The Gangstas in Our Midst

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Abstract

While conducting this ethnography on 50 male African-American gang members, I sought to create a picture of the culture in which these young men existed. Over a two-year period, I observed and interviewed members from such groups as the Bloods, the Crips, and the Blackstone Rangers in order to uncover the values, language, and rituals that defined membership in a gang, as well as the reasons why these males joined these groups in the first place. For the majority of these males, an education was not something that they thought would help them survive in their neighborhoods. One unexpected element that emerged during this project centered on the factors that helped 11 of these gang members begin the process of escaping gang life. What they received from their families, teachers, and peers to help them succeed mirrored the same factors that were often missing in the lives of the other 39 informants.

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