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Does it sound unethical when people with no information about tattoos get attacked and intimidated by members of a gang for reasons that, they bear a tattoo of their rival group? Well, it is extremely sad and painful thus; it is advisable that when one intends to get a tattoo, he must first be aware of what the design he has chosen symbolizes. Presently, the art of tattoo addresses many social issues affecting the society especially the youth. Research has proved that different tattoos have diverse interpretations. Hence, the message the bearer would like to pass across influences the tattoo required. Similarly, most gangs in the United States prefer the use of tattoos in expressing their concerns.



The interviewee is a member of a small gang in the America. He decided to get the tattoo because it is the tradition of his gang and a requirement before enrollment. Moreover, it is a requirement that members of the gang bear tattoos as an identification procedure. It also makes an individual attain respect from a rival gang who might intent to intimidate him. Furthermore, he had no alternative, as he was already a member when he swore allegiance to the gang; thus, there was no turning back. Initially, he negotiated with the gang to allow him join the gang without the tattoo on his arm. This was because he never wanted discrimination from his family and close friends. However, the leaders did not give him audience thus, ended up giving him the tattoo. In the end, his desire to join the gang made him bear the tattoo forcefully.


His tattoo is that of a panther portrayed from an aerial view. The animal has a black body with a grayish finishing on its sides. Furthermore, its eyes are green and wide, with a black pupil at the center. It spots a tongue that is noticeably pink. Moreover, it seems to have positioned itself ready to seize upon a prey as it has its claws all poked out. The mouth is wide open with its sharp teeth fiercely exposed. Besides, the animal is maneuvering on top of stuck out stones beside which there is a waterfall. The facial expression is scary as it represents the animal's anger. Additionally, the panther has protruding muscles especially on the back and limbs. It has an outstanding long and thick tail with furs all over it. The tattoo portrays a scary panther preparing to tear its prey into pieces.


He did place the tattoo on his forearm as directed by his gang. Moreover, his gang believes that having the tattoo where everyone can see makes one immune to gang attacks and intimidations. Additionally, the colors are very essential in portraying his believes, as well as his gang's. Placing the tattoo on his forearm is essential because there are places where it is not supposed to be exposed. Such places include churches, schools, and government offices. Most importantly, they get exposed on the streets and other social gatherings excluding the ones mentioned. Thus, having the tattoo on the forearm makes it easier for the bearer to either reveal or hide it depending on his location. Moreover, they consider the spot appropriate as removing the tattoo from the forearm using any medical procedure is impossible. That means one has to bear it forever.


The tattoo symbolizes his pledge to the gang in both actions and beliefs. Thus, it reminds him of the gang's customs everywhere he goes. Furthermore, it symbolizes his allegiance to the gang in a way that is both genuinely personal and everlasting. It is also a way of both affirming his connection to the gang and flaunting his lack of association in straight society. Additionally, all members of the gang have almost the same kind of tattoo. As a result, it shows the degree to which the members are bond with one another. The tattoo also symbolizes his rank in the gang, as this is in accordance to the missions that he has accomplished.


He believes that his family and friends isolate him, as they associate a tattoo to evil people and activities. Moreover, he is aware the tattoo makes them look at him as a disgrace to the society. Whenever he puts on clothes that reveal the tattoo, he seems to receive a lot of attention, as most people are familiar with the symbol his tattoo represents. On the contrary, there are individuals who see him as a brave person for accepting to join the outlawed gang. It is a fact that most people know the gang for its rebellion to the federal law prohibiting the sell and use of drugs such as Cocaine, Marijuana, and Heroine. Thus, drug addicts and other people who support the gang but are not yet members look at him as a hero. However, these reactions do not deter his quest of ensuring he remains loyal to the gang beliefs.


He believes the tattoo has affected his social standing both positively and negatively. Primarily, he has realized he has no place among the law-abiding people. This is because they discriminate against him for joining gangs that participate in activities that perpetuate evil deeds. Similarly, individuals who are so much bound to their religious backgrounds like Christians and Muslims usually isolate him, because he engages in activities that their faith does not tolerate. On the contrary, he is happy that there are those individuals who look at him as an imperative person in the society. This is through his intentions of seeking freedom from the federal government harassments on those selling and using drugs. Thus, among them he attains respect and appreciation.


