'Ghettotainment'? Pay $65 and Take a Bus Tour Through Gang-Ridden L.A.
Here's a new vacation idea:
Only miles from the scenic vistas and celebrity mansions that draw sightseers from around the globe -- but a world away from the glitz and glamour -- a bus tour is rolling through the dark side of the city's gang turf.
Passengers paying $65 a head Saturday signed waivers acknowledging they could be crime victims and put their fate in the hands of tattooed ex-gang members who say they have negotiated a cease-fire among rivals in the most violent gangland in America.
At first read, this sounds horrific. I'm picturing a bunch of white people, including foreign tourists, peering out of tinted bus windows, gawking at people who are stuck living in a vice of poverty and violence. The bus goes around a few blocks, enough to snap digital pictures of graffiti, and these 'tourists' now can go home thinking they understand something about how people live in one of the most dangerous parts of the country.
So, is this latest economic endeavour just the newest form of "ghettotainment" or is there something of actual benefit going on here?
Apparently the organizers of LA Gang Tours are ex-gang members themselves trying to "convince people that gang-plagued communities are not as hopeless as movies depict," according the AP.
"There's a fascination with gangs," said founder Alfred Lomas, a former member of the Florencia 13 gang. "We can either address the issue head-on, create awareness and discuss the positive things that go on in these communities, or we can try to sweep it under the carpet."
So, does the tour do justice to the situation? Here's what some of the folks on the bus had to say (and yes, look, foreign tourists!):