In the late '80s, graffiti culture became a popular alternative to joining gangs, as it combined the allure of crime with the relatively low mortality rate of the arts. Unfortunately, this pissed off the actual gangs, which up until then had been using the general aimlessness of children as their main recruiting tool. Pretty soon, kids with spray cans unwittingly became the enemies of criminals with guns, which I personally became aware of when one of them tried to shoot me in the head.
Uh, one of the criminals with guns, not one of the kids with spray cans.
One day during the early '90s, my buddy and I were cruising L.A. in his old Datsun trying to pick up the kind of girls who'll get into a strange Datsun, when out of nowhere his back window exploded in a shower of glass. We later found out that it was a bunch of gangbangers who opened fire on us because we went to the same school as one of their enemies, and also because we were "taggers." We quickly got out of there, and a few days later were caught in a second shootout with another gang that was out to get us for some other reason that we never bothered to stop and ask about.
Then there was the night when our crew was throwing up graffiti in an abandoned building in a shady part of Los Angeles. Suddenly, a group of guys was standing right behind us. We told them that we were just there to paint and that we didn't want any trouble, but they yelled out: "f**k taggers!" and shot blindly at us, firing-squad style.
"You do NOT get to call us that! Only WE can use that word!"