Tag Archives: initiation ritual

Gang Initiation

“There’s an urban legend in Detroit, Michigan. To join a gang you have to drive around with your lights off and then the first person who flashes their lights at you to turn your lights on, you have to follow them and kill them.”

The informant told me about this initiation ritual at the very end of our interview. He said that he heard it from his brother, who is also from Detroit. The informant grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit. He likes to think of Detroit as tough and dirty. This legend of a gang initiation ritual reinforces this image of the city. The informant said that he finds the idea of randomly killing a stranger terrifying. However, he still likes to tell the tale of the ritual.

I think this process for initiating gang members is extremely harsh. I don’t know why anyone would participate in such an inhumane practice. However, it is a little romantically horrible; it could take place in a serial killer tv show or a scary novel. I have heard of similar gang initiation practices. In fact, another informant informed me that there is the exact same ritual here in Los Angeles. It makes me more wary of flashing my lights at people if they don’t have their lights on, which I do regularly when I drive. Therefore, the informant’s use of this tale to characterize Detroit as harsh is a little off target, because it isn’t unique to Detroit. Culture is defined by its folklore, from both within and outside of it. The informant used the folklore to define Detroit culture, even though it isn’t all of the culture of Detroit and it doesn’t belong only to Detroit. The ritual is terrifying and reflects how harsh and scary gangs can be.

“You guys have it easy”

According to my source, in the marine core, whenever the senior group is about to graduate, they tell the new recruits who’ve just come in that they are having a much easier time than the ones graduating. Depending on who’s in charge and the current politics, it actually does fluctuate in difficulty, but the graduating class always tells the newer recruits this even if it’s slightly untrue. Regardless, there’s no such thing as easy marine core boot camp. According to my source, it’s so difficult that half the guys don’t make it to graduation.

My source heard this when he was beginning his training when he was in his 20s, and says that the men who do it do so to make themselves feel better and make the new group feel like they’re not as tough as older ones are. He claims that it’s human nature to want to think that you’re better and stronger than the next guy coming through. It may also be that intimidating the new trainees into wanting to be better and stronger than the group before them is both a sort of initiation ritual and a way to sort of inspire the new recruits.

I’ve personally seen this sort of thing in junior high and high school regarding certain classes and P.E., so it’s definitely seen outside of this setting and can apply towards different situations.