We will compare and contrast different components of culture within a family unit and a street gang to see if they are very much different, or basically the same in their components of culture. Each group has components used to comprise their culture. In order to compare and contrast these components, we must first identify them. We will start with a family unit.
- Symbols – Each family unit has symbols that help identify them. Our surname can be thought of as a symbol of identity. Many people proudly have them engraved, or painted onto items, thereby identifying the family unit into which they belong. Some families even have crests and coat of arms that go way back in history, identifying their origins.
- Material objects – Most families strive to own material objects that they prize. A nice car, a fast boat, spacious house to live in. Many work long and hard to afford these things.
- Language – Families use a certain style of talk or “pet” phrases that can identify them as belonging together. Maybe they say, “and everything” after almost every sentence. They pass this habit down to their children and each generation finds themselves saying it.
- Behavior – Family behaviors vary widely from one family to another. Some families are known for their warm smile or cheerful disposition. Others may be known as grouchy complainers. Nevertheless, they are all behaviors that identify who they belong with. Street gangs also have components of culture.
Let us now look at those:
- Symbols – Street gangs have a wide variety of well know symbols they use to identify them. It could be a certain color shirt or cap worn, a cap worn at a certain slant, specific hair style or color streaked into it, bandanas worn in various places and ways.
- Material objects – Gangs “work” hard to obtain very nice things. Usually, this “work” is dealing drugs where a lot of money is made fast, but dangerously. Another way is to simply “help” yourself to what you want, in other words, steal it. You can often find gang members driving cars they should never be able to afford except that drugs pay well.
- Language – Street gangs have their own lingo or style of talk. To those on the outside, it may seem as though they are speaking a foreign language. This talk helps preserve their unity and draws them together. It also identifies their membership into a particular gang.
- Behavior – Gang behaviors are well known. Much of it involves violence, street wars and selling drugs. Now that we have identified their cultural components, we can already see they have similarities.
They both have the same components of culture, but they each use them in different ways to meet their needs. We will now look at three ways family units and street gangs differ. They are:
- When it comes to symbols, families usually view this as nostalgic, something to be cherished from generation to generation. Gangs, however, view them as power. Being identified by their symbol instills fear in those they meet. This fear in turn provides them with power otherwise not possessed.
- Although both “work” hard to get their possession, they definitely do not go about it in the same way. For the most part, families come by their items fairly and honestly. Street gangs very rarely do. They may even kill in the process of getting what they want.
- The vast majority of families have behavior that is not violent. Members of the family would not dream of hurting or killing a member of the family, no matter what the reason is. Not so in a street gang. If a member feels threatened or betrayed by another, it is not unheard of for them to beat or kill them. You may have noticed I left out language in my list of differences.
I do not find there to be a great difference. Both groups are identified by the language they use in much the same way. Just as most people do, I gave little consideration to the similarities family units have with street gangs in the component of culture. It came as a surprise to me that there are so many. However, the similarities become insignificant when looking at the differences. Families try to build up and encourage good within their family, whereas gangs use violence and intimidation to get what they want and need.