6/29/06

A HOMEBOY'S GANG PARADOX

EVERY HOMEBOY STRIVES TO UNDERSTAND HIMSELF. WHEN A HOMIE LOOKS CLOSELY AT HIS LIFE, HE FINDS THAT THE ISSUES SURROUNDING HIS GANG MEMBERSHIP ARE NEITHER BLACK NOR WHITE, BUT UNCOMFORTABLY GRAY BECAUSE HE IS CAUGHT BETWEEN DILEMMAS AND PARADOXES, ALWAYS TRYING TO BALANCE THE WEIGHT OF THE DAILY STRUGGLES WITH THE LOFTIER IDEALS THAT OFTEN PARALLEL THOSE OF MAINSTREAM SOCIETY. THE ONLY WAY TO ADDRESS HIS MEMBERSHIP IN A GANG IS THROUGH HIS REASON TO BE. THE GANG TO HIM IS A SUPPORT SYSTEM, A NET THAT HOMEBOYS HAVE WOVEN TOGETHER TO KEEP THEMSELVES FROM FALLING INTO A LOWER ABYSS.

IN THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS, GANGS ARE BETTER AT SUSTAINING THEMSELVES THAN THE CURRENT DOMINANT SYSTEM CAN PROVIDE FOR THEM. THE GANGS OFFER A MORE MEANINGFUL, MORE IMMEDIATE, MORE INTENSE AND A MORE CLOSELY FELT RELATIONSHIP THAN WHAT MAINSTREAM SOCIETY CAN OFFER. BUT IN THE PROCESS, THEY’VE CREATED THEMSELVES A FATAL ATTRACTION. EVERY IOTA OF STRENGHT, CREATIVITY, AND SUPPORT INVESTED INTO THEIR SYSTEM ULTIMATELY WORKS TO DESTROY THEM IN SO MANY WAYS, LIKE WHEN TRYING TO GO STRAIGHT AND GET A JOB PUT FORTH IN THE FOLLOWING WORDS OF A HOMEBOY.

"IN GANG LIFE, IT’S HARD FOR A VATO TO GET A JALE, YOU KNOW. IF YOU LIVE LIKE A STRAIGHT CHOLO, THEY AIN’T GONNA HIRE YOU, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? IT’S CALLED DISCRIMINATION, BUT WE CAN’T DO NOTHING ABOUT IT, SEE. BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH … WE DON’T HAVE THE FERIA TO BE, YOU KNOW … PAYING FOR A NICE LAWYER, OR YOU KNOW… “CAUSE THEY CAN GET BIGGER LAWYERS THAT US, SEE. YOU KNOW, THEY’RE MORE SMARTER THAN THAT."

THE INABILITY TO OBTAIN A DECENT JOB TOGETHER WITH THE DRUG ABUSE AND THE VIOLENCE OF THE GANG LIFE STYLE COMBINES TO TAKE A BIGGER TOLL ON A HOMEBOYS LIFE, DENYING HIM EVEN MORE A SHOT AT GOING LEGIT. EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE, SOMETIMES IN REACTION TO A PAINFUL LOSS, A HOMEBOY CAN BE HEARD WHISPERING TO HIMSELF OR SAYING SOME WORDS TO A WILLING LISTENER -- “THE CALLE IS NOT WORTH IT”

