In high school, I hung around a group of knuckleheads who were validated gang members. Due to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, I unequivocally denounce any allegation of gang-related affiliation and I won’t identify the particular sets my friends were in.
All the same, I knew people in opposing gang sets and I could freely move anywhere I chose within my hometown, because I didn’t show deference to this or that group. Though labeled “untouchable” by one set, meaning I benefited from protection, I wasn’t in danger of violating established norms when spending time in one neighborhood instead of another.
Following the 1992 Los Angeles (L.A.) riots, two prominent street gangs—the Bloods and the Crips—formed a gang truce in the L.A. neighborhood of Watts. Per one source, “[A]lthough not universally adhered to, [the truce] was a major factor in the decline of street violence in the city between the 1990s and 2010s.”
The man in the mirror got power. It’s now or never, more than ever. Black people have to stick together. But yo, let’s hear it for the Bloods and the Crips. I gots to admit it, y’all brothers did it. I just hope it don’t cease, for the sake of all the homies that’s restin’ in peace.
Having lived in Bomb City at the time of the truce, I didn’t know a single member of a renegade gang who honored the peace treaty. In fact, I heard one knucklehead to whom I was close outright declare, “Fuck a truce, this is EBK!”
According to one source:
Renegade gangs are sets or factions of gangs that [have] split off from the gang and [gone] their own way. They may still ally themselves with certain sets of their original gang but they won’t hesitate to beef with that gang either. All Renegades consider themselves EBK (everybody killer) and some may refer to themselves as “Insane.”
When members of the Bloods and Crips migrated from L.A. in the ‘90s, the rules and traditions of original sets were largely lost. Still, it wasn’t as though some dominant gangs didn’t try to uphold gang cultural norms.
Boom! My homie got shot, he’s a goner, black. St. Louis niggas want they corner back. Shootin’ in snowy weather. It’s illegal business, niggas still can’t stick together. Fuckin’ police got the 4-1-1. That L.A. ain’t all surf and sun, but we ain’t thinkin’ ‘bout the boys. Feudin’ like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.
Per one source, “In a city in which gangs exist but are not firmly established, migrant gang members may act as cultural carriers of the folkways, mythologies, and other trappings of more sophisticated urban gangs.” However, someone with an EBK or ABK (anybody killer) mentality may not be amenable to such cultural influence.
Moreover, gatekeeping—the act of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something—wasn’t solely a set-specific matter. To further complicate matters, some gang activity was racially and ethnically associated.
While the largely black-dominated Bloods and Crips formed a gang truce, there were subsequent efforts to unite Latino gangs, as well. Still, the matter of peace was far more complex than merely dedication to teams red, blue, or brown.
Of this, one source opined, “Without an infusion of jobs […] youths can be expected to slide back into trouble. And without support […] the truce is unlikely to spread beyond South Los Angeles—home to the Crips and Bloods—and into other areas of the county where Latino gangs are based.”
Socioeconomic issues, racial and ethnic matters, and perhaps in-group identity were all so tightly woven and arguably inseparable that the gang truce was an abysmal failure. It wasn’t for lack of trying.
Nonetheless, not only had the sets who were 1,073 miles from L.A. rejected peace, there was no significant decrease in the number of gangs from 1996 to 2012. Today, urban gang warfare continues.
I’m not to ce [be] fucked with, played with, or stepped to, or tripped by a Crip, ‘cause I’m into killin’ Crips, too. Enemy killa, 1-8-7, you want beef? Kelly ain’t down with no muthafuckin’ peace treaty.
Back then, I was taught that Bloods didn’t maintain conflict with other Blood sets, because the motto was “one blood.” However, Crips would fight other Crip sets and EBK/ABK gangsters weren’t easily cajoled into mandated peace talks from a treaty that didn’t concern them.
I’ve seen rival sets ally—combine or unite a resource with another entity for mutual benefit—for little more than profit. If peace talks hampered earning potential, Bloods, Crips, vatos, eses, and carnales in Bomb City weren’t obeying a peace treaty from across the country.
