Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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L.A. gang tours promoting vice

For all you West coast students out there and anyone going on vacation in the Los Angeles-area over winter or spring break, there’s a new zoo moving to the area. It’s located in L.A.’s inner city, and you don’t even have to walk through its notoriously rough neighborhoods. Instead, you’re driven through this zoo on a coach bus. The “zoo:” inner city L.A. The “animals:” gangsters. The “zoo attendees:” those riding on the coach buses of the “LA Gang Tours.”

At first glance, the whole thing seemed like some kind of joke or parody. Tours of “the hood?” Hollywood, yes — but inner-city L.A.? After all, this is the birthplace of some of America’s most violent gangs, including the Bloods and the Crips.

On its website, LA Gang Tours says it desires “to provide an unforgettable historical experience for [its] customers with a customized high-end specialty tour … provid[ing] [them] with a true first-hand encounter of the history and origin of high profile gang areas and the top crime scene locations in … Los Angeles. The objective is to create jobs … to give profits from the tours back to these areas for economic growth and development, [to] provide job/entrepreneur training … and to educat[e] people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions.”

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In English: most people have never been, nor will ever go, to the “hoods” of L.A. to see gangs and gang-related violence firsthand. Most people spend their lives sheltered from what occurs in these rough neighborhoods, never even reading about the issues. Plus, these neighborhoods need some serious economic help. But, this isn’t the whole story.

The late Tupac Shakur, in his famous song “Changes.” rapped, “Cops [don’t] give a damn about a negro … Give ’em guns, step back, watch ’em kill each other.” Replace the word “cops” with “the average American citizen”, and this sentiment by Tupac is and always has been equally true.

Sadly, one thing looks certain: Most people who decide to take these tours won’t give a damn about the plight of inner city L.A. They just want to watch firsthand the people in these neighborhoods trapped in a brutal cycle of poverty and violence.

This isn’t about helping solve America’s racial and gang problems. Instead, it is trivializing a serious American societal issue by glorifying it into a voyeuristic journey around the shittiest areas of L.A. to observe what most bus-riders will treat as a freak show, all for the outrageously high price of $65. It’s about profiteering off of the continuation of racism, segregation and gang violence.

The proof is in the pudding. On a section of its website titled “Where We Go,” LA Gang tours boasts about the different aspects of the tour and how awesome they are. One of the pit stops: the L.A. County Jail. LA Gang Tours touts it is “the unofficial jail to over 120,000 gang members! There are over 20,000 inmates housed in the world’s largest jail at any given time.” LA Gang Tours does not view this as the serious societal problem of over-crowded prisons, but rather something to be happy about because it will make the tour more sadistically entertaining. This is about entertainment, not enlightenment.

Another pit stop: the Metropolitan Detention Center. LA Gang Tours exclaims, “Los Angeles is the bank robbery capital of the world. Visit the infamous Metropolitan Detention Center, which houses the many convicted bank robbers…” Again, another example of the glorification of crime and punishment, rather than promoting in-depth discussion about the root causes of a societal epidemic like bank robbery.

To his credit, Alfred Lomas, the founder of LA Gang Tours, who will lead tours at first, “plans to talk about important chapters in the development of the city’s core, such as how racist housing restrictions shaped ethnic enclaves and the formation of gangs” (“Giving Tourists a Look at Gang Culture,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 5).

But this is not enough. The tour is not advertised as a chance to learn and have intimate discussions about inner-city America, but rather as a chance to sadistically lionize the plight of Americans who have always gotten the shit end of the stick by the American government from time immemorial.

Attorney General Eric Holder controversially said in February, “[I]n things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. … [W]e average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

We must, as decent Americans, sit down and talk about issues like the LA Gang Tours. Frank, honest discussions about the root causes of gang life and gang-related violence, instead of turning the situation into a freak show, is the only answer to some of America’s biggest, unresolved problems: racism, segregation and gang violence.

Steve Horn ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and legal studies.

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