Many of the first street gangs in the United States were formed in the belief that there is strength in numbers which will allow members to defend themselves in case of any problem. However, with time, the scope of the street gangs expanded and they started participating in violent criminal activities, stealing, extortion and drug trafficking among other offenses (Delaney, 2006). The activities of gangs, how they are formed, and why the youth join them have been portrayed in various films. One such film is Boyz n the Hood written and directed by John Singleton. The film focuses on African American youth living in an urban community and constantly struggling with gang violence in the neighborhoods.
The film begins with eye-opening statistics that show homicide rates among young African American men. Apparently, gang killings are common in poor African American neighborhoods in urban areas. Such neighborhoods have certain street rules that residents have to follow to survive (Anderson, 1994). When one breaks these rules, then there are consequences that may take many forms including physical violence and death. Therefore, all families in such neighborhoods strive to teach their children to know the rules of the street, with the reasons for acquiring such knowledge depending on the type of family.
Families in poor African American urban neighborhoods are normally categorized into two; the decent families and the street families (Anderson, 1994). Decent families try to bring up their children so that they embrace good morals, know the rules of the street so as to avoid trouble at all costs, and grow to be responsible adults. They have hope for their children thus schooling is an important aspect for them. In the film, it is evident that Tre Styles father, Jason Styles, does whatever it takes to prevent him from any street related trouble. In one scene, he tries to convince his son not to get involved in the revenge plan on the gang that killed his friend and maternal half-brother of Doughboy, Ricky (Boyz n the Hood, 1991). Despite the advice, Tre goes on to join Doughboy and his gang for the vengeance mission. However, as they drove around the city, Tre realizes that his father was right and gets out of the car to return home so that he cannot fall into the cycle of gang violence common in the neighborhood. Eventually, the good parenting of Jason Styles was worth it as the film ends when Tre and his girlfriend Brandi go on to attend college after resuming their relationship.
Street families, on the other hand, bring up their children in a setting dominated by aggressiveness, violence, and self-reliance at an early age (Anderson, 1994). The contrast between decent families and street families is evident when comparing the life of Tre and Doughboy. While Tre wanted a good life away from the violence common in his neighborhood, Doughboy preferred a life of crime and violence. He had no father to teach him valuable life lessons. He was in a gang and was once arrested with his friend Chris after stealing at a local store (Boyz n the Hood, 1991). Apart from arrests that frequently occur in such neighborhoods, having an association with a gang is bound to bring trouble at some point (Delaney, 2006). Despite Ricky being involved in school sports that he saw as the means to get out of the miserable life, he is gunned down due to his relation with Doughboy. The death of Ricky results in a vengeance mission by Doughboy and his gang. It is common for gang members to confront and kill each other as a way of revenging or gaining respect (Miller, Maxson, & Klein, 2001). Due to Rickys death, Doughboy executes Ferris and another member of his gang as vengeance for his brother. After taking the life of somebody else for reasons they view valid, gang members live on the edge ready to die anytime (Anderson, 1994). Such is evident in the film as Doughboy tells Tre that he knows his reasons for abandoning the gang during the mission and that he is ready to accept the consequences of his action (Boyz n the Hood, 1991). The epilog reveals that Doughboy is killed two weeks later after attending Rickys funeral.
The gang-related violence and killings in poor African American urban neighborhoods call for constant police monitoring. Despite the police trying to maintain law and order, most residents despise the police as they may not respond to their calls urgently (Anderson, 1994). In one scene of the film, Tres father tries to shoot a burglar who was trying to steal from his house (Boyz n the Hood, 1991). Police arrived an hour later when the thief has already escaped. With such services, residents may end up taking the law into their own hands so as to protect themselves from gangs and other criminals. Police seem not to take it seriously the calls of residents when they have not witnessed the crime themselves. However, they may prevent criminal activities when they witness it through the constant patrols in such neighborhoods. The constant patrols are evident in another scene of the film where Brandi, Tres girlfriend, finds it difficult to study due to the constant police helicopters patrolling the area (Boyz n the Hood, 1991).
Gangs among poor African American urban neighborhoods are common. Youth may decide to join gangs due to various reasons. Some of the reasons include poor parenting, poverty and peer influence. The gangs fight constantly with one another and killing becomes a common occurrence in these encounters. Innocent people may be killed due to them being associated with one or more members of the gang in one way or another. Though the gang violence and criminal activities are prevalent in such neighborhoods, some youth pursue education, sports, and other positive activities in order to get out of that misery. Those who remain in the gangs live on the edge ready to die anytime. Boyz n the Hood indicates the gangs, violence, raw nerves and other struggles that poor African American youth in urban neighborhoods face in their daily lives.
Anderson, E. (1994). The code of the streets. Atlantic Monthly, 273(5), 81-94.
Boyz n the Hood [film]. (1991). South Central Los Angeles, California.
Delaney, T. (2006). American street gangs. Prentice Hall.
Miller, J., Maxson, C. L., & Klein, M. W. (2001). The modern gang reader. Los Angeles, Calif, USA: Roxbury Publishing Company.
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Racial and Ethnic Makeup of a Gang. (2019, Nov 25). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/racial-and-ethnic-makeup-of-a-gang
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