For the price of $65.00, starting in January, you will now be able to take a Los Angeles Gang Tour for Tourists. No joke… check out this article about it in the Los Angeles Times.
My first reaction was, these people are sick. And they are crazy. And they are looking to exploit inner city L.A. for profit.
And if they do that, it seems inevitable that this is going to end badly. And violently. And fast.
But after reading the article, and seeing how the founder of this enterprise wants to paint this as a human rights issue — and seeks to try and funnel whatever profits that may be had into the community in an attempt to revitalize some aspect of a sector of Los Angeles that is grossly suffering from dire economic hardship, I am not as skeptical.
I mean I am still skeptical, don’t get me wrong. Just not as skeptical.
But think about it for a moment, what is this tour exactly going to be? Is it a bunch of rich white folks who want to go slumming for an afternoon? Is it the international crowd, say a horde of Japanese or Argentinians who get picked up from a hotel in Beverly Hills and are then chauffeured in an air-conditioned gang bus past downtown to the southeast right through cities like Lynwood where I teach? (By the way, if I ever take the tour myself and see a student I know from my high school, am I supposed to wave, duck, or boast to all the other people on the bus, “Hey, I know that kid. He’s in my third period class!”)
Boy, wouldn’t I be the stud of the bus then?
BTW, are gangs really going to grant “safe passage” through the hood for a brightly colored bus filled with tourists? I mean, isn’t one of the easiest criminal marks a crook could ever hope to target a tourist? Think about it, they don’t know their way around, some don’t even know the language, and they always travel with cash and expensive goodies because they have to pay for things like hotels, meals, and bus rides through inner-city gangland?
Oh yeah, am I the only troubled by the voyeuristic dehumanization aspect of this tour we might potentially be seeing here?
And for sixty-five bucks, what do I get? I mean is my driver packin’ heat? Like if they start shooting at us is someone on my bus gonna be shooting back at them?
Are there pit stops so that I can experience what it’s like to score drugs off the street?
Will I have the opportunity to write my name in graffiti on the side of a public building so that I can learn how to “tag”?
If I see a cop, should I flip him off, run, or drop to my knees and thank God that someone is about to save me from the Jurassic Park aspect of this stupid tour?
And if I don’t see any menacing looking homies who mad dogg me and make me think they are going to rip off my head and kill every member of my family, will there be some sort of refund? Like I wanna feel like I am going to die — but I am also hoping that the bus will serve lemonade, too… because as a tourist, it’s nice to have lemonade.
Oh yeah, can I get a tattoo to show that I am down for the hood? Just a henna though, please. My mom would kill me if she found out I used real ink.
For years I have said that while our attention is focused on an international war, our urban communities have been mired in a domestic war that is costing our citizens more of their lives, safety and sense of prosperity than anything going on in the middle east right now.
Truly, scores of kids die each year in urban America as a result of gang violence. As a teacher in L.A. and the author of the YA novel Homeboyz, I kinda feel I know what I am talking about to a small extent.
And now, you too can see what it’s like to live on the hard streets of gangland U.S.A. Don’t forget your camera — the trip promises lots of special photo opportunities.
Especially when you see the chalk outlines of 14 year olds. Those make for great stories once you get home and share your photo album with all your friends while sipping hot chocolate by the fireplace.
I tell ya, if it was white kids dying in America at the same rate of black and brown kids, lots of people would be singing a different tune about gangs in America.
And about tours that offer the chance to gawk.