Sunday morning rolled around and Nolan found himself at the table with his father and DJ. They were once again reading the news and discussing the events of the world. They both seemed to have an understanding news that most people didn’t have. They didn’t just read what was being said, they tried to figure out who was saying it and why. Like the reporters and the people being interviewed may not always mean what they said. They seemed to think the news was pushing ideas on people. Like the way things were phrased created unwritten messages that everyone would get by accident. It seemed like the most important part of news wasn’t the story, it was the unwritten messages.
There was a story in the paper that morning about a gang initiation in Memphis. According to the story a young black man had murdered an older white man as a gang initiation. The young suspect was 17 years old and had not been caught yet. The 45 year old man was a business owner who had been singled out only because he was white. The unnamed gang in question hated white people and the business owner was probably an upstanding fellow with a family. The whole thing made people angry and the story was being talked about all over the place.
Church janitor DJ looked over his coffee cup and asked an unusual question. “Who gets initiated into a gang at 17 years old?” Nolan’s father raised an eyebrow at this question. He didn’t know much about gangs, only that they were spreading like wildfire. So he responded to the question with a question of his own. “What is the normal age for a gang initiation?”
“Most of these kids are young, 10, 12, 14 years old when they start running with the gang. By 17 they’ve already put in enough years to get out of the usual street thug antics most people think of as gang activity. They put their 3 or 4 years of obedient service and then they get promoted. This murder was more likely to be a kids first hit. It’s a kind of initiation into the next phase but it isn’t what regular people call ‘gang initiation’.” DJ could see that he had lost Charlie as he informed him of the criminal system.
“See Charlie, these gangs have a lot of different working parts. The street gang level and their leadership structure has a system, it’s not just a bunch of idiots running around selling drugs. The young kids are required to get initiated and then they are trained in obedience to leadership for a few years. This weeds out the uncommitted, the stupid and the ones with enough good inside of them to know they need to get out of this. After that initial few years is up, they gain a status with the gang where they have options. Now they can either step out of the lifestyle while keeping a connection, kind of like being in good standing or they can move into the next level of the organization. It’s like choosing a career, they can work with the people on that next level for organizational goals higher than street level.”
“If you go up high enough, you get connected to other criminal organizations like the mob and the other gangs. You can also get up high enough to be involved in the groups connections to law enforcement, politics, entertainment, business and eventually intelligence. That’s how you end up with a story in the paper about an unknown suspect doing a ‘random’ act of racist violence. This guy was being initiated as a hitter and the news is a cover for him to get away clean. Think about it, what reporter went down to the local street gang and asked them to admit to a murder again? No one that’s who. It’s made up.” DJ finished as he saw all of Charlie’s lights turned on.