Thinking About Why Gang Tagging Still Exists on My Block

It's been another long summer, which on our block means one thing:  tagging on the walls!
And it's not just some crews interested in tagging or doing artistic murals or anything --- it's gang tags, or kids representing a gang that has existed since the 1950s.

On Stop signs, you will see a "CANT" scribbled on top and below the "STOP", you will see the gang's name scribbled underneath, so that Stop Signs around the area read "Can't Stop [Gang Name here]"


 
This morning, I watched the graffiti team sandblast the gang-tagged walls along the street for probably it's thousandth time.  It's the end of July but it's the first time I've seen them all Summer.

Its the first Summer where I've lived here and seen another gang combat the dominant one here.


The tagging has been a persistent nuisance, but I am told by neighbors who have lived here for 20+ years that there was a time when the sandblasters would be painting a wall and a tagger would be right behind them throwing up a tag just minutes after they had finished sandblasting the ball.

That's not the situation now.

But the Summer is when school is out.  Presumably school kids are keeping the wall plastered with their hastily spray-painted insignias representing their gang.

My most immediate neighbors call the current crop of gang taggers "remnants" or "knuckleheads";  the ones who caused all the trouble in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are either dead or locked up.

I don't know any of the kids currently doing any of the tagging, but I was thinking deeply about why these kids (I presume that they have to be kids) felt such a need to continue tagging.

I think of Bambu's Old Man Raps.



I think about who in our neighborhood says anything if at all, and how we seem to let the tagging persist.  I am glad that this appears to be the only issue that I see nowadays.

I realize that there are deeper issues than just tagging.

From my point of view, as an unconnected resident, but a kind of academic, I think it all comes down to individuals recognizing their place in the larger society as being permanently marginal.

 'Permanently Marginal' in the sense their place in larger society can't actually change.  But within their own place in society, they will try to make the best out of what they have (or perceive themselves to have).

Drinking, partying, threatening violence is what they have been, and where they will be.  It's kind of immutable facts of life (which I wonder how much has changed in this age of media 2.0 and the omnipresence of the phones).

I try to imagine what materials and resources they own.  I don't imagine most as home-owners, and I think they're barely making it, probably living with family members.

They probably don't own much other than their reputation, threats to violence, and their outward expressions on the wall.  Their showing of vitality is reliant on vandalizing the public spaces.

The moment they let up their claim of our walls, stop signs, etc., public utilities, it's as if they have let others "win" while their gang has "lost."

I think that as long as their youth (and whomever their elders are) frame what they see as "their" walls, stop signs, public utilities as spaces to claim to show their gang's vitality, it will be an ongoing fight.

I just wish they'd take listen to a former gangbanger from Watts and re-direct their energies and vitalities to other life-building pursuits.

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