Gang Violence: A Teenager's Point of View
by H. B., Yonkers, NY
I am sixteen years old. I live in a small quiet Yonkers neighborhood where the most exciting event around is someone moving or getting married. Yes, my neighborhood is dull, but just because I live in a peaceful area doesn't mean I'm a stranger to gang violence. No, neither my friends nor I belong to any gangs, but we do know people who do. I do not know where they hang out, how they got involved or how old they were when they got involved, but I do know that they are not the kind of people I would be proud to call my friends.
Every now and then, through my friends or around school, I hear about a fight or about a kid who was "jumped" by a gang, or two gangs planning to fight each other. I know kids who carry guns and knives with them no matter where they go, even to school. They say it's for protection. I've seen kids come home from school cut and bruised, and when I ask what happened they reply, "My friends and I fought this other gang," with such a glow upon their faces that it makes me sick to my stomach.
Why do teenagers need gangs? Why do they fight? Where do they get the weapons? How do their parents feel? Do they even know or care? So many questions to be answered and while we try to answer one, another child dies. The number one killer among children is another child. Every day children are dying because of gang violence, especially young black males.
Why do we insist on killing or hurting each other? The only sure result I can see it promising is a couple of years in a jail cell. What is the great thrill to that? I do not want to be a super hero, nor do I want to change the way we feel toward each other overnight, even though it would be nice. I just want to sleep at night without wondering whether or not one of my friends is going to get hurt. I don't want to read in the newspaper that yet another teenage has been killed by a peer because of senseless gang violence.
When will the violence end? How many of us will have to die before we wake up and realize we are killing ourselves. Who will be next, whose child, whose grandchild, whose niece or nephew, whose sister or brother, whose cousin, whose friend?
We are the future. We are tomorrow, but there will not be a tomorrow if we keep hurting ourselves and those around us. The pain must stop. The peace must increase. If we don't wake up soon, it may be too late. We may not wake up at all.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.