Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Childhood Memory #1: Gangs

'Member the whole 'gangs' thing? The obsession with gangs. The Bloods, the Crips. They were going to take over America or something. They were scary. They were a threat to a civilized nation. Big ol' deal.

I can't remember why they were such a big deal. I guess they promulgated crime by selling drugs and crime and drugs are bad.

Of course I can come up with some kindsa conspiracy reasons like: You make it out that all the youth of color are in gangs and then when the cops and courts do bad things to those kids and their neighborhoods decline and all the rest it just looks like 'the jungle' got them. And no one but themselves to blame.

But I remember never being scared of gangs because we had lots of little gangs in my grade school and those were the kinds of kids I knew that would end up being in the big gangs. They aspired to gang-dom. I think later on the Bloods and Crips came to my town and recruited out of the little gangs but these were little unfamous gangs like the 11th Ave. Locos and the 9th Street Raza. They gave each other little jailhouse tatoos after school. Little crosses with rays of light shining out of them. They were way into sniffing glue out of tube socks. Of course they got stoned but everybody in my school did.

I remember hearing that one of the nicest kids in my fifth grade class--Orlando--ended up on death row. I don't know if that's true. But I do remember that one of the smartest kids--Mario Ruiz--ended up getting shot in the back by some gangbanger at a party in high school.

Maybe later they grew up to be scary. I'm not sure. They weren't scary in grade school, though. It's like when you have slumber parties with someone and then later see them covered with tatoos with two big vatos in a station wagon wearing bandanas then when you hear stories about certain types of people you think: Wait. Those people--they were like Angela or Ernest.

Who knows where they all are now. I hope not in prison. What I remember is that it started out as kids and fashion-chollo fashion. I guess the last time I saw everyone it was still at that stage of the game. I always dream of writing a book about what happened to everyone from my grammar school.

It's the perfect illustration that what determines what happens to you is who your parents are. The kids who went to college were kids whose parents went to college. The kids who ended up working in car washes were the kids whose parents worked in car washes. We were all roughly the same intelligence--some of these kids were the 'smart' kids. But after a certain point that didn't matter anymore.


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