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The Effects of Gangs

The Effects of Gangs

What is a gang? According to Steven Sachs, a probation officer since 1978, it is “a structured, cohesive group of individuals, usually between the ages of eleven and twenty-five, who generally operate under some form of leadership while claiming a territory or turf,” (Sachs XV). Distinctive clothing, the use of special street names, language, symbols and signs, and the committing of organized and spontaneous criminal acts describe some of the characteristics of a gang. Gang members can be male or female, but they are most often male. Jeffery Fagan and Joan Moore, researchers who primarily use self-reports and observations in the field, estimate that female participation in gangs may be as high as 33 percent. In the first national survey that was conducted by Walter Miller in 1975, he estimated that 48 percent of gang members in the six largest cities in the United States were black, 36 percent Hispanic, 9 percent white, and 7 percent Asian. A few years later, in a more extensive survey in nine of the largest cities, Miller found that 44 percent of all gang members were Hispanic, 43 percent black, 9 percent white, 4 percent Asian. Based on these statistics, he speculated that illegal Hispanic immigrants may have contributed to the increasing number of gangs in California (Kinnear 76). Gangs are often rooted in the historical experience of discrimination and economic struggle. White gangs exist mainly to promote and act on racist beliefs, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Skinheads. Black gangs, Blood and CRIP, formed mainly for protection from other gangs. Hispanic gangs like Latin Kings and Sureno are typically concerned with the self-respect and integrity of their neighborhood. Asian gangs including Chinese and Korean are perhaps more organized than the Hispanic or Black gangs and have been associated with gambling, prostitution, and narcotics on a more sophisticated and profitable level than other types of gangs. They are also more mobile (Landre, Miller, Porter 4). As a result of gangs, increased use and dealing of drugs, a person’s sense of belonging to a gang, and gang related crimes have had negative effects on society.

Many of the images of gangs, based primarily on media reports, include the use of alcohol and drugs. People tend to believe that gangs sell drugs to make extra money or even that many of them are structured as mini-corporations and are heavily involved in the drug trade.

censorhf Censorship of Huckleberry Finn

Censorship of Huckleberry Finn

As parents, it is important for you to know what information your child receives, especially in the learning environment of a classroom. The thought of your child reading a racially offensive book is unacceptable. Some people find Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn racially offensive. If you as parents perceive this book to be offensive, it may lead some of you to request that teachers and administrators not allow students to read this book in school. I ask that you consider other options before taking this action. The actual reasons for the censorship of Huckleberry Finn depend on many other factors: fear of uneducated or insensitive teachers leading student discussions, school administrators who wish to avoid controversy and discomfort with acknowledging our country’s painful history.

What some people find offensive about this story is the language Huck Finn uses. In the story, Huck often refers to Jim as a “nigger,” which some groups find unnecessary and reprehensible. In the minds of administrators and teachers, there is an easy solution by using less-controversial books. John Wallace, a school superintendent, writes, “Pejorative terms should not be granted any legitimacy by their use in the classroom under the guise of teaching books of great literary merit, nor for any other reason” (18). Why are we afraid of these “pejorative terms,” instead of explaining to students what they mean and why white people used to use them to address African-Americans? Yet instead of finding out why we worry if the children read a derogative term used commonly over a century ago, we ignore the subject and pat ourselves on the backs for saving children’s minds. Huckleberry Finn addresses topics dealing with race which are still relevant today. We cannot expect to solve the racial problems today by banning literature that deals directly with these issues. Twain writes about a friendship between a slave and a white youth; he demonstrates the lack of reason behind racist thought. These topics are not harmful to African-Americans, and if taught correctly, can be a positive learning experience.

Instead of addressing these issues, administrators often remove the controversial book from the class reading list and replace it with another book. Former Justice William Douglas is noted for his concern with First Amendment freedoms on the Supreme Court. He writes, “The First Amendment does not say that there is freedom of expression provided the talk is not ‘dangerous’.

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