WHILE HE GOES ON TO REFLECT ON THE SOCIETY THAT JUDGES HIM FOR THE CANCER WHICH IT HAS IMPLANTED ON HIM AND HIS HOMEBOYS BY ADDING – “YOU KNOW, WHEN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT ATTACKS THE PERSIAN GULF, IT’S CALLED WAR, BUT WHEN WE ATTACK ONE OF OUR ENEMIES, IT’S CALLED MURDER… I DON’T KNOW IF THEY THINK THAT GANG MEMBERS WAKE UP ONE MORNING AND SAY, ‘GOD TODAY I’M GONNA KILL SOMEBODY! IT HAS TO BE MORE THAN JUST THAT … THERE HAS TO BE A REASON, THEY (GOVERNMENT) JUST DON’T WANT TO TAKE THE TIME TO FIND OUT WHAT THE REASON IS. GANG MEMBERS ARE PEOPLE TOO, YOU KNOW … THEY HAVE FEELINGS AND FEARS, AND THEY GET SCARED JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE. THEY DON’T PAY YOU FOR SHOOTING SOMEBODY. YOU KNOW, YOU DON’T GET A MEDAL FOR IT. WHEN I GET OLDER, I DON’T GET A MEDAL FOR IT. YOU KNOW, IT AIN’T LIKE IN THE ARMY OR SOMETHING … IT’S NOT WORTH IT, YOU KNOW? YOU GET SCARS, YOU GET SHOT, AND SOMETIMES YOU BARELY LIVE, YOU KNOW. AND WHAT THE HELL, THEN YOUR FRIENDS GONNA PARTY THE NEXT DAY IF YOU DIE ANYHOW. IF YOU GET KILLED, IT’S LIKE, THEY’RE GONNA LIVE THEIR LIFE, YOU KNOW, THEY’RE STILL GONNA GO ON, YOU KNOW. THEY’RE GONNA FORGET ABOUT YOU, WELL NOT REALLY FORGET ABOUT YOU, BUT IN A WAY, YOU KNOW, THEIR LIFE GOES ON. YOUR LIFE IS UNDER, SIX FEET UNDER. AND IT DON’T GO ON NO MORE. BUT YOU KNOW, THE GANG IS ALSO LIKE THE HOPE THAT KEEPS YOU GOING, BECAUSE I SWEAR TO GOD, IF IT WASN’T FOR GANGS, I BET MY LIFE THAT THE SUICIDE RATE OF YOUNG PEOPLE WOULD GO THROUGH THE ROOF, WITHOUT THE SUPPORT OF THE GANG. I MEAN YOU HAVE A VATO WHO DOESN’T HAVE NO SUPPORT AT ALL. HE FEELS SO ISOLATED THAT HE DOESN’T EVEN WANT TO BE ON THIS EARTH. I KNOW I WOULDN’T, I WAS CLOSE TO IT MYSELF. AND THE ONLY THING I LIVED FOR WAS FOR MY NEIGHBORHOOD. AND TO THIS DAY, THE ONLY THING THAT I DO IS WORK FOR MY NEIGHBORHOOD AND MAKE SURE MY HOMEBOYS STAY ALIVE … A LOT OF THESE HOMEBOYS CAN’T STAND ME, BECAUSE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT I SAY. AND THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND NONE OF THE THINGS THAT I’M PART OF JUST TO KEEP THEM ALIVE, YOU KNOW, SO WE CAN STOP GOING TO FUNERALS. THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT NOW, BUT SOONER OR LATER THEY WILL, YOU KNOW.

THE HOMEBOYS IN THE NEIGHBORHOODS LIVE IN A HEIGHTENED STATE OF PARADOX. THEIR GANG ACTIVITIES ARE SIMULTANEOUSLY THEIR GREATEST STRENGHT AND THEIR GREATEST WEAKNESS. THIS CONTRADICTION IS NOT LOST TO THEM AND IS REFLECTED IN SO MANY ASPECTS OF THEIR SUB-CULTURE SUCH AS IN THEIR ART WITH THE “SMILE NOW, CRY LATER” MASKS OF COMEDY WHICH DEFINES THEM IN AN IRRECONCILABLE LIFE DILEMMA. THE HOMEBOYS ARE ACUTELY AWARE OF THE CONTRADICTIONS WHICH RULE THEIR LIVES. THEY LOVE THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS, AT THE SAME TIME REALIZING THAT THEIR LOVE SOMETIMES RESULTS IN NEEDLESS TRAGEDIES. THEY REALIZE THEY WOULDN’T HAVE TO SUFFER SUCH HARSH CONSEQUENCES HAD THEY HAD OTHER OPPORTUNITIES. MOST HOMEBOYS WOULD JUMP AT THE CHANCE TO GO “LEGIT” FOR THEMSELVES AND FOR THEIR CHILDREN-EVEN TODAY, WHEN THE GANG SYSTEM IS ALREADY SO WELL ENTRENCHED.

From the book "WALLBANGING"

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