Lost Generation 

The stereotype of Asian kids in America is that of do-gooders and academic overachievers. But break the crime stats into ethnic subgroups and you'll start running into more and more kids like Lil' Cloudy -- gangsta.

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Taesali says she often relies on anecdotal evidence when applying for grants because there simply isn't any data on Pacific Islanders as a whole, not to mention the distinct subgroups like Samoan, Tongan, and Fijian.

Trung's father stood before the judge and told him that his son was no good -- beyond hope. "Lock him up as long as possible," the boy remembers his father saying. After the proceedings, Trung asked the bailiff to bring his dad over so he could talk to him. His father refused.

It was Trung's father who turned him in for carrying a weapon. The boy had come home drunk at three or four one morning. His father began yelling. Trung didn't want to hear it. He took a shower. The next day, his father confronted him about the pistol he had found in his son's clothes. What Trung didn't know was that his father had turned the gun over to the police, who had issued a warrant for his arrest. When he came home drunk again a few weeks later, his dad called the cops; the teenager was arrested around the corner from his house.

His father has no right to tell him what to do, Trung says. His father stays out late drinking and owns a gun, too, he says. Lily confirms this. Once, she says, her dad was arrested for drunk driving.

For the weapons charge, Trung did a month in juvenile hall, where he took the GED exam. "In juvenile, school is fun," he says in all seriousness. "If you don't go to school, you've got to stay in your cell all day and they bring your food on a tray. You wear underwear that maybe the guy next to you wore yesterday."

Lily says Trung called home every day. No one visited. His mother wanted to, but didn't know how to get there, he says. After he turned eighteen, he was transferred to another unit that housed more serious offenders -- people who had committed armed robberies and other violent acts. "I think he was scared," Lily says. "There are some big guys in there." Hopefully, the thought of life behind bars will keep him out, she says.

Trung is now on probation until he turns 21, and the ankle monitor tracks his every move. He must wear it for a hundred days and is not allowed to leave the house, except for school, counseling, community service, probation meetings, or the weekly drug test. Violating any of these requirements is grounds for re-arrest, as is taking part in any gang activity. The probation officer can search his house at any time.

Lil' Cloudy plays along. He attends his classes, but he also keeps that blue bandanna in his pocket. The young man doesn't feel as though he's done anything wrong. "Why do I have to have counseling? Why don't my mom and dad take counseling too?" he says. "If a two-year-old says 'fuck,' who's to blame? Not the two-year-old. Why is that different when you're twelve? I'm not going to put all the blame on the parents. But parents got to learn different methods of raising their kids."

Now he spends his days watching the NBA play-offs, reading a bit, and listening to music in his spartan room, furnished with the bottom half of a bunk bed and a seat from an old car as a chair. Ten shirts hang in the closet -- almost all of them blue. He still hasn't bothered to put anything up on the walls after his father's last rampage through the room.

Unlike many of his gang peers, Trung has aspirations. His diploma arrived at the end of May, and Mom bought a frame for it right away. Trung now wants to enroll in community college. Though he missed most of ninth grade, he managed to attend class on the day his school administered the STAR test, the state's standardized achievement test. He scored in the top five percent for his grade level, earning himself a $1,000 scholarship, should he ever decide to use it.

Maybe he'll study business, he says. Maybe he'll go into the military. Help develop weapons or something -- all the news on terrorism interests him. "It's kind of like street gangs, except bigger. Nations against nations. And they're all fighting each other. Instead of having guns, they're using nuclear weapons."

Trung's goals hinge on the material. "Live in a big house. Drive fancy cars. Never worry about bills and mortgages," he says. Of course, that would also require that he not get killed in a spat over the color of his shirt.

Trung may have the same dreams as other teenagers, but he's not willing to give up his gang to realize them. "I'm not going to quit," he insists. "Sooner or later, I'll be back doing the same thing."

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