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Skinheads in the Antelope

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    William Finnegan”s essay “The Unwanted” explains the history and make-up of the Antelope Valley and then explores the lives of some teenage citizens in order to discover reasons that two rival gangs have such a significant role in the community and on its people.

    Absent parents and lack of education are just two factors facing teens that ultimately led the Los Angeles Suburb into becoming a society where Skinheads and Boneheads are a norm and accepted as a part of everyday life. C.Wright Mills” idea of the sociological perspective, looking past the facades, is useful when analyzing the micro; individual, and macro; broad, causes of teens becoming skinheads. Each day America seems to become more and more diverse.

    Some people learn to accept the fact that America is made up of many different ethnic groups, while others believe the only ethnic group should be their own. There are various reasons for discrimination and it is a very controversial issue. In Finnegan”s article he describes two gangs with opposing views concerning racism and how each group expresses their beliefs.The racist and anti-racist beliefs don”t always end at the individual.

    Death is an all too common end and when an opinion becomes life threatening a problem arises. According to Finnegan, one of the two major gangs that occupy the streets of Lancaster and the Antelope Valley is, “a white-supremacist skinhead gang, the Nazi Low Riders N. L. R.

    “s” and the other is, “their rival gang of anti-racist skinheads, the Sharps” 1998, p. 88. One major quality the two gangs share is their lack of education.Most, if not all, of the teens Finnegan interviewed, dropped out of school, even though later some used other means of getting a high school diploma or acquiring a higher education.

    Also it appears both gangs tend to resolve their issues with violence. Most people would agree that some violence is in everyone, but it seems that well educated people often find other means to conquer their problems or go about solving them. Through history knowledge has proved to be an unavoidable part of life. As children in the community began dropping out of schools in vast numbers these kids were forced to, willingly or not, gain knowledge elsewhere 1998.

    A macro cause for the growing numbers of students dropping out of school and joining the gangs, could be that the ideas and values of those gangs quickly spread through the streets and classrooms. This Leads the teenagers to make decisions about wether or not they agree with the beliefs of the N. L. R.

    “s or those of the Sharps. Often if the students disagree, they join the Sharps, and if they agree they join the N. L. R.

    “s. The ideas and values associated with the N. L. R.

    “s seem to be very similar to that of the Ku-Klux-Klan K. K. K..

    Which suggests that the K. K. K. ay have had something to do with the establishment of the N.

    L. R. “s.Using Charon”s definition of culture and counterculture, a group that opposes the values and mores of its culture, we might conclude that the K.

    K. K. is a counterculture, in the sense that it has its own idea”s, values, morals, norms and customs. Thus, the N.

    L. R. “s can be considered a subculture, or runoff, of the K. K.

    K. Charon 1998. Now I will examine some micro causes of Lancaster children dropping out of school. Absent parents may have been a cause for children to look to their peers for answers instead of adults.

    For example Mindy Turner”s widowed mother worked at Thrifty Drugs to support three kids. Subsequently she was unable to devote much of her time to raising them Reader 1998. Mindy”s case is very common in the Valley. Many of the parents there either were divorced, abusive and or had to travel and work long hour jobs Reader 1998.

    Whatever it is that causes teens to drop out of school, the fact is, as long as conditions there persist, the number of dropouts is sure to continue rising, thus leading to a larger problem with the N. L. R. “s and Sharps.

    Using an idea of C.Wright Mills that “the individual must first find their own place in society in order to understand their place in history,” I have come to conclude that it”s possible the members in the Antelope Valley gangs identify ! themselves through their subculture. Subcultures define several of the individual values and beliefs of its members they are led to understand that their place in society is serving their “gang” and their place in history is in accomplishing the goal of that gang Ferguson 1996. All through time people have used symbols to express themselves and communicate Charon 1998.

    The N. L.R. “s and Sharps use tatoo”s, hair style, labels, slang, objects, actions, clothing, body language and much more to express themselves Reader 1998.

    Another macro reason teens might choose to join one of these gangs is, because at this age people often feel the need to identify with something. The kids of the Antelope Valley may have many reasons for choosing to identify themselves through one of these gangs. Their reasons may include: security, friends, boredom, fun, to have somewhere to go after school, or maybe because some felt they weren”t excelling in academics, sports or anything else.According to Finnegan, Mindy Turner and other gang members soon realized that they were trapped in the gangs, making it hard to escape.

    Mindy first joined the Nazi Low Riders when she was in her teens, then soon realized that she better identified with the Sharps, so she left t! he N. L. R. “s to become a Sharp.

    In doing so, Mindy was not accepted completely by either gang and she was labeled a “race traitor” Reader 1998. With acceptance playing such a huge role in every human life, especially that of children, it is difficult for most gang members to do what Mindy did.Acceptance isn”t the only thing that threatens the gang members and “traps” them in the gang, though. Other factors are the threat of force, social stigma and desire to conform.

    We are able to see the entire process that these teens seem to be going through, with Charon”s theory that, “humans interact and develop a shared perspective, leading them to use that perspective in situations, such as, to interpret their experience and what they are taught” 1998, p. 103. The lack of education and absent parents seems to lead the children to each other for answers. The N.

    L. R. “s seem to use what they learn from each other when they see people of another race walking the street. They might decide to beat up the person possibly in an attempt to drive him or her away.

    Then with the out come of their actions they are able to interpret, well or not, what they have learned from each other and their experiences. Fighting with and hurting others is common in many gangs. It sometimes ends in the death of one or more people. Finnegan”s essay describes a situation where a member of each of the two gangs fought and one teen ended up dying.

    The boy who lived was never put in jail for murder. Finnegan”s description of the situation made it appear that a lot of the non-gang members in the valley shared the view that it”s just another skinhead off the street Reader 1998. In Donna Gaines essay “Teenage Wasteland” she writes about the history and biography of teens who have committed suicide. In her essay some people described the suicide victims as “burn-out”s” and seemed fine with the fact that they killed themselves Furguson 1996.

    This also appeared to be how the gang fight death was dealt with. Few people showed interest in the skinheads” death or in prosecuting his killer. Ending the Skinhead culture and keeping kids in school would be a difficult and nearly impossible proce! ss. By identifying the chief sociological causes, however, one might be able to make an attempt to change some of the economic, scholastic and family issues in order to generate a positive difference and slow the dropout rate as well as the numbers of Skinheads in the area.

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