when in a gang. The gang also provides some money for these 
children who quite often need to feed their families. The 
reason kids think that the gang will keep them safe is from 
propoganda from the gangs. Gang members will say that no one 
will get hurt and make a public show of revenge if a member is 
hurt or killed. 

 People in low rent areas are most often being repressed 
due to poverty and most importantly, race. This often results 
in an attitude that motivates the person to base his/her life 
on doing what the system that oppresses them doesn't want. 
Although this accomplishes little it is a big factor in gang 

 So, as you have seen gangs are a product of the 
environment we have created for ourselves. Some of these 
factors include: oppression, the media, greed, violence and 
other gangs. There seems to be no way to end the problem of 
gangs without totally restructuring the modern economy and 
value system. Since the chance of this happening is minimal, we 
must learn to cope with gangs and try to keep their following 
to a minimum. Unfortunately there is no real organized force 
to help fight gangs. Of course the police are supposed to do 
this but this situation quite often deals with racial issues also 
and the police forces regularly display their increasing inability 
to deal fairly with these issues. What we need are more people 
to form organizations like the "Guardian Angels" a gang-like 
group that makes life very tough for street gangs that are 
breaking laws. 

Margot Webb, Coping with Street Gangs. Rosen Publishing Group, 
New York, 1990.

William Foote Whyte, Street Corner Society. University of 
Chicago, Chicago, 1955.

Peter Carroll, South-Central. Hoyte and Williams, L. A., 1987.


1 Marshall B. Clinard, Sociology of Deviant Behavior. University 
of Wisconsin, Wisconsin, 1963, Page 179.

2 Merton Nisbet, Contempory Social Problems. Harcourt, Brace & 
World, New York, 1971, Page 588.


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