"Gang member are just trying to stay alive in harsh inviermets. and its people like you that move in the hood and don't under stand shit biiiiitch."

From: "Anthony Gonzalez" (reddog3030@hotmail.com)
To: cybrgbl@deltanet.com
Subject: richard
Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 10:00:14 PDT

i have no idea how you are but i read your holywood,you know were you talk all that shit about gangs in LA im not from La and i don't be long to an 18 street gang but if gangs in La are any thing like gangs in sacra north califas whit there gold ,shaved heads ,t-shirts ,baggy paints and low riders .then gangs are like canser but they are not the ones not affecting there commmuity they are being affected by there commuity.living in poverty sudject to other violice be cause so people are not as lucky as you to just get up and leave the hood cholos don't wake one day and say i want to be a drug dealing kiler claiming you set you do it to live so you won't be scarded to walk down your streets because you got your homies and they got you and if you think ding for famliy love is dum then you should paint a target on your ass.gang member are just trying to stay alive in harsh inviermets. and its people like you that move in the hood and don't under stand shit biiiiitch
brown pride por vida

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      Dear Anthony,

      After first reading your e-mail, I was prompted to post it to my "E-Mail Hall of Shame." But on further reflection, I didn't have the heart to do that, as your virtually unreadable English -- byzantine grammatical constructs, almost every other word misspelled -- speaks so loudly I can barely hear what you say. The underlying emotion your letter brings to me is sadness, as it hints of a life wasted and smacks powerfully of that I-am-helpless/can't-help-it touch that is death to the possibility of improvement in life. I respect the newly-arrived immigrant doggedly working a construction or gardening job as he tries to earn a living in a strange country. I respect the gangmember trying to get out of the "crazy life" as he/she works at Burger King or El Pollo Loco for $5.00 per hour, getting gang tattoos painfully excised by laser surgery in off-hours. I have little to no respect for the gangster/thug tough guy selling drugs on the corner or their underlying sentiment/justification expressed in your e-mail.

      Life is hard everywhere; but it is harder than usual in a violence and poverty saturated ghetto. You know that. But nobody, Anthony, owes you a living in this world, and you must must fight tooth and nail to attain what you want in life. This is generally true in the ghetto as well as outside of it, since nobody -- aside from your family and friends -- cares much about you per se; people will estimate you by the quality of your character, choices you make, and life you live. We are not ideally born to be victims of chance. We human beings, as thinking and sentient creatures, can choose to forge our own paths and rise above mere circumstances. It are the brute animals that live unconsidered lives without reason or imagination. Human beings are called on to do more if they wish to live anything other than animalistic lives. Teaching near downtown Los Angeles, I remember asking one student -- a teenage mother, long and deeply enmeshed in the gang subculture of violence and neighborhood rivalry, in love with the crazy life and the homeboy parties, one foot already in the grave -- if she ever thought of moving out of the ghetto. Did she not have a desire to live elsewhere or see the larger world? No, she shook her head and stated simply: "This is where I've always lived."

      But I remember another young woman in the same school -- subject to all the negative environmental stressors you mention -- bitterly declaiming to me once, "People think because we are growing up in the projects, this is where we're going to die. This is not where I want to die! I want something better in my life!" I don't doubt through hard work and taking advantage of the available resources (like me, her teacher) she would make it out and enjoy a better life. This dynamic young woman had a plan and a goal to rise in the world; you and your gang-ethic seem destined to sink to the lowest common denominator: both have made decisions with respect to the future. Maybe if I had grown up in some hell-hole, I would have in my testosterone-filled adolescence fatefully joined some street gang in search of camaraderie, protection, excitement, and profit. Maybe, like my buddy Martin who did grow up in such an environment, I would instead have chosen to go to college. But I hope to God I would have had the guts to admit to myself and the world the truth of the situation and take responsibility for my actions.

      Your e-mail makes me think of another I received recently from someone cruelly treated by fate yet struggling so valiantly for life and hope:


She offsets powerfully your practiced pose of helplessness and submission. Think about it.

      You could of course say I know nothing and dismiss my comments because I didn't grow up in Los Angeles. But don't forget the many who did grow up in such a place and have exactly the same message as myself. And, for God's sake!, eschew this "brown pride" posture -- many are the persons from all over Latin America who would look upon the cholo not with ethnic pride but shame. I think of my own latino friends -- products of the Mexican, Cuban, and Chilean nations -- who would tell you the same thing as myself: having "brown" skin does not ineluctably make you a criminal any more than being born poor dooms you to a life of poverty. If you fail your family and (more importantly) yourself in life, don't blame your ethnicity -- blame yourself.

      Your letter suggests you live in imminent peril of never being anything more than a ghetto bottom-feeder in some nasty Sacramento barrio. Grow up.


      Richard Geib