Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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Guilt and African American Teen Gangbangers

I have just read a lengthy qualitative study of 50 African American male teen gang members. Eleven of the 50, while not denying their membership in their gangs, nonetheless stopped gang-related activity to continue their education, with future career goals in mind.
      The other 39 did not do so. They did not spend time studying, but spent a lot of time watching television and playing video games (both of which are activities that I call "zoning,"  which temporarily numb inward pain but never resolve it). They attended school intermittently, and had committed more crimes such as drive-by shootings, violent fights, and drug selling than the other 11. The 39 typically told the ethnographer that they expected to be dead by about age 20 anyway, so they would get all the sex, money, and possessions they could until their untimely death arrived.
      Ethnographers don't try to infer motivations too strongly, as doing so could imply judgment based on the ethnographers' personal frames of reference. Instead, ethnographers will try, non-intrusively, to elicit statements of motivation from the subjects of their study.
     However, I am a Christian. I believe -- I would say I know -- that all of us feel unhappy and restless when we do evil things (hence Isaiah 48:22: "'There is no peace for the wicked,' says god"). The less we confess the sin and try to make repairs, the worse we feel.
     In addition, these young men have been sinned against by the older people they trust -- led into doing abominable actions. This means they are hurting underneath all the time, and there is no defense against relentless inward pain except inward hardness. It is indeed vital to pray for them to be reached, as is god's burning desire. Isaiah 30:18: "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" 
      

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