Thursday, February 14, 2013

Crips and Bloods: Made in America

This is an exceptionally well made and quite well known documentary about the formation of the notorious street gangs the Crips and the Bloods in South Central LA. The film includes interviews with gang members past and present and considers the variety of social circumstances which led to the situation as it stands today. This includes the immigration of African Americans from the South during the 40s and 50s and the segregation and discrimination experienced by that population, as well as a discussion of how gangs originally formed as a mechanism for fighting back against white oppression, particularly from the police. There is a nice section on the Watts Riots. Also a discussion of the introduction of crack cocaine and how the gangs turned increasingly towards violence against each other.

My thoughts:
When I first saw this, years ago, it was an eye-opener for me. I had never before considered the reasons why anyone would join a gang or the systemic conditions which would prompt that choice. This documentary does a nice job of balancing history and sociology with real, human stories. It's a must-see for anyone interested in cultural diversity issues.

Discussion Points:
  • What does the gang provide for its members? What is the psychological role of the gang in the members' lives?
  • How are life chances impacted by growing up in an area like South Central LA?
  • How did discrimination and prejudice contribute to the formation of the Crips and Bloods, and does it still contribute?
  • What are our stereotypes about gang members? Were any of these challenged by this movie?

Website here
Runtime: 93 minutes
Streaming on Netflix: Yes!

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