Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Causes of Youth Gang Culture

Sarah Garland maintains that the roots of recent gang violence can be located in the income disparity and ethnic segregation of the last twenty years, not in immigration:
The immigrants were following jobs, which proliferated in the booming economy of the 1990s, and their presence helped to buoy the country's prosperity. They came to work, and the United States needed their labor. Some took jobs in manufacturing and agricultural processing in new growth centers like North Carolina and Tennessee. Others were drawn to construction work as the housing industry exploded. Many had plans to stay, and those who came legally applied to become U.S. citizens in large numbers.

Although the country was enjoying an economic boom, it was reaching levels of income inequality not seen since the first half of the 20th century. Communities and schools across the country, especially suburban ones, were becoming more racially segregated, and the opportunities the immigrants came searching for were increasingly elusive. The first generation of Hispanic immigrants on Long Island, many with battle scars from wars back home, found their presence was not just unwelcome but infuriating to many of their new neighbors -- some of whom aggressively campaigned to send them back home. Others reacted violently. Nationally, hate crimes against Hispanics rose 40 percent between 2003 and 2007. Immigrants on Long Island were victims of regular attacks that included the 2003 firebombing of a Mexican family's house and the 2008 fatal beating of an Ecuadorian man. The immigrants' children attended schools and played in streets as segregated as the Jim Crow South, and the racial achievement gap between the races, particularly for Hispanic students, was widening.

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