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Councilman Backed on Gang Opinions

July 20, 1989

It is obvious that Barbara J. Hague does not concern herself with the realism of the world in which we live ("Councilman's Tie to Gang Criticized," Times letter, June 29).

Would that we were all joiners of loftier clubs: the Scouts, the Kiwanis, the Rotary. Some of these "noble" clubs she so stoutly defended still do not willingly open their doors to women. Yes, they do accomplish some positive community causes, but the fact remains that they turn their backs on at least 53% or more of the world's population. That's discrimination, any way you look at it.

Discrimination, lack of economic stability, dysfunctional families and language deficiencies do prevent kids from joining such activities as Scouts and Little League. Often there is no money for dues, uniforms, transportation to and from meetings and games, and other club-related activities. A kid learns to look for group interaction that is readily available and in an environment in which he feels secure.

Councilman (Marcial) Rodriguez was exactly correct when he stated that a kid joins a gang for the same reason a businessman joins the Kiwanis or the Rotary--to belong, to interact with people who share his interests, to have support, to have instant friends, to socialize and simply, to have fun.

The community of Norwalk needs to provide recreational areas that are supervised by credentialed people and are open to competitive sports, such as football, basketball, soccer, weightlifting and tennis. Many of the gang kids would love to have something to do other than kick back in the alleys and parks and get loaded. Many times I have heard these kids say that there is nothing to do in Norwalk.

Kids write graffiti for two reasons: to establish the borderline of their turf and to express their hostility to a community that would rather lock them up in Los Padrinos and pretend they don't exist than to offer them a way out of their arid, destructive life styles.

Why aren't these kids on the honor roll? You must be joking! Many of these kids have been dropouts from the school system for two, three or more years. In many cases, their reading level is maybe third- or fourth-grade and their math function is maybe multiplication. Many have absolutely no chance of attaining a high school diploma, let alone making the honor roll.

They are unable to work because, in order to obtain a work permit, a student must be enrolled in school. They have often been thrown out of school for a variety of reasons and told not to return. For the vast majority of these kids, their future is a continuation of today. Their gangs and their friends in the gangs are able to give them the self-esteem they so desperately seek. Away from the camaraderie of the gang, these kids are all too aware that they are yesterday's failures.

I admire Councilman Rodriguez in his admission that gangs in Norwalk do exist. For too many years, they were swept under the sidewalk like a dirty word. Rodriguez had the courage to admit that he was once a peripheral member of a gang. A brave admission, and a sign of hope for the kids. In admitting there is a problem, a solution can be found.

Our society needs to assure kids that each will have an equal chance for success; that each shall one day be a contributing member of society. Kids know that there is no future in gang behavior. They also want someday to own their own homes, cars, and even pay taxes. They need to be encouraged to return to school, to become involved in career development; and they need good role models to emulate.

Please open those recreation areas, staff them with people who care about kids, make education accessible, especially remediation of basic skills, and create jobs within the community where a kid can develop some pride. And your gang problems will diminish.

SHIRLEY E. NEAL

Long Beach

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