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Gangs: Power, Conflict, and Trust

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Gangs have become a harsh reality in today's society. But despite what one might think, gangs illustrate many communication theories. This is done through the power gangs possesses, "gang warfare", and the trust between gang members.

Gang power can be seen in many communication theories. There are several types of power that gangs and gang leaders fall under. An example of this would be referent and legitimate power. Referent power can be described as the role model power. We identify with this person and therefore try to be like them. Legitimate power comes from people who we believe should be in power, like children to teacher, law-abiding citizen to the police. Therefore referent and legitimate power go hand in hand, because of the organizational structure within the gang, a gang may "have officers much like that of a cooperation." (Internet Source 1) Generally "adults play leadership roles." (Internet Source 3) Also youngsters who have had severe prison terms are usually found to be the leaders of the gangs, thus being an example of expert power. The reason this is considered an example of expert power is because the individual possesses special knowledge in prison life, etc. By serving a prison term they can come back to the streets, "with more knowledge than ever could have been gained on the streets." (Internet Source 2)

Attitudes, meaning how we as people respond to a subject, values, what we perceive is right and wrong, and beliefs play a major role in what brings youngsters into gangs. How does one develop a "gang attitude" to begin with? To answer this we must look at the culture. The values we Americans tend to have, make the alternative life style very appealing, this in conjunction with the glorified gang life style portrayed through the lyrics of the "Gangsta" rap artists all influence the young impressionable mind. This may make the child feel a sense of power, identity, or family, reflecting on the child's attitude. Also one must look at the neighborhood. A child can turn a corner and buy cocaine, see a gang war being played out, etc. It is obvious that the child cannot help but be influenced by this.

Gang conflicts boils down to who has power and who wants, and/or deserves it. Most conflict is not within in the gang itself but between two gangs. Conflict can be described as a struggle over ideas or concepts between two parties, or people. Gang conflict or "gang warfare" is much the same but instead of it being over an idea or concept it is over several factors. One factor would be respect; respect and power go hand in hand, and one can't have one with out the other. So in order to gain respect and power one must use whatever means possible to disrespect or "dis" the other gang that your gang is at war with. This could be through the use of "hand signs, graffiti, or a simple 'mad dog' or stare down." (Internet Source 2) Gangs use graffiti to mark "turf," 'territory," or "borders." Graffiti can also be used to "dis" another gang, or as a tribute to a deceased gang member. Most conflicts come from revenge or retaliation. An act of revenge may be needed after being "dised" by another gang member, a bad drug deal, or crossing



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