Kids & Parenting
The Gang Line Series Part Nine
by Mike Ramey
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Tip From The Old School: School uniforms may add to gang problems rather than prevent them. It is up to PARENTS to show up at local school board hearings and get the full facts on school uniform choices BEFORE school officials make decisions.
Modern street gangs are composed mainly of teens that underestimate their worth to themselves, to their families, and to the society at large. This is the way gangs want it, and this is the danger that the government, public nor church seems to want to see. Of course, since teens are vulnerable to wrong decisions--as they are teens--Madison Avenue is more than happy to extract a buck from your child’s body and/or corpse.
If this sound brutal, you are right…but it is still the truth.
If I may get biblical for a moment, there are--in the Scriptures--many solid examples of young people who made a difference in their teens. In current society, there are countless examples of teens having a vision or dream or product idea that was later sharpened and directed with great results. Take away that vision, and you have nothing more than teen lemmings--especially among teens of color.
Businesspeople--Black, Hispanic and white--continue to shout down the potential of many of our youth with the voice of “…you need THIS product to be cool.” I recently stopped by one of my local, storefront “hip hop” clothing stores, just to keep up on the latest fashions. Never did I realize that so much money was being made by “The Tribe Of Dollars”. Hats going for $25 to $50--complete with appropriate gang colors and logos--many of them sports oriented. Oversized “T” shirts being snapped up for $10 a throw. Plus, what thugg (my personal spelling choice) of the future would not be complete with the various belt buckles, cash wads (yes, they DO sell them--LOL), plus jeans, jackets and jerseys--right down to ‘Lil G’ sizes.
It costs a lot to slouch into the criminal look, these days.
Here’s another one: local gas stations has become a boutique of sorts for gang wear. Some of them sell the oversized T-shirts, bandanas, and other assorted gang wear at lower prices…but cheaper quality. Gas stations have to be diverse to make a buck from the gang crowd in more ways that one. A few years back, blunting became the rage. A blunt is a cigar that is center filled with marijuana by an individual in order to mask the smell of weed. (Unfortunately, because of the make-up of the cigar in the first place, the weed tends to stay in the system longer, thus ensuring positive drug test results). Many gas stations were reluctant to sell cigars--but more and more ‘local customers’ demanded them. With a shrug of the shoulders, large and small cigars became a part of the inventory at many stations.
LOOKING FOR BACKBONE AMONG THE UPRIGHT:
One of the rules of the street gang life: One has to maintain a certain style, or profile in order to be in with their peers. Even IF that style could get one killed either deliberately, or by accident by being worn in the wrong place at the wrong time.
While the Rap/Hip Hop industry has been experiencing plummeting sales for the last five years, sales of jerseys, caps, and T-shirts have been climbing upwards. The ‘dream machine’ of cable, HD, Hollywood, and various and sundry television and movie shows have been developing and releasing a constant stream of youth clad in gang colors past many pairs of anxious eyeballs. Though the public has put up some small amount of protest, the media kabal continues to push--in 24 news cycle fashion--those items that ‘makes’ one ‘hip and happening’. Even the latest video games have the inclusion of character bad guys--mainly Blacks or Hispanics--clad in what the entertainment industry ‘believes’ to be gang attire based upon their focus groups and field research.
Pro sports has been putting up a ‘mild’ protest about how some gangs have been using their merchandise as a means of ‘flagging loyalty’ to their local gang or crew.
I’ve yet to see the NFL or NBA sue MS-13 over how they use team jerseys.
IT IS ALL ABOUT THE CASH:
School corporations have instituted school uniforms--with the parents paying the tab--in order to ‘cut down’ on school gang violence (that is, IF they admit they have such problems). Unfortunately, many of the color schemes are already established gang color patterns. Be sure to thank your local school corporation if your teen is recruited into a faction of the Vice Lords or BGDs on school property because of their uniforms. Oh, yes; it also seems that previously 'banned' clothing items like hoodies and caps are now being allowed back in--IF students buy them from their school corporation instead of at the mall.
They even come complete with school color and school logos.
But I digress.
To subsidize evil is to allow it the grace to expand. Gangs, since 2001, have been steadily expanding from the back alleys, into the malls, sport teams, and schools with little admission as to their existence…until one turns on their nightly news.
The quest for coolness--even with a high price tag--silences many objections.
Now, I realize that there are those who may think that I am making too much out of nothing. Sagging pants, gang handshakes, colors and Hip Hop/Rap music are ‘just teen rebellion’. What’s the harm, right?
You see, the same people who make such statements are the same ones who ignore the fact that their own teens are wearing the same fashions and mimicking the same behavior. They would rather duck behind gated communities, padlocked mailboxes and quickly lock their doors when one of OUR teens come near their cars. All of a sudden, the ‘compassionate’ expect the police to ‘roust’ potential gang members away from them and their families because of their ‘looks’. Meanwhile, it is perfectly ‘natural and okay’ for the ‘marauding marketing mobsters’ to pour their wares into the eager brains of our youth.
They don’t have to attend funeral--only board meetings.
PARENTS: SEND A STRONG FINANCIAL MESSAGE!
I feel it getting awfully quiet out there at this point in my column, but I’d like to remind parents that they can VETO the bad financial choices of their teens by NOT contributing to the madness.
Yes, I can fondly remember my days of ‘teen rebellion’, and it is true that what you do as a child does ‘force you to come around’ when you grow up and become a parent yourself. You remember and reflect upon the ‘money motive’ of those in the advertising game when YOU were a teen. You also tend to get a little irritated in the way that MP3s, downloads, Ipods and photo/phone/text messaging systems bring teens unapologetically into a 24/7 marketing blitz that never seems to leave them (or parents) alone.
I am also aware that not every child who dresses up in today’s fashions are gang members…but I would also like to make you aware of the fact that at two o’clock in the morning, when a suspect is being sought by police, clothing DOES count!
Let us remember parents--single, married, and extended--WE control the purse strings and have the mandate to teach our young and teens the difference between style and being hustled by Madison Avenue and the mall. No matter how much a teen may ‘whine’ about wanting the ‘coming thing’, it is up to the adults in their lives to explain the differences between good choices and deadly consequences. Truly, there IS a lot more at stake than one may think, and the “The Tribe Of Dollars” won’t cry one tear IF you don’t do your job. Neither will they attend your child’s funeral IF they get happen to get caught in the wrong clothing in the middle of a gang shootout.
See you next month.
MIKE RAMEY is a Street Gang Specialist, consultant, trainer and Lead Instructor of THE GANG LINE, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. If you have questions, comments, or would like to have him speak at your school, church or facility; OR train your group, ministry or agency on how to spot/stop gang activity, email RameysGangLine@yahoo.com ©2008 Mike Ramey/Barnstorm Communications International.
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