Though not the sole factor, the monetary incentive to continue gang-related activity outweighed whatever benefit peace would supposedly usher forth. It is said that Paul G. Hoffman once stated, “Incentives are spurs that goad a man to do what he doesn’t particularly like, to get something he does particularly want.”
Aw man, goddamn, all hell broke loose. You killed my cousin back in ‘94, fuck yo’ truce. Now crawl yo’ head in that noose, you wind up dead on the news. Ain’t no peace treaty, just peacin’ BGs up to pre-approve.
I suspect that a layperson who maintains an optimistic outlook by question, “Why can’t we all get along? Why wouldn’t everyone want peace? Why can’t we live in world in which there isn’t any conflict?”
As Pollyannaish as this perspective may seem, and despite potential claims of straw-manning, I’ve actually heard people inquiring about the non-utopic state of human nature. Admittedly, I cannot relate.
Rather than violating the is-ought problem—trying to derive an ought from what is—I don’t waste my time demanding from the world that which likely never has been. I don’t expect sustained peace, because I see little evidence of this state of affairs throughout human history.
Understanding Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) as I do, I realize that it isn’t an action that leads to a consequence in regards to self-disturbance. In other words, it isn’t because one gang set doesn’t get along with another set that person X becomes distressed.
Rather, the irrational beliefs person X maintains is what causes an unpleasant consequence. With this beliefs-consequence connection, person X irrationally demands, “People must get along,” and when this belief is violated person X becomes distressed.
The gang truce failed. Perhaps it was always going to fail. If it weren’t the Bloods and Crips battling one another, it would likely be another cast of antagonistic actors who sought to tear one another down.
While the average reader may be unable to relate to the matter of inner-city gang conflict, I imagine most people could identify with the issue of human combat on a global scale. Let’s set aside the red and blue dichotomy—associated with the Bloods and Crips—and examine other in-groups.
Are you familiar with team white, blue, and red, as it relates to Russia? How about team blue and gold, as it relates to Ukraine?
Just as I’ve never been a validated member of any gang or set, I’ve never been a citizen of or supported Russia or Ukraine. As was the case with my former “untouchable” status, I’m unhampered by devotion to either team currently engaged in armed conflict in Ukraine.
Nonetheless, I find it interesting that many of my fellow United States (U.S.) citizens have unabashedly expressed support for Ukraine and advocated funding a proxy war against Russia. Even when concerned parties have attempted to establish a peace treaty, the U.S. seemingly interfered with the process.
Though my knucklehead friends and I didn’t acknowledge the Watts gang truce, we at least had undeveloped brains and the folly of youth as an excuse for our actions. What reason is there for the U.S. to hamper peace talks in Ukraine?
As well, what do U.S. citizens gain from posting yellow and gold content on their lawns, in their social media feeds, on state buildings, and on lapel pins of our nation’s highest level politicians? Game recognize game, and I know gang shit when I see it.
Forgive me an anecdote. I was once able to negotiate a temporary cease fire at the Amarillo Tri-State Exposition/Tri-State Fair & Rodeo. The uniting factor was that both gangs in question hated law enforcement offers (LEOs) more than they did each other.
Brokering a one-time deal that resulted in enemies hugging one another, as though they were related, no one was injured during the intense encounter. Thankfully, none of the sheriff’s deputies who surrounded juvenile gang members needed to intervene.
One may reason that there were three gangs present on that day. Using the Department of Justice definition, a gang is comprised of three or more individuals who collectively identify themselves by a group identity, engage in criminal activity through use of violence and intimidation, and who exercise control over a geographic location.
One may argue that LEOs aren’t engaged in criminal activity, though it would be futile to claim that no LEO individual or organization has ever engaged in such behavior. The main difference between the two criminal youth gangs and LEOs at the fairgrounds was who the law favored.
Nevertheless, there was no special talent used by me on that day. Establishing a peace treaty merely meant finding what either side had in common rather than focusing on dissimilarities.
