Food for Thought from Oakland Raiders Former Team Chaplain. Gangsta Image: Cool or Cold?
Many of these young men and women have experienced adverse wounds at a very early age. The lens they view life with is filtered through colors, territory and affiliation. This is poured in them from early adolescence and for many it commenced at infancy. They have been let down by more adults than the average normal child. In addition, many were deprived of life skills, academic mentoring, positive reinforcement, and a healthy support system.
In a normal upbringing, children are taught to achieve a purposeful life. A gangsta upbringing is based on survival. One is taught to strive to achieve the American dream where the other is taught how to achieve street life. One is taught how to respect education; the other is taught how to respect prison. One is taught to respect neighborhood;
Gangstas usually experience the brute end of society. For example, walking in a store, they become a target for attendants to watch their every move. When law enforcement drives by they usually experience the police car slowing down coupled with a stare of suspicion. They are constantly interrogated about what neighborhood they represent. Often in the classroom they are pre-judged for not being interested in academics. At the earliest instance, gangstas are often expelled from public schools and sent to an alternative school designated to cage them with their own kind.
To make sense of this constant assault, they develop a coping mechanism to combat the constant feelings of rejection that result in lack of self-worth and distrust in people … especially authority figures. This explains why many develop a tough and hard disposition simply to keep pain and rejection at bay.
Due to this is character make-up, many gangstas are drawn to a like-minded brotherhood. This brotherhood is formalized through an initiation process that is conducted through being jumped in (a beating issued by all gang members at the same time). All the brothers or sisters beat down the new potential member to initiate acceptance into the gang family. If one is able to withstand the punishment without retaliation, they are embraced and accepted. Words are not needed. It's pain on pain. Thus boundaries are set. There is absolutely no crossing of lines. If so, repercussions are imminent.
Like most people walking on our planet … gangstas want the good things in life. Beneath the layers of toughness and hardness, there is a person …. a real person full of potential and abilities looking to achieve purpose and greatness. Gangstas simply need caring people with the spirit of Michelangelo who see the masterpiece within the boulder.
This food for thought is a tiny bit of insight into the life of a gangsta.
Remember ... no one is born a gangster.
About the Author, Adam Ybarra
Growing up in East Side San Jose, California, in a single parent home, on welfare, surrounded by drugs and gangs, he was the first Hispanic to serve as an NFL Team Chaplain. He served on the staff of the Oakland Raiders from 1999 to 2012. Adam recently produced "Making of a Gangsta," a feature-length documentary that reveals compelling stories of young men and women who entered the gangsta lifestyle. Making of a Gangsta Documentary is available for screenings in January 2017. Download the Making of a Gangsta App.
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