In Chicago there was a contest for young people to design the city’s annual car sticker. The winning sticker was ready for printing when a police blogger noticed what appeared to be gang symbols in the design. Most suspicious was the depiction of alleged gang hand signs. Suddenly this story became the focus of the local news media. Since then the city decided to drop this design and went with the runner-up instead.
Were gangs symbols intended or are people reading too much into it? It was suggested the sticker contained symbols related to the Maniac Latin Disciples street gang. Above is the sticker along side the gang’s symbol. The gang symbol is a horned heart with pitchforks. The sticker had a heart with hands above suggesting the “pitchfork” gang hand sign. The location of the hands was suggestive of the pitchforks and horns.
Was any of this intentional? Symbolism can be intended or unintended and is in the eye of the beholder. The power of symbolism comes from those who interpret the symbol and not necessarily from the creator. If this sticker was meant to have gang symbols or not is almost beside the point. What matters was the public believed they were gang symbols.
The best symbols are ambiguous but not completely so. We are left wondering…what does it mean? Consider tarot cards. They are filled with symbolism but their exact meaning is lost in history. All we are left with were the symbols themselves and how we interpret them is up to us. Once the original intent is lost a symbol stands on its own and takes on a life of its own.
Others symbols (like gang graffiti) are obviously intentional. They serve a specific purpose such as claiming ownership over some territory. I was at a warehouse when I noticed a shrink-wrapped pallet that had a six-pointed star or “Star of David” written on it. Apparently someone tried to later write over it with a marker. Someone understood what this symbol meant. I thought to myself, do they actually intend to ship this pallet with that hexagram written on it? I took a picture of it with my cellphone (below).
Outside of whoever tried to scribble over it, nobody really paid any attention to this star. I chatted with the warehouse manager. “You have Jews working here in the warehouse?” I asked. Not likely. I told him this star was not just a doodle. The six-pointed star was the gang symbol for the Gangster Disciples. They had no clue. I suggested someone in his facility might be associated with them. IF so, that would not be a good thing for a business. We looked around and spotted a few other pallets tagged with the star as well.
Since then there have been no other instances of such graffiti. I assume they figured out who was responsible and had a chat with him, or replaced him. A business cannot tolerate gangs assuming their facility is their territory. People need to be aware of this stuff. It is a shame many neighborhoods cannot resolve their gang issues as effectively as businesses can.
Here is a video that offers an explanation for the mysterious Chicago city sticker gang hand signs: