Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Not Just Gang Members, Human Beings

This weekend I watched the documentary Crips and Bloods: Made in America, and let me tell you...I cried. I'll explain.

See, I'm of the school of "Don't give the cops a reason and you'll be FINE" and have never really put any credence in the ghetto mentality of The Man keeping "us" down. I grew up in the ghetto in the heart of the crack era and it didn't keep me down. I always joke about The Man, but I've never considered him a real threat.

Enter this fakakta documentary.

I was sitting there listening to these former and current gang member discuss their experiences and world views and you know what? I get it. If I had been told, at any point in my life, that I couldn't do something just because of the color of my skin or because of where I live, I would be bitter, too. If I had been stopped by the police everyday just for not being in my own neighborhood, I'd be angry, too. If my neighbors and kids were being gunned down in the street everyday while the cops did nothing to really prevent it, I'd feel hopeless, too. And if my environment offered no opportunities to better my situation, I'd give no fucks about life, too.

And if there was no one around to tell me about my options, offering me a way out, and only found comfort and protection from a local gang, I'd see no problems with making violence my way of life, too. I'd barely feel human!

These are young men and women being born into and growing up in a culture of constant harassment and poverty and depression, contained by invisible walls. And just outside that wall is freedom and happiness, but god forbid you cross the wrong street.

One former gang member said it best, when discussing the Watts and LA riots, stating that the police and National Guard didn't scare them because they were used to a cycle of guns and violence every damn day. The riots were just an extension of that. I couldn't even imagine that kind of life. I could hold back my tears no more.

The documentary did highlight the grassroots efforts afoot to help get these kids off the streets and out of the cross-hairs of the LAPD, and it did offer some hope, but without the backing of city, state and federal officials and funding, it's barely a drop in the bucket.

Toward the end, one former Crip, in an effort to reach the young gang members, looks into the camera with tears in his eyes (so of course by now I'm inconsolable) and says:
"Your reward for gang-banging is to be crippled, lamed, for life. Your greatest reward is life, plus forty years. Your ultimate reward for gang-banging is death. And you don't come back from that."
But after watching the documentary, though, I have to ask...what if death is better than what you have to come back to? Wouldn't gang-banging be a walk in the clouds?

*smooches...finally getting it*
also, fuck the PO-lice!