World of Gangs

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Sociology 241
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Question #1: Using Hagedorn’s analysis of the Hamburgs, and the Conservative Vice Lords in Chicago, and the Crips and Bloods video’s analysis of gangs in LA, discuss how Hagedorn’s concept of demoralization, and Cornell West’s concept of nihilism, have an objective basis in the historical structure of Chicago’s and LA’s racism.

In John M. Hagedorn’s book A World of Gangs he states, “An increasingly frustrated and demoralized population will reluctantly turn to armed non-state actors who can provide security of a sort, a sense of identity, perhaps the sole local supply of jobs, and rudimentary services that the state cannot or will not offer” (Hagedorn p. 21). This notion is supported when one analyzes and considers the story of the Hamburg’s and the Conservative Vice Lords of Chicago. Consider the following; during the industrial era many newly freed slaves of the South moved North into industrialized cities looking to build a better future, rather than having their kids become accustomed to the same racism they dealt with day in and day out in the South. At that same time, many ethnic white people that were native to the same industrialized cities in the North were drafted to the military and sent to war (WW2). The void left by the white men going to war opened up many jobs for the new comers from the South, and brought them what they came for, a better life. However, when the war ended and soldiers returned to their homes they were furious when the saw that African Americans had taken their jobs. Believe it or not, this ultimately led to the birth of gangs in the North. It started with the Irish, who were the first to establish a prominent political/street or “a civic minded” gang called The Hamburg’s. They quickly re-dominated the job market once again, through political solidarity and conventional resources. This left the once employed African Americans to be confined to their ghettos and jobless. The blacks thought if the Irish could solidify and take over the city then why couldn’t they do the same? Blacks tried to unify a base and created their own politically and civic-minded organization called the Conservative Vice Lord (CVL) program. They Elected leaders of their group and became affiliated with politics. They figured that since they were following in the footsteps of the Hamburg’s, the Irish would welcome them in with open arms and “hugs” and “kisses”, but they were very wrong. “…it sure wasn’t hugs and kisses that made up the machine’s (Hamburg’s) response; it was war” (Hagedorn p. 78). The CVL were quickly shot down because the Hamburg’s were in every position of power and influence that controlled the city, as well as the CVL’s once all-powerful political leaders, even though they were in it to do good deeds for their community, were gunned down or locked up. The Hamburg’s, then systematically also cut off all funding to the institution, and methodically began the process of demoralizing the CVL. Without financial aid from the government and lack of jobs in the community the CVL could only turn to illegitimate, illegal and sometimes violent means to support their club. It started with drug sales outside of the vice lord’s community, they wanted to protect their neighborhoods and their own kin. That was the case for a short period of time. Soon enough, the drug sales found their way back home and black ghettos became filled with drug enterprises distributing all over their own turf. People in their community started to become users and this led to dysfunctional families where the mom is a drug addict and dad is in jail for being apart of the gangs that distribute and make their money off of the only line of work that was available to them. With the drug game being dominated primarily by males, women sought income too by selling their bodies to prostitution. That said, the economic factors were not the primary drivers of CVL into the drug business,...
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