Wednesday, May 14, 2003

A Memoir About Gangs

I just saw the movie Colors, starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. It's been on my list of movies-to-see for a while.

When the movie came out, my dad was a sergeant in the Long Beach Police Dept. and head of the Gang Detail Unit. I heard about Crips and Bloods all the time. I remember my dad bringing home a drawing some cop made of a big, bad ass looking cop choking a scrawny gangbanger, with the tagline "Get a Grip on a Crip".

I had to deal with gangs too. There were some Latino gangs in my area of Anaheim. Even though we were just in junior high , you could feel the gang presence. I remember having to worry about what colors I wore to school. And getting harassed. And getting really pissed off. By the way, I found this statistic on the web:


From 1985 to 1992, the number of gangs in Anaheim increased by 338 percent while the number of gang members rose 347 percent. Anaheim reported more than 100 gang-related shootings from April through October 1990.

I hated getting picked on during P.E. `cause I was a white boy. What pissed me off more was that my junior high school administration didn't do anything about it. I guess they thought they could ignore it and let punching bags like me just take it. So at first, I did what I thought I could to combat it. I wrote.

I wrote an editorial for the school newspaper about intimidation taking place among students on campus. I was trying to spur on action. All I got was a talking to by the principal saying he was trying his best. Naw. He was a wuss. I forgive him for being a wuss, but he was still a wuss.

So I went to Plan B. I got in a few fights. I could be pushed only so far. One time I tangled up with some punk during drama class. We were practicing for some skit outside. I don't even know what happened. Maybe he said something that just pushed me over the edge. So we were down in the grass, with a bunch of pansy on-lookers just standing there, trying to stay out of our way. I think we got up after fighting a while. And he didn't mess with me again.

I was super glad when junior high was over. I think seventh grade was worse than eighth. In eighth grade, I tried to play the 'popular kid' thing: student body council, newspaper, working the student store, going to school dances. And a lot of hazing and goofing off. With the occasional fight on the side.

By the time I got to high school, the flakes that were marginal gangbangin' hangers-on dropped out of school to be full-time thugs. It's not right to wish `em ill, but I did. I really did. I was glad they were gone. Glad the Asshole Fairy had taken them away. (That's the Angelic Being that conveniently takes assholes out of your life.)

So I watched Colors tonight, and though my life in the Anaheim barrio wasn't anything like that, it still got to me. I hope the gang problem is on the decline. It's such a waste of people's lives, fighting for colors, fighting for the `hood. And all that bullshit.

I hope they all find their way. Those guys that I hated. I don't hate them anymore. I don't know them. But one day, I might meet them. And it's all about reconciliation, right? It's all about peace in the end. And recognizing your brothers. And love, man.

There's something very amazing about grace. Hindsight grace may not be much, but it's a start.

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