What Side Do You Claim?

By Josh Joh-Jung
New Organizing Project blogger

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Listen closely ya’ll I got a story to tell. So ya’ll should remember last week that I told ya’ll about Chicago’s 16th Annual Korean Festival. Well, if didn’t come, ya’ll missed out on a swagtasticly epic two days. In fact yo’ boy is sore from a Ssireum tournament (Korean wrestling, google it, fun as hell), relived childhood memories with the Nol-Ttwigi seesaw and filled with Corean pride. (no that’s not a typo, look up Korea spelled with a “C”)

But enough of that let’s get to the main point. So who has heard of these guys growing up: Green Dragons, Ghost Shadows, Fuk Ching, Mo Ming Pai, Korean Pride, Born to Kill and White Tigers? Nah? How ’bout to my readers on the West Coast: Asian Boyz, Tiny Raskal, Wah Ching, Vietnamese Boyz, Satanas, Hellside, Bahala Na, Temple Street, Garden Grove Boyz and Sons of Samoa? Nothing?

They are and were some of America’s largest and most well known Asian American street gangs. Today we gonna be looking at Asian American street gangs, why it’s a danger to our youth, and the solution.

Asian American Gangster? You mean a bunch of kids with spikey hair, baggy clothes, speaking ‘ebonics,’ playing gangster thinking they are Mexican or Black by acting this way? For some yeah, but for thousands of others not quite.

‘Josh, how can you tell us about Asian gangs, huh?’ Well cause yo’ boy was in a one from 12 to 16 years old and I can give ya’ll my personal take on this.

 

Why do kids join gangs? And especially why did I join a gang is most likely what you’re thinking. Well to be clear there is a myriad of individual reasons why a person joins a gang. Everyone is different. I can only give you my reason.

For me, it felt like the thing to do. What do I mean? Well, I always got beat up by non-Asian students at school day in and day out because I was Asian. I was constantly harassed to the point where I even wished that I had even been born a different race. I remember telling my mom that I wished I had been born White. But then I seen some of my Asian homies and nobody messed with them. They had it all in my perspective – the brotherhood, the money, the cute girls, the fly clothes but most importantly, respect and power. That’s what attracted me the most.

Now Asian gangs are no different from other ethnic gangs. In fact their origin lies very similarly. Adaptation to a new social environment, prejudice, discrimination, alienation from family, generational gaps between parents and kids, etc. Originally they were set out as neighborhood cliques that wanted to protect each other but then deviated to criminal enterprise preying on their own community committing acts such as home invasions, extortion, drug dealing, pimping, etc.  That is specifically the reason why it poses a danger to AAPI youth.

Like all gangs, they cause grief, agony, violence, widen the gap between communities, further divide generations and the high possibility of incarceration and death. It does not matter if the number of Asian gangs is small. Relative to our community it is large. That is more than reason enough to start acting.

The majority of Asian gangs in the United States are from the Southeast Asian community and the Polynesian community which, as I said before, are typically left with a lack of public and social services, poverty, and lack of opportunities. This, along with racial tension, is the perfect recipe for gang involvement. So how do we stop this Josh?

Gangs won’t ever go away overnight, that’s just not possible. The AAPI community needs to attack the root issue of gang violence and it’s the lack of opportunities, education, and especially guidance. Be an older role model to the youth. Nobody is born bad; somebody was the role model for that person to be hardcore. Have people report crimes that happen instead of bottling it up hoping it’ll go away. Fight to have social services and buildings for youth to redirect their aggression and problems into a more positive manner. Back when I was living in Tulsa I had no access to anything like KRCC, Asian American role models, or even a community center for that matter. The only role model I had was on a freaking TV cartoon! (Which is another topic I’ll address next time 😉 )

Things won’t change overnight and they most certainly won’t change everyone, but if we can implement and put these plans into noticeable action, there will be no need for Asian American Pacific Islander youth to join gangs.

P.S. And just a reminder – no profiling, please. 🙂