Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A Culture of Fear and the Gangs of Memphis

Some of these comments are ridiculous. I hate how reactionary people are, how they suddenly have an opinion before they have real data to back it up.

Gangs are everywhere. People just want to move away from the bad stuff, but there's always more bad stuff. Cordova High School was a Shelby County school last year. Now it's part of Memphis City Schools. I know a little more than the average person about the inner workings of this school, and from what I've heard working on the inside a bit, the gang situation has little to do with it being a Memphis City School.

Here's some info I found online about gangs in Memphis:
Gang activity persists as a significant source of crime in Memphis. The Shelby County District Attorney General's Office has estimated that roughly 125 gangs and approximately 10,000 known gang members exist in Shelby County, although Bolden says that the gangs "here are not very well-organized." The Metro Gang Unit, which comprises MPD officers and Shelby County Sheriff's deputies, continues to work to curb gang-related crimes.
There's more info here and general information about gangs here and here. When I did that Ride Along at the end of October, there was a gang expert at Role Call before the shift started. It's amazing how much this guy knew. He knew who was the leader of each gang, where they lived, all kinds of stuff. I couldn't believe they let me stay, although I wasn't taking notes, and I've forgotten the details now. We learned what the disses were for different gangs, what the symbols were, it was an overwhelming amount of information. And it seems a problem that is not solvable.

When schools and health care fail, kids go where they can find love, and sadly, that is often in a gang, or it's from the love of a child they had when they themselves were still a child.

Memphis depresses me sometimes. It seems it can never dig itself out of the hole it's fallen into. Jails can't rehabilitate generational poverty, addiction, hopelessness, and lack of role models. It's like a straight line from slavery to modern day Memphis, and I wonder how much help I am. I do what I can, but it can be defeating. And yet, I frequently have the pleasure of meeting parents who are struggling yet really care about their child, and I have wonderful supervisors who do all they can, given a disaster of a system.

Do what you can, kids. Keep fighting for your lives, your dignity, and your education. I don't want you to end up in jail. Not even for a night.