Rep Yo Set: How Mainstream Gang Culture Really Is

If you live in the blessed United States of America and you hear someone refer to a gang, your first programmed thought is always going to be a group of misguided urban youths living in poverty and committing crimes in the city; fighting each other of colors and basically tearing shit up because they are born losers and always will be losers. Somehow, a few of them have way more money than you ever will.  But it’s really not about the money.

Gang culture isn’t new or even derived from socioeconomic status alone. It is apparent in every area and at every level of American society and probably revered more than anything else after sex. I can confidently state this because I am unabashedly a contributor to gang culture.; I’m in a gang and yet I’ve never killed a person or sold illegal drugs. I have a brand on my chest to prove my lifelong dedication and allegiance. A sorority membership, believe it or not operates just like a any street gang. It just exists and acts, most of the time, within the law of the land.

So what makes a gang then?

I’m not an expert in the field but I can say that in my theory all gangs have similar characteristics. When you think of organizations and clubs and beliefs that people have (even the soccer moms that clip coupons and recycle) the gang mentality thrives.

“I can confidently state this because I am unabashedly a contributor to gang culture”

Most gangs have these elements:

  1. Something in common- Same affinity, same heritage, same location, same belief system or same occupation. The sameness could be extremely minute. Even the same skin tone is enough,,,
  2. Exclusion of outsiders- You have to go through some sort of ritual to be a member. People who haven’t completed the rite of passage are not recognized. The official members, even though they don’t say it, believe that the uninitiated are less important, necessary or valuable to the world.
  3. Extreme pride- they will defend their group against anyone outside of it with their lives. It’s kinda the point.
  4. Uniform the have some sort of symbol or color that separates them from everyone else who might look like them but not actually be one of them. Even a handshake can set you apart.
  5. Familial ties- the only reason anyone who cling to these kinds of groups outside their home is because they don’t really feel at home with their relatives or because their relatives treat them as outsiders already until they become a part of the real gang. The one that matters. Once you’re in, only death can take you out.
  6. A mission- Not only do they have some commonality but they also have something that as a unit they are striving to accomplish. Legacy matters and completing an ultimate objective is paramount.
  7. Hierarchy- there are always levels to the shit. Once you’re in, you’re set on a path; either you will remain just another nameless face in the crowd or you will ascend the levels of the organization to legendary status.

Where can you find gang culture besides the “slums”?

  1. Your church- If you need a moment to think it over, go ahead. I’m not going anywhere. Take your time.
  2. Fraternities and sororities- You wouldn’t hire someone from your org if their resume came across your desk over someone else just as qualified? Exactly.
  3. Fandoms- Oh, the futbol hooligans are priceless. And the kids in college setting fire to automobiles in public when their team wins? And not to mention the belligerent protesters who emerge because their favorite musicians got snubbed at an awards show? Even nerds when someone badmouths Star Wars or Dr. Who. That love makes them feel like they’re a cut above, doesn’t it? Trust me, they will show you how deep it goes if they need to.
  4. Nations- when you see your flag billowing in the breeze at the Olympics, right? I know. You well up.
  5. Military and law enforcement- Probably no more obvious place outside of the hood to see gang culture and mentality at its finest. And seamlessly organized and accepted best of all the types.

These kids in the hood ain’t doing nothing but replicating what they see in other levels of our precious society. If you’ve ever read Lord of the Flies you can understand via fiction that it’s ingrained in our children to become gang members not matter where you hail from.

“These kids in the hood ain’t doing nothing but replicating what they see in other levels of our precious society.”

Now, I’m not saying that these groups are inherently wrong. But where does it end for all of us?

We are already a gang

We aren’t chimps or butterflies or alpacas. We are humans. That should be enough of a family for anyone. But insecurity and violence is rampant in our tribe. Nobody really feels love unless there is a high five in there somewhere from a like-minded individual. Somehow needing to huddle in a tightly knit grouping in order to feel love at all is a human’s favorite addiction.

I’m a person too, so I understand. But there is a bigger picture. The point to all this silly comparison is not just to make you see that gang culture exists at every level of society but that we will always lose if we continue to slice and dice ourselves into extremely tiny labeled caskets.  The more that we continue this dissection, the easier it is to see that those lines are imaginary and hilarious — much like the Twix commercial that touts the likeness of their candy bars to a spirit being like a ghost. They are exactly the same, and so are we.

These borders that we create for safety and survival eventually become hindrances to peace. They prevent us from growing as a species that adventurous extraterrestrials might like to mingle with.

So when will we knock it off?


Featured image by markarinafotos — Flickr.