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The Ignored Struggle: Hispanic Youth Gang Integration

2239 words - 9 pages

Acculturation matters in the sense that it can affect any set of youths that consider themselves Hispanic, whether they are immigrants or even American-born Hispanics. Both groups suffer from relatively the same set of issues and both are consistent in trying to seek relief from these sets of issues. Lack of acculturation results from a list of factors, such as inability to learn or understand the native language, failure to adapt to the surrounding environment, lack of a set of supportive and interpersonal network, and persistent isolation from the new cultural framework. In an attempt to acculturate, the conflict between cultures can also lead to a sense ethnic betrayal, assimilation of ...view middle of the document...

Labeled the “identity struggle” by Wallace and Fogelson15, they develop a hypothesis correlating identity development to external forces of distress and how they may manifest into different kinds of coping behaviors. Development of an identity struggle in the cases I am examining result from “identity maintenance or restoration [that] involves a minimizing of dissonance between the values associated with the real and ideal identity, and a maximizing of dissonance between real and feared identity”16. The real identity is the perception of an individual, or basically how he sees himself. The ideal identity is the perception which an individual would like to be or strives to be, but does not believe himself to be so. The feared identity is the perception, either of himself or by others, an individual would not like to be perceived as. This conflict of identity creates an internal tension that manifests itself in the physical actions of an individual. These actions tend to be reactionary, including lashing out at anything that denies a claimed identity or emphasizes a feared identity.
In the issue of gang research, ethnic Hispanic adolescents who fear alienation from their native culture or are trying to affirm their overt “hispanicness” can use any means necessary to achieve their goals. On an individual level, an adolescent may try to display his culture through the way he acts or the way he speaks. Vigil identified this as “choloization”17, in which a youth may completely change their attitude in order to affirm their identity. In this level though, the process may manifest itself dangerously and can be treated through simple forms of psychological treatment and therapy. However, when this “choloization” or attempt to affirm “hispanicness” appears in a larger group of individuals, the result is the formation of a group, normally a gang. This group, all struggling to identify themselves, provides the identity affirmation they seek through peer interaction. The group interactions and their effects are detailed further in section VII.
The issues of acculturation and ethnic marginalization are not mutually exclusive in the psychosocial experiences of an adolescent, thus it is not unusual for an adolescent suffering from acculturation problems to experience cases of ethnic marginalization. These cases can manifest themselves in two distinct yet simultaneously occurring kinds of marginalization. The first kind of ethnic marginalization is populist driven, perpetuated by the general population, and is evidenced by popular stereotypes, bullying inside and outside school, and prejudice by those in power an adolescent comes directly into contact with, such as teachers and civil officials. This kind of marginalization, normally identified as racial discrimination, affects adolescents in a direct manner and the individuals themselves are usually the direct target of the marginalization. An example of this is the communities in which some, if not most of...

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