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date: 27 February 2020

Summary and Keywords

Youth gangs of color in the United States have emerged in the context of larger structural forces. For example, Mexican American, black, and Vietnamese/Asian American youth gang formation in Southern California is tied to their respective racialized communities’ initial movements into the Los Angeles area (from Mexico and Vietnam, and for blacks, from the U.S. South). Structural forces such as political/social unrest and economic instability, both domestically and in their sending countries; the role of the U.S. military and economic apparatus; and (im)migration patterns and trends impact the particularities of youth gang subculture—including protection and self-preservation; ethnic pride and desire for family; having to navigate, resist, and rearticulate youth identities (in and outside the context of schooling); and the desire to garner money, power, and respect in a capitalist context. U.S. racism and state violence have also had an impact on youth gang formation. Anti-youth legislation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in particular, have helped shape the discourse on youth of color, criminality, “gangs,” space, and citizenship over the past three decades. Although such youth are typically on the margins or left out of educational institutions, a critical pedagogy provides a space for engagement and hope.

Keywords: gang formation, youth violence, racialization, ethnic groups, immigration

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