The tattoo gives an indication of the current social position of the interviewee and many other youths in their 20s and 30s involved in the sell and abuse of drugs, in the United States of America. The neighboring Mexican society has significantly influenced such activities in this country, as they extensively participate in the selling and abuse of drugs. It is evident that, federal agents frequently harass youths that emulate such behaviors, a fact that they dislike. This has made them form gangs that offers protection and facilitates the availability of drugs to users (DeMello, 2000). He personally believes the tattoo portrays the message that the society especially the youth should be free to use or sell these drugs; thus, constant harassments by federal agents should seize. Most importantly, the tattoo indicates the support he has to the gang activities despite the federal government laws prohibiting such deeds. As a result, anyone who sees the tattoo will directly relate him to the social position that he presently represents.

The tattoo symbolizes group membership, as individuals wearing it associate themselves with gangs, which opposes the federal laws that forbid the use and abuse of drugs in the United States of America. In most cases, such tattoos reflect the mindset and admirations of the bearer. For instance, the panther reflects the position of the bearer on the fact that he is ready to protect his territory together with all activities related to it. According to Atkinson (2003), various groups use animal tattoos to portray their position on certain issues affecting the society. Members of other gangs who share or differ with such ideas can easily interpret them on the first sight. It is noteworthy that, individuals bearing such tattoos walk liberally in the streets. Most importantly, they avoid walking in groups of more than two as they evade arrest by federal agents who might suspect them (Atkinson, 2003).

The tattoo is located on his right forearm an indication that it symbolizes group membership. It is a fact that, most gangs place their tattoos on areas that are easily accessible visually. This helps in the identification of gang membership by the public or other gangs. Most importantly, they consider the forearm a suitable spot on the human body to place a tattoo. This is because once there, it is not easy to remove using any medical procedure, unless one chops off the flesh bearing it. Thus, it represents a permanent pledge of the member to the gang. It is noteworthy that gang members prefer to announce their identity when in the midst of other groups. In addition, there are gangs that tattoo their face, neck, and baldhead to make them more visible (DeMello, 2007).

The American society regards the interviewee as a threat because he bears a tattoo. It is evident that, they associate it with people who fail to act in accordance with the law at will. Thus, their presence in the society causes discomfort to individuals around them. Most importantly, the society considers them a threat to the youth in their 20s and 30s. This is because their conduct easily influences them. In this context, individuals who protect the youth against such activities segregate the interviewee; they include parents and the related federal agencies. Moreover, their presence in the society brings with it consequences to those adjacent. For example, they are ever in gunfights with federal agents who pursue them for arrest. Hence, this is a threat to the lives of citizens who happen to be at the same location as them. Besides, the American society regard individuals who wear tattoos as hardliners on the issues they represent most of these being criminal activities (DeMello, 2007).

According to Kleiner & Mamiya (2009), the American style tattooing for gang members differ from that of such groups in non-western culture. It is evident that, in non-western culture gangs who mainly consists of youths in their 20s and 30s tattoo areas on their bodies that are not visible. Thus, unlike the American style tattooing where members tattoo their forearms or neck, in non-western culture gang members tattoo their chests, stomachs, and backs. The main reason behind this is the fact that, in non-western cultures, gangs undertake their activities secretly. It is noteworthy that, this is due to fear of discrimination and isolation by their peers and society in general. Moreover, they fear facing severe measures in the hands of law enforcers who always torture them when arrested. The most significant difference is the fact that tattooists recognized by the law perform American style tattooing in designated areas. On the contrary, in non-western culture tattooing takes place in secrecy, as there are no tattooists recognized by the law (Kleiner & Mamiya, 2009).



