Cause & Future
Compton has become a place that is only signified by the gangs that it contains. A place that was once home to a flourishing suburban community has now become the pinnacle of the internal problems of the United States. Crime, illiteracy, unemployment, racial homogeneity are all words associated with Compton. So, how did Compton become the slum it is today?
Compton’s origins speak of a prosperous young settlement. Griffith Dickenson Compton first arrived in 1867 with 30 pioneering families. Through many hardships and setbacks they were able to create a successful community supported by Dickerson’s Richland Farms. In 1888, 21 years after their arrival, they were able to incorporate the city. Since then, Compton grew economically and saw a growth in immigration. Many middle-class African Americans moved to Compton seeking job opportunities in a predominately white community. For a long time Compton’s population was mostly white and still boasts a fair amount of white Americans making up about 16% of the current population, although that is not very commonly known. The addition of African Americans changed the demographic of Compton, but that did go over well easily. Blacks were far from accepted with open arms and faced a lot of discrimination and racism. The City Council even tried dismantling the Compton Police Department in order to exclude African Americans from law enforcement. All of this set the precedent for the racial injustice that would continue to buildup through time in Compton. The racial unrest that still continues today has greatly influenced what Compton has become. As it became more and more of a black community, Compton saw a great economic decline, which escalated even more after the conclusion of WWII. Many were left jobless and poverty rose. Unfortunately, it would just get worse from there. Due to the fact that Compton was now a predominantly black community it received much less help from the County and the State than other cities where a majority where white did. This racism and inequality not only damped the economy, but due to the fact that having black neighbors was considered a bad thing, property values plummeted as well. Compton’s situation continued to drastically worsen and many started to turn to crime and drugs looking for an economic solution. This is the reason why gang culture became so prominent. The mixture of racial unrest and economic depression was just enough to set the right atmosphere for gangs to arise. Gangs were a simple, dangerous, adrenalin filled way of making cash. They could deal drugs, rob people and stores, and come up with a healthy profit. Many frustrated youth turned to this system. It’s interesting to note how the gangs that formed decided to fight against each other for survival instead of uniting against the government that suppressed them before. Herbert Anthony Stevens, better know by his stage name “Ab-Soul,” is a rapper from Los Angeles who hypothesized in his song “Terrorist Threats,” “If all the gangs in the world unified, we’d stand a chance against the military tonight.” Instead it seemed gangs formed rivalries and worked to try to out due each other in terms of territory and revenue.
The future looks bleak for Compton, as it doesn’t seem like the number of gangs will be decreasing anytime soon. Based off the education system alone, it can be seen that Compton hasn’t been able to make any really strides in fixing its situation. Emily E. Straus in her book Death of a Suburban Dream, described the story of Romario, a young boy who attended McKinley Elementary School in Compton, who struggled with learning basic math because his teachers offered him no extra help even though he needed it. Romario only had 1 effective teacher in his five years at the school. Straus described how Compton has the lowest paid teachers in Los Angeles County and the worst test scores in the country and she was absolutely applaud when she walked into her classroom for the first time. With a failure of an education system, many young teenagers continue to choose gang life as a way to find success. Some feel it’s the only option to make something of themselves. Although many view gangsters, as heartless criminals, aren’t they really just humans like everyone else, born in the wrong system, trying to make a living.