Somebody Please! Part III

Payback and reality are terms we have to deal with now

By Frankie Firme ~ Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: April 10, 2009

Somebody Please! Part III

Let me start by saying this IS NOT a piece about color.

Recently, there has been a spat of gang shootings and killings in my neighborhood‘«™and I believe I live in a good neighborhood and community‘«™made up of good, hard working people of all Raza's with their families.

Where I live‘«™where my family and friends live‘«™and I'm not even going to try to stereotype or sugar coat my neighborhood as better, or a surprising location for gang shootings, because it's happening in every neighborhood lately, not just confined to East L.A., South Central L.A., or the north San Fernando Valley like the (na?Ľve, racist, & entitled) pundits would lead you to believe.

What makes the situation so frustrating to me, as a former gang member myself who has witnessed three generations of society with gangs evolve, is that the contemporary and politically driven approaches to gangs, so-called "interventions" and "preventive programs", while well-intentioned, have virtually given birth to, and nourished, a flourishing gang culture by nature of their punitive oriented policies devised by the unqualified.

This kind of stuff would have kept me angry and in the streets wanting to hurt others. Thank GOD there were social and educational programs back in the late 1960's & early 1970's that helped guys like me join society instead of trying to destroy it‘«™they NEED to come back in a hurry!

Today, some programs, staffed and run by well-paid and politically appointed intellectuals who have never been part of a gang or spent a day behind bars seem to get all the funding & publicity, and self-anoint themselves as unquestionable experts and "Czars", based solely on their educational credential and political connections. They rarely make a dent in the problem, if not making it worse with their ineptitude, and they have been successful in convincing the political leadership (and holders of the public purse) that if THEY can't succeed, it is an endeavor that is insurmountable, hence,

"Lock 'em all up forever or until they're too old to cause problems anymore," has become the battle cry of the entitled overpaid elite who have NO business in the gang up and running with the money has always been easy for some politicians and their friends...

On the other side of the coin, small community organizations staffed by savvy and experienced former street gang members (sorry, there just isn't ANY "chingon de los calles" courses offered in ANY American University - face it, people) who have educated themselves beyond the gang mentality, and who have made some remarkable inroads in reaching gang members in efforts to quell the violence, are usually under-funded and minimally-staffed based on community mistrust and the na?Ľve belief that "once a gang member, always a gang member"‘«™and can only reach a small number in the community. As stupid as this may seem, there are some VERY educated and influential members of our communities that think that way, and they, in a sense, are the true "gang members", because they inadvertently perpetuate the conditions in which gangs thrive.

Another misbelief is that the majority of gang members are Latino and Black, who have somehow infiltrated and infected Asian and Armenian youths over the past 20 years, with a small number of "poor white kids" in the mix.

Nothing could be farther from the truth‘«™but that's what sells in the media.

You always hear in the news of "Latino" gang members, "African American" gang members, "Asian or Armenian" gang members‘«™but you never hear "White" gang members‘«™and THERE ARE some very dangerous white guys out there, believe me.

There's never "white suspects"...just "suspects" do you think minority kids and their parents take that?

Shootings and killings in the barrio or the ghetto seem to garner minimal attention, because, as the common adage goes "That's where stuff like that happens," with no consideration to the innocent children who just happen to live there‘«™yet, there is a surprising amount of media attention and outpouring of public sympathy and grief counseling whenever it happens in a so called "good area" where the victims are white and affluent.

White kids that shoot up schools are NEVER gang members...just emotionally distrurbed kids...pobrecitos!

Now, I'm not trying to stir any racial hatred here, believe me, but I gotta call it like I see it. The time revered "Shoot out at the OK Corral" is nothing compared to some weekends on the streets of L.A., and we all need to acknowledge the fact that the victims here are ALL OF US!

We have had Latino, Black, Asian, Jewish, and other "minority" leaders voted into public office, but this hasn't diminished the gang problem.

We now have the biggest prison population in the World, and prisons are a flourishing business‘«™but the gangs haven't died or gone away.

There are gang injunctions, strict parole and probation monitoring, closing of public parks & schoolyards where children play because of the fear of gang congregation‘«™and the gangs are still here.

Turning our backs to the problem and hoping it goes away or affects other people isn't an alternative in the real world‘«™hell, the biggest crimes that have affected the virtual economic collapse of our entire country threatening us with social anarchy were committed by white guys in high places while we turned our backs‘«™not gang bangers.

