Gang Leader for a Day
INTRODUCTION: While reading this book the first thing that came to my mind is how brave Sudhir Venkatesh is to even have enough nerve to walk into the projects in Chicago (Robert Taylor) to ask questions about being black and poor. I could only think of how there was no way I would have been able to do that. The thought of being forced like a hostage to stay there, not even being able to go to the bathroom, not knowing what your fate was going to be, is just unimaginable.
Then when Venkatesh was able to leave and go home, he returned on his own not knowing how they were going to react to his second appearance, blew my mind even more so than going there in the first place. I was surprised when I learned that the gang is a benefit to the community. Even though the gang is also a harm to the community by conducting a drug business there, the gang members also are in charge of protecting the residents and keeping the place in order since the police doesn’t do anything. It seems to me that the projects would be in a worse situation if the gang wasn’t there helping out.
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I feel like this is a community among themselves. They seem to be isolated from the other communities since no one will help them, so they help themselves and one another. It really bothered me that most of the individuals that Venkatesh interviewed lacked a high school diploma. I also found it a little disturbing that some of the gang members went to college and didn’t pursue their careers because they found it impossible to work with white people since they were black. So, they chose to be in a gang, making more money selling drugs and being a gang leader.
It seems to me that the drug dealing is what helps this “community” going. The money that is made from drug dealing is used to pay for car repairs, food, and clothing. Then the residents pay taxes back to the gang for protection. It’s bothersome to me that the gang related drug deals and activities are what keep the projects going, and any disruption in this will have an impact on nearly all the residents in the housing development. This book helped me to realize that there are places like this out there that many, including myself don’t know about.
To be honest I believe most probably would rather not know that they exists. When I hear about gangs I would be the first to admit that all comes to my mind is thieves, drug dealers, and drug users. I have the stereotype of gangs being bad and only out to hurt someone and that they only think of themselves. After reading this book, it made me realize that there may actually be a reason behind everything. In this book they do what they do because they feel as they don’t have any other options. The local authorities don’t want to help, in an emergency situation; the ambulance doesn’t even come over there to help.
So, it leaves them no choice, but to pull together and take care of one another. They have to protect one another. It’s a daily struggle for survival in the housing development projects. After reading this book, yes it made me realize that there may be a reason behind what they do, but I still have the same feelings and opinion toward gangs, which is I don’t like them and they frighten me. I believe there is always another option for survival than selling drugs, but then again this is the opinion of a white female living in Lubbock Texas.