The interviewee's gang, from my findings has portrayed various uses of tattoos as a body art. One of the significance of tattoo is its purpose in communication, as the gang uses it as a way of expressing their views and ideas to the society. For instance, the panther tattoo on the interviewee's forearm represents the gang's opposition to the federal laws that govern the selling and use of forbidden drugs. Thus, it is a piece of art used to reveal individuals inner thoughts and admirations. In addition, the tattoo is a decoration, this is basing on the fact that all the gangs value certain colors. Thus, they prefer their tattoos to be well done and easily visible. In doing so, they ensure they use the most attractive colors on their tattoos. For example, the tattoo that the interviewee wore comes out in three principle colors, which are black, pink, and green. It is evident that this combination of colors enables the body art tattoo to look attractive. As a result, it attracts a lot of attention, thus enabling the message get to the target. Moreover, an attractive tattoo makes an individual presentable (Atkinson, 2003).


In accordance with my findings, tattooing is significant to economics, as the body art industry has advanced over the last few years. This is because gang members like the interviewee provides a source of income for the tattooists. In addition, individuals who prepare the designs earn wholesomely from the practice. Most importantly, it enables individuals working in this industry meet their basic needs through participating in matters related to tattoo design and inscription. On the other hand, erasing of tattoos generates income to the medical field and other individuals involved in the practice. The other significance of tattooing in economics is the fact that the vast body art industry generates revenue to the federal governments through remuneration of tax (DeMello, 2007). For instance, the interviewee revealed that his gang gets their tattoos done by tattooists documented by federal laws.

This means that these individuals pay taxes to the relevant authorities. Furthermore, before each tattooist starts his business, there are levies they submit to the concerned authorities. It is a fact that, the more the gangs the more revenue the government receives and vice versa. In general, the presence of body art tattooing in the society generates income to individuals and revenue to the government. Thus, it is an essential aspect in the driving of the country's economy. Basing on this it is appropriate to conclude that even though the interviewee and his gangs participate in unlawful activities, they eventually generate revenue to the government and income to the designers and tattooists who work very hard to ensure their tattoos appear awesome (DeMello, 2007).

Gender affiliations

In my findings, the interviewee revealed that gangs locate tattoos on different parts of the body as long as it is clearly visible. Similarly, research has proven that tattoo location is very much gender sensitive. The different symbolic meaning that tattoos posses in both men and women greatly influences this fact. Most importantly, individuals like the interviewee prefer placing tattoos on their arms and neck while women prefer their hips, back, breasts, and lower abdomen. It is noteworthy that, men think of tattoos as symbols of independence and self-control used to communicate their preferences. On the other hand, women consider tattoos as symbols for decoration used for personal or group satisfaction. Additionally, females do not consider tattoo locations basing on gender but privacy in display. Recent research has proved that tattoos are more stigmatizing when worn by women, unlike men.

Thus, their preferences on getting tattooed on private areas enable them maintain unblemished identities when in contact with people they are not familiar with or do not trust (Kuwahara, 2005). Kuwahara (2005) highlights that, preceding literature points to momentous gender disparity, with admiration to tattoo positioning and assorting of its representation. It uses a straightforward demographic dichotomy of females and males as the determining factor for gender. Nevertheless, it is likely that a dichotomous conception of gender may not be functional as a gauge of gender identity. Gender personality may not necessarily depend on biological aspect but vary from femininity all the way to masculinity. Hence, it is essential to consider gender when tattooing as it influences two major concepts that come with that art; these are its location and symbol (Kuwahara, 2005).

Group memberships

It is evident from my findings that, gangs are the social group that associates most with the tattoos. Moreover, a tattoo portrays a lot about the norms of the gang and their beliefs. It is a fact that, the most appropriate way to express their concerns and ideas is through the tattoos. Furthermore, they use tattoos as an identification mode. Research has proved that there are many gangs in the United States, which perceive body art as a major ingredient in their way of life. Additionally, these gangs place tattoos at designated body parts especially areas that are visible. This is because the location of the tattoos is a paramount concern to them. It is evident that they mostly tattoo their forearm and neck (DeMello, 2000).


It is evident that, in recent times, tattoos address a range of issues most of which affect the society. Most importantly, it expresses the beliefs of the bearer. Moreover, it has other uses, for instance, it serves well as a decoration. It is noteworthy that, the use of tattoos influences youth in their 20s and 30s easily. As a result, they constitute the bulk of gang associates in the United States of America. Additionally, the American style tattooing differs substantially with the non-western style of tattooing. Whereby, the American society, engages in the practice openly while the non-western culture society does it in secrecy.

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