Before Crips: Fussin’, Cussin’, and Discussin’ Among South Los Angeles Juvenile Gangs

Temple Univ. Jul. 2022. 484p. ISBN 9781439921982. pap. $29.95. SOC SCI
Quicker (Homegirls: Characterizing Chicana Gangs) and Batani-Khalfani (a gang leader–turned–counselor for Los Angeles Community Youth Gang Svcs.), offer a penetrating look at the origins of Los Angeles gangs that were active between the 1940s and the 1960s. The authors cite rampant racism, elimination of industrial jobs, and government promotion of the suburbs as causes of gangs. Moral panic over youth groups led to police crackdowns. Much of the book centers around the Slausons cliques, their leaders and members, whom the authors interviewed. There is some perspective of others, such as law enforcement and courts personnel. A contrast to the academic and retrospective view of this book is Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociologist who lived with gang members in a Chicago housing project where he observed the gang’s crack dealing, recruitment, and hierarchy. Quicker and Batani-Khalfani’s book, on the other hand, shows how gangs shifted from nonviolent social cliques to structured, violent groups like the Bloods and Crips. The authors conclude that government policies actively harmed non-white youth by suppressing the Black Power movement, stigmatizing gang members, and permitting the lucrative illegal drug trade to flourish in areas devoid of other opportunity.
VERDICT A sympathetic view of early youth gangs in Los Angeles, before they became known for crime. For academic readers.
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