Latino Boys in the Red White and Blue 

Jul 2, 2011 by

For the next month I am going to celebrate one year of blogging with some of my greatest hits. Here is one about Northern California gang colors that explains just how difficult it is to be a Latino kid in the good ole’ red white and blue.

Here’s a fun fact many people don’t realize: In California, if you are a Latino male anywhere from age 12 – 35, you can’t wear a shirt that is red. Actually, you can’t really wear a blue shirt either. To tell you the exact truth, wearing a white shirt might be dangerous in most cases too. Didn’t know that? Well, it’s the truth.

The high school drop-out rates among Latinos is atrocious. The percentage of Latinos who graduate high school is easily one of the lowest of any ethnic group, but when you consider the scale of it, it is jaw-dropping. Latinos make up an enormous population of California, and other states in our country, so when you say one third of them don’t graduate from high school, you’re talking about a hell of a lot of people.

I was just talking to a lawyer friend about this the other day, and I told him something like this: “You know, being a Latino kid in California is tough. After age 10, you ride your bike to the mall, you walk down the street, you make a wrong turn, and you have kids asking you what you claim.”

My lawyer friend is Mexican, and he remembers growing up in Redwood City, not having to worry about being shot at –ever- as a Latino kid living in the barrio. You solved problems with fists, and the mothers got their kids back safely every night, if not a little worse for wear. But in today’s world, you might just as easily run across a kid with a knife or a gun. If you’re lucky it will be brass knuckles or a roll of quarters. Maybe a lighter if it’s your birthday.

So there you are, a young Latino boy walking down the street, you can’t wear a red, white, or blue shirt because it puts a target on your back, and if you happen to piss someone off, the odds of it being solved with fists is probably less than 50/50.

Okay, lets back up. You’re probably thinking, “Why can’t Latino males wear red white and blue?” You probably know the answer, but don’t know the specifics, you just know it has something to do with gangs.

In Northern California, Red is the color of the Nortenos. Blue is the color of the Surenos. If you wear clothing dominated by these colors, and you are a young Latino (mostly Mexican, but there are other Latino gangs too), you are proclaiming your affiliation to one of these gangs. It’s that simple. Again, you might be thinking, “Surely it’s not that black and white. There have got to be places where it is safe to wear whatever you want.” Well, the short answer is, “No.”

I guess if you’re familiar enough with a certain part of a certain city, you’ll be okay. Maybe if you live in the burbs where there aren’t gang problems, and you’re a Latino male, you could probably get away with it. But make sure it’s deep in the burbs, and make sure you aren’t wearing that stuff across city lines, because then you don’t know what you’ll get. I know of farming towns in the Central Valley where the Mexican kids can’t be seen wearing red. Others where you can’t wear blue. In the cities of course it is worse. You take a wrong turn in Oakland, Richmond, Hayward, San Jose, and you’re a Latino wearing the wrong color, you are officially putting your life in danger.

So can I just say this: Isn’t that a trip?

As white people, we don’t think about these kinds of things…well, not all of us. We can wear whatever we want without fear of being associated with a gang. I bet you’ve never thought twice about putting on a blue shirt, have you? I’m wearing a blue shirt right now, and I’ve been driving around the Bay Area all day. But I’m white, so it doesn’t matter


via Latino Boys in the Red White and Blue | Teach4Real.

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