History repeats itself. When situations are not fixed, the problems caused by them will reappear over and over again. Gangs of New York is set in the 1860s, The Great Gatsby and bootlegging the 1920s, and street gangs/drugs the late twentieth century. Each of these is people reacting to a desire to overcome the situations in which they were stuck. Something was preventing their entering the main population and becoming successful. Instead of just submitting to the oppressive status quo, these people decided to circumvent the system in order to find a way to rise or just survive. While their methods were often not the most moral, they felt justified because of that which they had to endure.
The fascinating thing about this repetition of history is how long it took people to even notice the cause of it, much less propose possible solutions. People complained about the illegal activities and pointed to them as proof of the inferiority or problems of these groups instead of as symptoms of the oppression that these groups often faced. O’Kane notes how many of these illegal acts were reactions to what these people were tired of experiencing. Ultimately, those who used the actions of groups as justification for oppression perpetuated that which they disliked.