Exploiting Scapegoats

Having read the letters by Rowland Anderson and Mark Alvarado in the January 7 Independent, I feel like a broader perspective of gangs is warranted.

There are many reasons that gangs exist. It may be for protection (e.g., Bloods and Crips), territorial power (Jets and Sharks), crime (mafia family organizations), or social cliques (e.g., in schools). These organizing factors may exploit ethnic, racial, cultural, or political divisions, but these factors are not fundamental in understanding why people — especially kids — form gangs. Invariably, gangs enable members to play out power dynamics that stem from psychological needs that are endemic to the human condition.

As such, Mr. Anderson inadvertently exploited a cliché that scapegoats immigrants. His claim that “gangs grow out of the immigrant community, as most do” is patently false. The fact that Xavier Becerra is from an immigrant family does not imply that Mr. Becerra has any special insights into this topic. Nothing Anderson writes about gangs moves the ball forward. But his letter is a good strawman to start a conversation among critical thinkers.

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