In Harold Henderson’s “The City File” column (March 11) Dwight Conquergood, speaking at a Northwestern conference on race and the media, is quoted as saying that “Labeling someone a gang member licenses the most rabid racism and class bias.” I don’t know who Conquergood is, but he sounds like a PR spin doctor hired by the gangs themselves as an apologist.

First of all, gangs come in all colors. In a Chicago State University survey of police chiefs in Illinois towns, quoted in the March 11 Tribune, 49 percent of police chiefs report that gangs in their towns are primarily white, 31 percent said primarily black, and 19 percent said primarily Latin.

It is also interesting that Conquergood calls gangs a class issue. Where has he been? The reason Americans find gangs so shocking is that they are everywhere, including such thriving suburbs as Schaumburg. So the myth that gangbangers are just poor urban youth is today as dead as the dinosaurs.

However, for the sake of argument, what if the gangs were only black and only poor? Would that make their predatory behavior any less despicable? Gang apologists should note that every year black gangs kill more blacks than the KKK killed in their entire history. Leave it to such apologists to equate defending gangs to defending the black community, when no community is as victimized by gangs or desires to get rid of them more.

Let’s be honest here about the nature of the threat. The FBI estimates that nationwide there are at least 400,000 hard-core gangbangers. If an army that big invaded America, there would be no debate about what to do; everyone would understand that we are at war and must act accordingly. But, since as a nation we have yet to overcome our West Side Story images, we still act as if they are just misunderstood kids who need our love and understanding.

Also, let’s stop pretending we are just dealing with kid stuff. The average age of a gangbanger is 19, while most of the leaders are adults in their 30s or 40s. Their goal is not merely to deal drugs, but to take over every city in America and crush everyone in their way. Don’t take my word for it; ask any gang leader: most admit it openly.

Conquergood should look up the word “appeasement” in his dictionary. It was bad policy against Hitler’s original brownshirts, and it remains bad policy against the gangs, the brownshirts of our times.

Tyrone Walls

West Rogers Park