A young friend was joking around with me this past weekend and told me I was “totally G” since I was wearing a bandana and a hoodie (a sweat shirt or jacket with a hood). She thought I didn’t understand but to be honest my mind drifted. Some things have changed so much in some ways and not in others.
The ‘hoodies’ I grew up wearing were to stay warm not to mark who I was affiliated with. That is until I went to college. I remember buying a sweat suit at the college I chose to attend. I walked into the house proudly displaying the York College of Pennsylvania logo. Wearing it home was how my dad and I told the rest of the family a decision was made. It marked my affiliation. I still proudly wear that sweat jacket even though it has seen some better days. It says I’m part of the college. I lived and cried at that school. The life I had there helped shape who I am and who I will become. Today hoodies still show affiliations with schools but now they have become more of a way to show affiliation to gangs . They too will influence lives and guide their members but often not in positive ways.
Bandanas seem to have had a long history of showing affiliation. The striking coal miners of West Virginia showed solidarity against the owners and the government for better pay and benefits by wearing red bandanas. The news papers who supported the coal mining company dubbed them the ‘red necks’ even after they were mowed down by gun fire. And now when most of you think of redneck you think of jokes about broken down cars and beer bottles stacked in someone’s front yard. Rosie the Riveter is a famous poster of a woman in a bandana encouraging the women of the United States to pull together to support the troops and country during WWII. And now after years of being a useful handkerchiefs, head bands, hair nets, life saving tourniquets, and so much more this simple piece of cloth has been adopted by street gangs to show their solidarity and affiliation. The symbolism of solidarity is wonderful but the violence that often comes with it needs to be replaces with hope, home, better education, and good jobs.
Gangs never appealed to me when I was young and they still don’t. I guess I found other ways to ‘belong’ and to standout with Girl Scouts, school clubs, and my own causes like March of Dimes. So as I sat there in my company’s hoodie with my bandana to keep my hair out of my eyes I wonder why there is such a love affair with gangs. Is it the ‘family”? The glitz and glamour of instant gratification? Rebelling against the system? Or allowing a hopelessness to over come and control?