By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, M.Ed.
“One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek. but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It broke my heart to hear about the Lamar High School student who was shot to death outside of his school. It has been said that his death was gang related. According to the United States Department of Justice, “most participants in gang crimes tend to be young, male and either Black or Hispanic.” Why is this?
In addition, according to the National Gang Center, there was a yearly decline of gangs from 1996 until 2003. After that, the number of gangs increased significantly, and as of 2012, it was estimated to be 30,700 gangs. There is so much going on in the world, and the sad part is, we don’t hear about everything that is happening.
There are many things that go unsaid or even unreported. Our youth are faced with so much on a day-to-day basis, and keeping them safe should be a priority. So why do many young people join gangs?
When speaking with a deputy investigator, it was expressed that they join gangs for three reasons: being a product of their environment, joining for protection and for some, it’s due to issues with low self-esteem. When kids are a product of their environment, it means that the cycle is just repeating itself.
These kids have been around the violence and statistically are more likely to join gang activity because of their surroundings. This is not the case for all kids, but for many. Further, joining a gang for protection is something kids may do in order to feel safe from the world. A gang may be a comfort for them; the closest thing to a family, some may ever know or experience.
Last but not least, being a part of a gang may boost their self-esteem because it gives them something to feel good about because they belong. Whatever the reason may be, many of our youth are losing their life due to gang affiliation, and it is important that we make sure they are safe.
There are some ways to make sure that our youth are staying out of trouble. The first thing is to keep them active. Kids should be involved in sports or even some type of club or organization. They can even participate in a hobby they enjoy, which keeps them occupied. Keeping them active can help them stay out of trouble.
The second thing that can help is to constantly supporting them. Many times, kids get in trouble because they don’t have any support to help guide them and encourage them along the way. As an educator, I have seen the difference between kids who comes from a home with support and kids who have no one in their corner.
The difference is significant in how the student behaves, performs in school and even how they view themselves. Lastly, we have to be honest with our kids and expose them to the realities of the world. As much as we would like to shelter our children from the evil doings of the world, we can’t. We have to inform them of such things like gangs, and the consequences thereof.
The deputy investigator I spoke with sees a lot on a daily basis. One of the things he mentioned was that kids should be informed of what they put on social media, and should be careful about what they view as far as celebrities, etc. Everything they see on television, social media, or what they may hear in music may not all be true. The deputy investigator did give some advice to the youth which is to “stay as far away from gangs and cliques…stay to yourself, and learn that life is really about struggling, making career decisions, overcoming adversity and putting yourself in the position to be successful.”