Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Where Gangs Are a Step Up

I have a student from the Hyde Park slum of Boston. He said he was the only young man not in a gang. Each day his grandmother prayed for him when we went out the door, and he prayed thanksgiving when he got home safely. He now has a scholarship to study a world away in lovely Danville. He should be able to graduate and do good things in the world.

His part of town is not the worst section of Boston. Another student of mine had a cousin shot to death in Dorchester. It was the third cousin she had lost that way in a year. When I asked her if she knew why it happened, she sighed and said "Just ... stupidness." The dead man may have said something at some earlier time about a girl. A group of guys walked up as the young man was talking to his pregnant girlfriend and her mother. They beat him up, then shot him. Even with all that information, this murder may remain unsolved, like the others in her family. She said the police and the press are likely to report this as a gang killing, but gangs, she said, are old news in her neighborhood. There used to be gangs, as there still are in Hyde Park. They provided a measure of protection for those in them and order in the neighborhood.

Dorchester has fallen below even the level of gangs. Now there is no order -- all the young men can be assumed to be armed ("have hammers"), and are likely to "roll up" on anyone for any reason or no reason. Dorchester wishes it still had gangs. Now it is just anarchy.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its so interesting that two cultures, say "those living the American Dream" and "those living in the war of the streets" can live so close to one another and do so little to help. I have no clue if gangs are better than a bunch of crazy individuals...but I would expect that those independents can only do so much destruction on their own. Hopefully it will cap out sooner than later.

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Anonymous said...

Per usual, I'm late to the party, but I can't help comparing this entry to Mrs. G's mother's day tribute. One of the the most important things, if not the most important thing to provide our children is safety. Since safety and a steady income generally correlate, tt seems to me that the strongest investment a mother could make in this situation would be to earn enough income to afford a higher rent in a safer neighborhood.

- Stephanie Highley

Gruntled said...

I agree, and would take your comment, Stephanie, a step further. Most of the families in the most dangerous slums are headed by mothers alone. Part of the work of protection that fathers do is to bring in enough income to move his wife and children to a safe neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Yes -- I started thinking about that after I posted. I know this is the ideal, and there are probably reams of sociological analysis regarding why that ideal is so seldom realized in poor families and what can be done about. But what does the individual mother caught in that sub-culture is to do about it (besides not becoming a mother)?

- Stephanie Highley

Gruntled said...

Support her children, against the giant gravitational pull of their peers, to not get pregnant, not get violent, but do finish high school, marry before kids, and get them, the grandchildren, out of there.

from Edinburgh said...

The American Dream so-called was based on belief in God, who held sway over people's raw instincts and ultimately outweighted all varieties of mere peer pressure. Now that sophisticated people of all stripes believe instead in the power of money, this interest in a Higher Power and all its benefits are mostly lost. First there was the idea that gangs and drugs were more useful than faith; now there is the sense that anarchy rules supreme. Arguments in the United States over whether creches, mennorahs and commandments may be on view, or whether Human Rights prevents this, has certainly taken a terrible toll. The ACLU has a great deal to answer for.