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Gangsta vs gang member questions:

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painpaingoaway posted 12/27/2013 09:16 AM

Maybe those in LE can help me.

What is the difference, if any, between a 'gangsta' and a 'gang member'.

Is a gangsta a 'wannabe' gang member?

Are all 'gangsta's' criminals, selling drugs, hurting people, doing whatever, or can they just be 'pretending' or acting the 'role' of a tough guy gangsta.


ascian posted 12/27/2013 13:12 PM

"Gangsta" is a word used to glorify someone in a gang (or who thinks they want to be.) Thanks to The Untouchables, The Godfather, and movies like that we've attached a mystique to the mafia and to old-timey gangsters like Al Capone. So someone who's involved with criminal activities and who wants to seem cool could call themselves a "Gangsta."

Similar to how some of the violent criminals will call themselves "soldiers" when all they are is thugs or murderers.

(and now I take off my linguist hat. If you'd like the full academic treatment, let me know and I'll talk your ear off about exclusionary language, high- vs low-prestige dialects, and sociolinguistics)

caregiver9000 posted 12/27/2013 13:23 PM

Where I live and work, "gangsta" is a style. The word itself is often used as an adjective: gansta rap, for example. When I hear that word, I think flamboyant and loud.

Gang is a denotation of a formal group with its own "bylaws" and traditions. Most of the gangs in my school would not be called "gangsta." A member of a gang is not a gangsta but rather is referred to by their color or their gang name.

Contrary to what you might expect, the gang members that I have taught were subtle. The always wore their colors, but they were disciplined and polite unless they felt like they had been disrepected or their colors (the beads or bandana or whatever they associated with the gang) had been disrespected. This was often a problem, since staff takes all such items away from students and stores them for the day with cell phones and other personal belongings.

NotDefeatedYet posted 12/27/2013 22:08 PM

Since you can't polish a turd, they are the same thing. One is slang for what they call each other, the other is what's usually written in the offense reports they tend to accumulate.

mixedemotions posted 12/29/2013 23:59 PM

Totally depends on the context...words can mean lots of different things depending on who's saying them, to whom, why, and how much the person saying them actually knows about what they're saying...know what I'm saying? Lol sorry, couldn't resist that last part.

I've worked with people with trauma histories for a long time and feel compelled to say that gang involvement is a very complex situation, usually based on safety. I think because it's somewhat glorified, it's tempting for people to use words like gangsta without really knowing much about what that means.

In my experience,people who are in gangs or who are familiar with them don't refer to themselves or other people as gangsta or gang members. They usually use the name of the gang. As in "he's a GD" or "she's a Latin Queen."

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