Los Angeles Gangs and the American Dream
The inner city neighborhoods of Los Angeles are mostly lived in by African-Americans and Hispanics. Since 1970, street gangs have controlled these urban areas of Los Angeles, moving quickly to create illicit economies based on drug trafficking and other illegal activities. Sociologists like William Julius have labeled the denizens of the American ghetto as “the truly disadvantaged” due to the extremely limited opportunities available to them in neighborhoods that normally have failing schools, no access to jobs or training, healthcare facilities that are outdated and over-capacity, and where social services are limited. In some cases, gangs that have long been maligned may even present services to the area in the form of supporting the local economy and preventing external gangs from terrorizing the ghetto’s occupants. While gangs definitely present issues in Los Angeles’ inner city, it is very important to consider that they may be one of the few ways for the gang members to achieve the American Dream.
In Los Angeles, the formation of street gangs has increased at a steady pace. The Bloods and the Crips, the most well-known gangs of Los Angeles, are predominately African American, and they have steadily increased in number since their beginnings in 1969. In addition, there are over 600 active Hispanic gangs in Los Angeles County with a growing Asian gang population numbering approximately 20,000 members (Gonzalez, 1981). Sociologists studying the Los Angeles area point to three significant periods relevant to the development of the contemporary black gangs. The first period, which followed WWII and significant black migrations from the South, is when the first major black clubs formed. After the Watts rebellion of 1965, the second period gave way to the civil rights period of Los Angeles where Blacks, including those who were former club members who became politically active for the remainder of the 1960s....
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