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When he was 13, three white teenage boys beat Benny Ivey. The skinny blond adolescent had to show he was tough enough to become a Black Gangster Disciple. It wasthe height of the crack era, and many white kids wanted to black gangs that did not welcome them, so they initiated each other into home-grown copycat versions. Others grew up like he did: the child of poor crack and opioid addicts, ripe to be ensnared by a world promising brotherhood, loyalty and respect. Ivey, now 41, is muscular and likes to keep fit, even though he only weighs pounds.
He sports a buzz cut and has tattoos over much of his body. Ivey was 12 when he began sniffing Scotchgard. He soon followed his adoptive parents and two uncles — all school dropouts — into addiction. By 15, Ivey had dropped out of school and broken into probably houses, robbed a crack dealer, had a cop kick his face into the pavement, and started selling meth to support his own addiction. At 21, Ivey was living with other drug users who helped run dope out of a small rental house. Ivey went to set up the grill, but something felt weird, so he went back to his room. Jimmy was sitting at the front of the bed with a pistol to his head, the letter on the floor beside him.
It was the gun Ivey kept under his pillow. Sheetrock dust busted out of the ceiling when the bullet hit it. With a one-year suspended sentence, he stayed free, but he kept robbing until he got caught and was sent to back to jail. Early greasers were immigrants, often Italian, maligned by wealthier whites for greasing machines in blue-collar jobs.
Inthe greasers united as the Simon City Royals, often rumbling with the nearby Latin Kings as well as the white supremacist Gaylords. The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the s, when they ed the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members.
But by the s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed. Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state. How law enforcement labels specific gangs may also obscure white membership, a study published in the Michigan Journal of Race and Law posited. In the early s, the attorney general, Janet Reno, started using Rico to charge criminal street gangs. Woods explains that law enforcement typically splits gang activity into three groups: white supremacist prison gangs, outlaw biker clubs and criminal street gangs.
He concluded that systemic racism often keeps white gangs categorized as prison and biker groups instead of street gangs — the category drawing the toughest charges and sentences. This means white gangs are not typically policed as stringently, he writes, and their members can miss interventions sometimes offered to more publicized gangs of color.
Woods blames the media for underreporting white gangs. New gang members have often already tangled with police. A study in Jacksonwhich focused on urban black gangs, showed that not finishing school and being put into a police car are top precursors for a young person committing Any ethnic ladies like tatted Mississippi guys crime as an adult. Ivey says no one tried to redirect him as he went in and out of juvenile facilities and prison, where he smoked weed every day.
He soon transferred to prison, where he had to defend his new gang allies, the Black Gangster Disciples. Ivey avoided conflicts with the Aryan Brotherhood — who considered the Royals traitors to the white race — but he also had to stand up to his own black allies. During his time behind bars, Ivey studied Royals literature — 50 s of policies and history — and started networking. By the time he returned home inhe had claimed the title of Central Mississippi regional captain. On the outside, Ivey started organizing the Royals. I had their backs, they had mine, no matter what.
InIvey was locked up for four years for manufacturing crystal meth. Inhe returned to a trailer park where a mother of two called Spirit lived and assisted with operations. They could borrow for support payment or to keep their lights on. His members prided themselves on not being racist.
His first lieutenant, Kruz, started squabbling with two young members called Smash and Street, whom he suspected were talking to the cops. Soon afterwards, police told Ivey that no Royal better touch their informants. When leaders get locked up is a prime time for violence — which is now more often intra-gang than between different gangs, Northwestern University sociologist and violence expert Andrew Papachristos reports.
Then 32, Ivey was sent to the private Delta correctional facility because of gang activity. There, he gathered the Royals in the yard. Police say the gang traffics guns and narcotics, with some members participating in gruesome violence against snitches. I thought I was doing something. Still, after leaving the Delta prisonIvey went to jail again for driving a woman to a drug deal.
Kristina Arnold, now Ivey, was visiting someone else at rehab when she met him. Her parents were addicts, too, and she had had a daughter at She had kicked her own habit and was studying to be a medical assistant. They talked on the phone and had lunch when she visited. By then, Ivey was getting clean, writing, praying, working out and trying to imagine his own future. She could sense his sincerity and dropped her guard. In FebruaryIvey rented a house for him, Kristina and her six-year-old, who is now When one of his bosses died two years ago, the other made Ivey his partner.
Inthe couple bought the 2, sq ft home in Rankin County cheap because it needed work. I lived in shacks. Over the last yearIvey built a large deck for Sunday cookouts, positioned a flatscreen for Nascar viewing and turned his garage into a workout studio with a large Confederate flag over his weight set. Still, the flag was gone in December when the black photographer he had gotten to know for this article visited.
Ivey attends a church by the interstate with a few black members. He works on houses in formerly lily-white South Jackson, where race demographics have flipped since his family house-hopped there. Today, many locals are surprised to learn that white gang members ran drugs and kicked in doors for two decades between Jackson and its majority-white suburbs.
Photograph: Imani Khayyam for The Guardian. Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America's white gangs. Thu 5 Apr Topics Gangs Mississippi Chicago features. Reuse this content.Any ethnic ladies like tatted Mississippi guys
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