Locking everybody up only serves to perversely educate, strengthen, and increase gangs as they now congregate in the jails that have become "hoodlum universities", and survivors are "graduating" at an alarming rate, all at taxpayer expense...and coming to YOUR neighborhood soon!

Somebody needs to look at the root and cause of gangs and gang mentality from the gang member's point of view, NOT a privileged intellectual's, in order to understand it, before attempting to deal with it.

‘«™hard to swallow that statement? Not for a lot of people in the know.

Sociologically: People have an urge to belong to something that has some form of social significance in the public's eye‘«™why else do USC & UCLA alumni have all these sweatshirts, window decals, bumper stickers, beanies, baseball hats, license plate holders, and coffee cups indicating where they got their college degree? To most gang members, they deserve the same scorn these alumni give gang graffiti: "Who the hell cares?"

One of the biggest sins in the world (to me) is to teach your children to hate and share that hatred. I remember growing up and trying to fit in with more affluent Latinos or the white kids in my neighborhood in La Puente in the mid-1960's, and some older white kids would tease me as a "wetback", "beaner", or "taco bender", or physically bully me while their parents smirked, giggled and even encouraged this behavior‘«™years later, as I worked to become stronger, school officials just couldn't or wouldn't try to understand why me and my friends were so adept at knocking white guys or "good Latin kids" out on the schoolyard‘«™we were just minimized as "incorrigible cholos" and sent to half-ass continuation schools where education for us was a joke to them, and we had no sports teams or any other diversion‘«™.so we became a feared gang as we joined together to protect ourselves and take "payback" for the inequities that were served upon us when we were younger and more vunerable.

Only the youth social programs of the time saved a lot of us.

Educationally: One of the biggest debt our society is going to have to pay in years to come will be in tears‘«™for the damage and pain wrought upon us all by a mass of under educated adults who will have NO job skills, NO rational understanding of the way society works, and not having enough education, probably NO appropriate social skills , as they seek to undeservedly take without working and paying for, things they need and want. Parents will be hard pressed working or hustling to feed the family, if any exists, and not enough parental guidance and control will be afforded in poor neighborhoods, so the descendants of those suffering now will see to it that we all suffer later‘«™payback is a bitch!

The decision to lay off teachers and cut art, social, and after school programs is one of the biggest and most arrogant mistakes our current leadership can ever make‘«™and there won't be enough gated communities, magnet and private schools, affluent enclaves of the rich and famous, or police with guns & helicopters to protect tomorrow's children and society from today's disenfranchised and deprived youth‘«™and they won't just be one color! Dumb kids can't make it to college‘«™

Financially: White America has tried for years to demonize poor Latinos south of the border looking for a better life here as a threat to our way of life, the stealer of jobs, and the socially inferior that only come to exploit generous public resources (no mention of course, how America has exploited them for cheap labor they can easily abuse and cheat, or as a constant source of ridicule, rejection, and scorn which some pass on to their children in the form of racial intolerance).

Although they have made great strides since slavery, and virtually own the sports and music worlds, African Americans are still viewed with mistrust and contempt by police and are subject to harassment their white counterparts never experience. (Ever see a white kid handcuffed and forced to sit on a curb in public view for a simple traffic stop?) All this has caused some angry memories‘«™

‘«™NOW‘«™the drug world has allowed these two groups to financially flourish better than the states and country that rejected and mistreated them as deprived youth years ago‘«™payback IS a bitch!
It's gonna take more than an army to stop them now!

A lot more young white guys and white girls are joining gangs, becoming involved in drugs, and committing crimes as white role models like Barry Madoff show that crime, NOT education, does pay‘«™even if it's just for a couple of years‘«™

Let me close by again saying this was NOT a piece about color. It was a piece about humanity and the seeds we now have in our hands...and WE WILL reap what we sow!

Years of social and moral neglect, arrogance and greed on the part of our elected leadership and special interests, and the educational, social, and artistic deprivation of the young has brought us to where we are today ‘«™

‘«™and only our youth will be here tomorrow‘«™so we need to get together for their sake and OURS now & today!

Apocolyptic as this piece may sound, remember: gang members, like revolutions, ARE NOT born..they are MADE as a result of poverty, social neglect, rejection, arrogance, deprivation, mistreatment, anger, and a lack of educational opportunities and exposure to art and culture

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