Gangs are as much a part of American culture as apple pie and football—albeit, they are a side of Americana that most people don't really want to acknowledge. Many, many true crime books have been written on American gangs and the most infamous gangsters in history.
There are currently thousands of gangs operating in the United States, but very few have the kind of notoriety that the Bloods do. The Bloods have been around for over 40 years, originating in California.
Since their beginnings on Piru Street, the Bloods have slowly emerged as an international crime organization that has made its way into the music industry and mainstream popular culture.
Over the years, there have been many mythos and legends about the Bloods—not to mention misconceptions. These facts about the Bloods will shed a little light on America's most notorious street gang.
There are a minimum of 15,000 Bloods gang members in America, with thousands more abroad.
Most people don't realize how big an organization the Bloods really is. One of the most shocking facts about the Bloods is the sheer number of members this gang has throughout the country.
Law enforcement officials believe there to be at least 15,000 Blood members in America. More realistic membership statistics place the total in the 20,000 to 25,000 range.
They are a nationwide gang with sets in almost every major city. What we're saying is that you probably live in a town that has at least one Bloods member in it.
It's not just ONE gang, either.
The Bloods is a massive conglomerate of gangs that span both the East Coast and the West Coast. Each individual gang is called a "set." Every set's leader works with other sets to gain better standing for the overall organization.
On the West Coast, most Bloods sets originated on the streets of Los Angeles and gained territory through gunfights, purchases, and negotiations.
On the East Coast, the United Blood Nation is the origin of most sets—and UBN, by the way, is a jail gang set. Some people on the West Coast do not consider UBN members to be "true" members, while others do.
The color red isn't the only color that Bloods enjoy.
One of the most commonly cited facts about the Bloods is their love of the color red. And, it's true. When Bloods want to flag up, they typically will wear a lot of red to show their affiliation. Their tattoos are mostly black and red as well.
Though red may be the "trademark" color, there are other colors that Bloods might wear. Some sets will also wear green as a way to represent African roots. Female-only Blood gangs may wear pink, while others may wear grey.
The colors you wear as a Blood member depend on your set and the region you're from. Oddly enough, orange isn't usually a Bloods color; that's more commonly found on Crips.
They have their own languages that they use.
If you meet a person who is affiliated with the Bloods, they will most likely take a much deeper interest in graffiti and may also use gestures that seem a bit strange to outsiders. Believe it or not, it's because Bloods gang members are all technically bilingual.
The Bloods have their own alphabet, sign language, and graffiti language that each member is expected to master—and that's alongside all the slang you may hear them talk. This allows them to have conversations that others won't understand through use of graffiti or gestures.
Though there are general themes and a standardized alphabet, the language itself has nuanced changes from coast to coast and city to city.
The Bloods started because of the Crips.
If you know anything about the rivalry between Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G, then you also probably have heard that Bloods and Crips really don't get along very well.
During the early years of Crips life, there was a falling out between members. Crips were taking over Los Angeles and it was getting ugly. Power was being taken for granted, people were getting killed, and it was a bad time to live in Cali.
The Bloods started as a revolt against the Crips. The original street gang, the Piru Street gang, stood up against them as a way to end the problems they were causing.
Both the Bloods and Crips were a byproduct of racism.
The Crips originated as a way to help stand up against racist policies and police aggression. The founding members were in high school and actively saw it as a peaceful brotherhood—much like what Malcom X or Martin Luther King Jr. would have wanted.
It was only when major leaders of the Crips set were arrested by racist police officers that the organization turned into a gang. When the Bloods were created, similar things happened to them.
Had the government not worked so hard to oppress them by falsely arresting the original founders, they would be no different than the NAACP or any other anti-racism organization.
You might not actually recognize a Bloods member.
A common misconception about gang membership is that all gang members are walking stereotypes. Most people assume that all Bloods are unemployed, uneducated, black, and male. This isn't true—and some of the people who are Bloods affiliated might shock you.
The Bloods have members who are male, female, and transgender. They have members of all religions and nationalities as well. Moreover, there have been many famous Bloods members in the music industry and movie industries.
Some of the more surprising Bloods include female rapper Cardi B, comedian D.L. Hughley, and Nick Cannon. Tupac Shakur, who's arguably one of the best gangsta rappers of the 90s, was also allegedly Bloods.
To be a Bloods member, you have to abide by certain laws.
Though different sets have different laws, one of the more surprising facts about the Bloods is that they have a codified set of rules they must obey in order to remain in the gang. (Or, you know, alive.)
These laws include things like showing reverence to your set, being willing to run errands for gang leaders, as well as rules dealing with dating and acting as guardians of their communities.
Of course, there are loopholes around these laws. For example, male Bloods members are not allowed to hit women. If a woman angers a gang leader, the leader will often send other women to beat her up.
The Bloods have a military presence—and use the skills learned there to teach others in their set how to fight.
Modern gang life isn't as simple as you'd think it is. Being a gang member means that you are at a constant state of war, even when you're technically "at peace" with rivals. You constantly have to look over your shoulder because you never know who will want to harm you.
Top ranking gang members know this, so they've started to encourage members to join the military and go to universities so that they can better educate their members on fighting tactics. The United States Department of Defense noted that almost every major gang has started to do this.
'South Park' was right about one thing...
If you remember the South Park episode "Krazy Kripples," then you might recognize that Jimmy and Timmy both decided to try to get the Bloods and Crips to unite together for a day of fun. Believe it or not, this wasn't just a slice of South Park's genius comedy.
Perhaps the most shocking of all facts about the Bloods is the way they have united with the Crips for causes that affected them both in the past. At one point, they even released a Bloods and Crips mixtape together!
Truth really is stranger than fiction, isn't it?