What does being a gangsta mean? 

According to most reputable academic dictionaries, a gangster/gangsta is defined thusly:

gangster (n): a member of a gang of criminals.

Whether referring to stylishly-slick mafias or the type of gangbangers that are normally associated with saggy pants and color-coded bandanas, this is certainly not the type of gangsta that I profess to be. The only talk of drugs you’ll see here is in reference to Unisom and post-medical procedure prescribed pain killers, and my weapons of choice are sarcastic commentary and killer side-eyes.

That sarcastic wit is how I put my spin on what it means to be a gangsta. I don’t use it to make light of the very real problem of gang activity. As a teacher, I have plenty of kids who claim to “go hard” in the gang activity in my city (don’t be so foolish to think that there isn’t some degree of gang activity in your ‘hood, too).

No–here at The Smartness, the sarcasm is used to take that characteristic headstrong, staunch attitude and “thug love for my homies/ride-or-die” type of mindset and then twist it into something positive instead of something negative. Like I tell my students who are in gangs (they’re always supposed to be on the downlow and would never openly admit to it): “If you could redirect that negative energy and channel it into something positive, then you’d really be onto something special.”

To me, being “gangsta” means that:

  • you stand strong in your beliefs, but you are open-minded enough to consider other points of view.
  • you make no apologies for being who you are, but you are quick to apologize when you know you’re wrong.
  • you support your family and friends, even if that means you have to show them some tough love.
  • you’re enough of a bad ass to say, “Yeah, I’m a nerd. AND? So what you gonna do about it?”
  • It means that you’re ballsome–you have the balls to be awesome.


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