Similar to my critique of LEOs—of which I became when enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in the field of military police—I now scrutinize U.S. involvement regarding armed conflict in Ukraine. Rather than promoting a peace treaty, it appears as though our nation’s leaders are perpetuating combat.
U.S. support of Volodymyr Zelenskyy is antithetical to our nation’s professed values. I’m talking about a man whose military includes members who use overt Nazi imagery—a fact that one apparent supporter of the war merely dismissed as a “canard.” Gang shit!
Because I don’t want to be accused of hyperbole, I think it’s worth identifying what one source states about dictators—as I’ll number each trait and post corresponding examples concerning dictatorial gang shit:
Dictatorships are often characterized by some of the following:  suspension of elections and civil liberties;  proclamation of a state of emergency;  rule by decree;  repression of political opponents;  not abiding by the procedures of the rule of law; and  the existence of a cult of personality centered on the leader.
Concerning elements one and four, Zelenskyy has been accused of threatening to halt elections until war in his country is over. Also in regards to element one, Zelenskyy has apparently prevented Russian churches from operating in his country and restricted freedom of the press.
If in the absence of other dictatorial elements, Ukraine’s declaration of a state of emergency (2) would be understandable. However, there isn’t an absence of other elements.
Relating to element three, one source reported that Zelenskyy issued a decree “formally declaring the prospect of any Ukrainian talks with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin ‘impossible’, but leaving the door open to talks with Russia.”
Concerning element five, one source reported, “In October 2020, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine stripped the national anti-corruption agency of its essential powers, effectively dismantling the system of publicly accessible asset declarations. The ruling was followed by President Zelensky’s bill to terminate the Constitutional Court’s powers.”
As though the aforementioned evidence isn’t convincing enough, element six has largely been perpetuated by global leaders. One suspects the reader is familiar with the cult of personality centered around Zelenskyy, as he’s continually paraded in front of the world as some form of righteous leader.
While I could conduct a step-by-step analysis of Putin, the legacy media and deranged politicians have spent just under a decade attempting to demonize him with a bogus “Russia collusion” narrative and attempting to blame Russia for all undesirable conditions within the U.S. Gang shit!
Nothing I have to say which doesn’t disparage Putin or Russia will likely be understood by those who thirst for war. Therefore, U.S. citizens who have already pledged allegiance to the blue and gold colors will likely remain unconvinced that their team’s cause is worthy of scrutiny.
Though you may not compare countries being at war to the phenomenon of gang warfare, I’m not as easily deceived. I’ve been in the streets and I served in the military. I know gang shit when I see it.
During the ignorance of my youth, I witnessed significant violence. A temporary gang truce in an L.A. neighborhood over a thousand miles away seemed destined to fail, because perverse incentives kept various gang sets at odds with one another.
Ukraine is a country in Europe. It exists next to another country called Russia. Russia is a bigger country. Russia is a powerful country. Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine. So, basically, that’s wrong, and it goes against everything that we stand for.
However, and unlike many people I’ve noticed who fail to think critically of this conflict, I question whether or not the U.S. “stand[s] for” supporting a man who in a number of ways resembles a dictator. As well, I have doubts about funding a proxy war that may bring the world closer to nuclear conflict.
N.W.A never preaching, just teaching the knowledge of the streets to each and all that don’t understand, that’s why we came, to let you know that we’re all in the same gang!
Perhaps more importantly, and from the same track, rappers from Above the Law stated:
[V]iolence don’t only revolve from drugs and thugs and gangs that bang. Most times, it’s a political thang. Yeah, a couple of spots’ll get popped, and if the government wanted to freeze it, it could all get stopped. But they don’t, because they want it like that, because the system’s been set up to hold us back.
Though I consider this entire situation disappointing, I don’t allow self-disturbing beliefs to cause me unnecessary suffering. As well, I work with people so that they may not awfulize in a manner that isn’t conducive to goal-attainment.
Would you like to know more about how I could help you in a similar way?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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