Behind the Doc

"Gang Member" is Just a Label

Posted June 6, 2011

In talking with the students at EDGE in Durham I learned a lot about gangs. Most of the students at EDGE belong to gangs like the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings and Folk. They see being a member of a gang much the way a college student might see being a member of Sigma Nu. The idea is to belong to something bigger than them, to a fraternity of like-minded people with similar backgrounds who become as close as brothers. In many ways the gang becomes a surrogate family. Many of these young men have little to no family structure or support in their lives so the gang becomes a substitute. I asked several of them if their gang brothers resented them or ridiculed them for going to EDGE to try and get an education and better their lives. They said quite the contrary was true, that their gang brothers encouraged them and supported them in their effort to earn a GED and graduate from EDGE. In fact many of the students thanked and acknowledged the support of their gang brothers at the EDGE graduation May 6.

Do gang members commit crimes? Absolutely. But the term “gang member” is just a label. If there were no gangs, many of these young men would still be in the same situation and would still be getting in trouble with the law. Governor Bev Perdue created an “Anti-Gang Task Force” last year. Add it to the countless number of “anti-gang” task forces and commissions across the state and nation that seem to have had little to no impact on the problem. Perhaps policymakers should focus less on fighting a label and more on eliminating the poverty and other socio-economic factors that lure idle young men into gangs in the first place.
 

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  • anneonymousone Jun 8, 2011

    I'm a former welfare recipient (x2!), by the way. I'm a white woman with no children who needed and received help.

    I'm glad for it was there for me, and I'm glad I am in a position where I now work with people (including potential, current, and former gang members) to help them improve the quality of their lives.

  • anneonymousone Jun 8, 2011

    In the real world, a lot of students now see people with graduate degrees who are out of work because of economic conditions. Those economic woes were caused primarily by groups of people, mostly men who dress the same and who live in the same kinds of neighborhoods, who were acting illegally in collusion to defraud people of their property. Just because those men are rich and mostly white does not mean they were acting any less ganglike.

    They see those actions paying off in the form of government bailouts (taxpayer money) and huge bonuses for the CEOs that no one can touch!

  • anneonymousone Jun 8, 2011

    Wow! One would think, from reading these comments, that girls and women impregnate themselves or always choose the activities that can cause pregnancy. I don't know where these commenters live.

    In the real world, though, except in cases of donor insemination, there is a boy or a man who is ALSO responsible for conception. In the real world, a number of men who impregnate teenagers are quite a bit older than the young women involved. In the real world, teenage girls and young women are at higher risk for rape than anyone else, whether the rapist is a known or unknown person.

    In the real world, about 15% of rapes result in pregnancy.

  • networker Jun 7, 2011

    "Gang Member" is not just a label. What separates Gangs from groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H is that by requirement a gang, and it's members, commit crimes ranging from theft, drug dealing, assault and murder. A group of young people are not considered a "Gang" until a crime is committed as a requirement for membership or participation.

  • GWALLY Jun 7, 2011

    ..."They said quite the contrary was true, that their gang brothers encouraged them and supported them in their effort to earn a GED and graduate from EDGE..."

    LOL....now THAT is the most ridiculous statement I have EVER seen in a story by a WRAL reporter....talk about soft peddling a story......."gang members "encouraged" to get an education by their fellow gang brothers"......oh HOW SWEET...!!!!

  • GWALLY Jun 7, 2011

    ..."policymakers should focus less on fighting a label and more on eliminating the poverty and other socio-economic factors..."

    (created by the welfare/entitlement and WIC government system)

    So there you go... their answer......spend mo money, spend mo money, spend mo money..!!!..and not ONE SINGLE word about personal responsibility OR the FAILURE of the justice system or the destruction of the two parent household that has was created by the enslavement of non married mothers and WIC babies to the "government system" with $$$CASH$$$MONEY$$$ monthly "entitlement checks"......!!!!

  • monkeyboy Jun 7, 2011

    what's the definition of 'mass confusion'?

    father's day in durham...

  • as400_guru Jun 7, 2011

    "Perhaps policymakers should focus less on fighting a label and more on eliminating the poverty and other socio-economic factors that lure idle young men into gangs in the first place."

    I have several ideas.

    1. Tell kids that "tattling" is NOT wrong and should be encouraged.
    2. Tell 15 year old girls to keep their legs crossed and don't get pregnant.
    3. Stop welfare payments to single mothers until they give the name and/or social security number of the sperm donor.
    4. Tell young men to stay in school, get an education, and make something of themselves in life.
    5. Send young gang members to a prison like boot camp and scare the tar out of them.
    6. Tell young men that in prison they will be someone else's "woman".

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Documentary producer and writer Clay Johnson provides some behind-the-scenes insight into the production of WRAL documentaries.