You’ve heard the music! You’ve read the newspaper stories! You’ve watched the documentaries! Now: Live the life!
A new outfit in Los Angeles is offering up a don’t-miss opportunity to get up-close and personal with one of America’s unique subcultures, and it’s not show biz. It’s “LA Gang Tours,” which promises to put you right in the center of the local gangsta scene with regular trips to cultural hotspots like South Central. And it’s for a worthy cause, according to the group’s website:
Our goal with LA GANG TOURS is to use the profits from the tours to create jobs and provide opportunities for the residents of South Central, Los Angeles.
That’s a lofty ambition, to be sure, but other than this statement, details on how exactly all this will be accomplished are sketchy. And the idea does raise some questions.
For example, how will the gangsters react to busloads of strangers gawking at them, snapping away with their cell cams and generally behaving like tourists at a zoo? After all, gangsters are notoriously ill-tempered when they feel they have been disrespected, and nothing seems better calculated to cause affront than this kind of exploitation. Now might be a good time to point out that the supply of weapons in South Central approximates that of a small foreign country — Bolivia, say — nor are their owners reticent to bring them into play.
Second, who wants to do this? What demographic do the sponsors hope to attract? White kids with Eminem fantasies? Can you imagine what will happen when a blond-haired, blue-eyed sixteen year old from Minnesota looking for a day off from the family Disneyland trip walks up to a group of Crips hanging out on the streetcorner, starts flashing gang signs and talking trash? Maybe even popping out some rhyme he’s written to show that he’s down with the homies?
Whomever the target audience might be, the response thus far appears to be tepid at best. Clicking on the website’s “New Tour Dates — Book Online Now” button and you get a terse statement: “No tours are currently scheduled.” Apparently, however, there have been previous tours, as the site also publishes comments by the customers:
- Loved the lunch. Loved hearing from the [former] gang members . . . and how they connected to the sites visited. And the LA traffic wasn’t that bad.
- Food was delicious.
- Very informative. Gave background information on invisible barriers.
Actually, all the responses were positive, crediting the tour for being informative and enlightening, and clearly the caterers are first-rate. But what isn’t so clear is exactly how much “gangland” the clients actually saw or got. Photos show someone speaking in a lecture hall, a place generally, we think, unfrequented by “gangland,” and somehow the frisson of the whole faux-dangereuse promise of trekking into the wilds of the ghetto seems diminished if it all turns out to be another social-science field trip declaiming on white privilege and tapping into the vast reservoir of American racial guilt.
Still, there is the kernel of an idea here that would work. The problem with “LA Gang Tours” is that it doesn’t really deliver what it promises. They take you to where the gangs are, but then they don’t let the gangs act like gangs. According to the website, the tour operators promise a “Gun Fire Free Safety Zone:”
5-10% of the gang population is responsible for 65-70% of all gang violence. LA GANG TOURS has access to the “5%,” those who have their fingers on the triggers. The participating gangs in the established gun fire free safety zones have agreed to allow LA GANG TOURS to operate in their areas, given our goals to hire their youth for employment opportunities and offer job and entrepreneurship training programs.LA GANG TOURS has predetermined routes and times that are honored by each of the participating and opposing gangs. Every effort has been made, from the time of day to departure locations, to ensure a safe, pleasant and enjoyable tour experience.
Really? Who wants this? “Safe, pleasant and enjoyable?” Gangland? No way.
The solution is not to go where the gangs are and then denature them, but to start from scratch. In Vegas.
Come to the all-new, just-opened Ghetto Hell Hotel and Casino! Barrio squalor with a hot tub in every suite. Watch destitute and homeless people wallow in primitive filth, eat from trash cans, and sleep on broken concrete. See the gangsters slaughter innocent bystanders in fusillades of drive-by violence. Slay a stranger violating your turf with your own souvenir Saturday night special. Take his head home in a hatbox. $390 a day and up. Discounts for groups.
Now, there’s a job-creating, revenue-producing concept. Someone call Steve Wynn. This could be a big thing.