Thursday, April 5, 2018

Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America's white gangs. By Donna Ladd

White gangs are less covered by the media, and less punished – even though 53% of gang members in Mississippi are white

The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the 1970s, when they joined the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members. But by the 1980s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed. Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state. Surveys of young Americans have shown that 40% identifying as gang members are white, but police tend to undercount them at 10% to 14% and overcount black and Hispanic members, says Babe Howell, a criminal law professor at City University of New York who focuses on crime and race. “Police see groups of young white people as individuals, each responsible for his or her own conduct, and hold young people of color in street gangs criminally liable for the conduct of their peers,” she says. How law enforcement labels specific gangs may also obscure white membership, a 2012 study published in the Michigan Journal of Race and Law posited.

Jordan Blair Woods researched how the feds had applied the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Rico) to various gangs. Congress passed Rico in 1970 to target the mafia as organized “criminal enterprises”. In the early 1990s, the attorney general, Janet Reno, started using Rico to charge criminal street gangs. Woods explains that law enforcement typically splits gang activity into three groups: white supremacist prison gangs, outlaw biker clubs and criminal street gangs. He concluded that systemic racism often keeps white gangs categorized as prison and biker groups instead of street gangs – the category drawing the toughest charges and sentences.

This means white gangs are not typically policed as stringently, he writes, and their members can miss interventions sometimes offered to more publicized gangs of color. That help can include job and life skills training, or interaction with trained “violence interrupters”, who are often former gang members. Woods blames the media for underreporting white gangs. He backs up Ivey’s point about this lack of attention, writing that media may be more prone to cover black and Hispanic gangs “because of consumer demands for stories of sensationalized racial gang violence”.

“How can you help [with a problem] if you don’t recognize it’s there?” Ivey says. “A lot of white kids, 15, 16 years old, look at white gangsters as rock stars.”.. read more: