The most important message I took from the evening was the label of “gang” and how important it was to look beyond this when working with someone who is connected with a gang. The speaker discussed in great length how we all have preconceived ideas about labels and that someone from a ‘gang’ carries very strong negative connotations with them that are most often associated with criminal activity.

Connotations of Youth associated with Gangs:

  • Trouble causers
  • Delinquents- possibly involved in violence
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Promiscuous sexual activity
  • Money
  • Power
  • Recognition

When working therapeutically with youth associated with gangs, the speaker stressed on the importance to look beyond the label of “gang member” and see the individual. As in any therapeutic relationship, an alliance has to be created based upon mutual respect to effect beneficial change in the client. In order to do this successfully the therapist must put aside all preconceived ideas and prejudices about the client’s background.

We ended the night with discussing other forms of gangs such as Corporate gangs. Members of corporate gangs are expected to follow a certain etiquette, and leadership of a corporate gang required a higher level of intelligence/status than other gangs. However corporate gangs are not only accepted by society, but are also trusted. So, why the double standard? Simply put: labels! Some labels are accepted and some are feared.

Urooj Khan