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Code of the Street. An effort to understand and explain violence and related problems in the inner city. Questions to bear in mind. What is the “code of the street”? How does the code of the street affect the day-to-day lives of individuals who live there?

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Code of the Street

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Code of the Street

An effort to understand and explain violence and related problems in the inner city

Questions to bear in mind

  • What is the “code of the street”?

  • How does the code of the street affect the day-to-day lives of individuals who live there?

  • Is Anderson’s characterization of life in the inner city on target?

What is the “code of the street”?

  • Rules that govern encounters with others in inner city neighborhoods

  • Respect is the key goal

  • Deterrence: the threat of vengeance

  • Violence becomes a common part of life

One view of all of this

  • Personal respect is something we all desire

  • Fighting as a way of maintaining respect has been a feature of several American subcultures (e.g., rural South)

  • Drugs and availability of guns has taken violence to a new level

Effects on day-to-day life

  • Increases risks to personal safety,especially for young men

  • Increases confrontations between police and young men

  • Contributes to racial profiling by police

  • Creates stereotypes of inner city residents among those who live outside the inner city

Contrasting Life Styles within the Inner City

  • Decent and Street Families

    • Decent: civilly disposed, socially conscious, and self-reliant

    • Street: inconsiderate, ignorant, desperate

  • Achieving and maintaining respect

    • Code-switching among decent kids

    • Is code-switching necessary for safety and physical survival among decent kids?

Positive family role models within the inner city

  • Decent daddy

    • Works hard

    • Supports his family

    • Rules his household

    • Protects his daughters

    • Raises his sons to be like him

    • Encourages other young people to exhibit these qualities

Positive Role Models, continued

  • Factors that undermined the role of the decent daddy

    • Challenges from young blacks over how to confront prejudice and discrimination (Black Panthers to themes of Hip Hop)

    • Rejection of white society by African Americans who are decent, who follow the rules

The Grandmother

  • Important role in reality and in folklore

  • Roles

    • Taking responsibility for children abandoned by their parents

    • Asserting her moral authority for the good of the family

    • Sometimes rearing children herself

Challenges faced by current inner city grandmothers

  • Convincing young people that being decent and acting right will bring success

  • Fewer and fewer women have the social capital (networks, respect in the community) that permit them to play this role

Wacquant, AJS (May 2002)

Anderson replaces negative stereotypes of inner city residents with positive stereotypes of decent people trapped in a bad situation.

  • Parochial, solely American view of urban poor

  • close to his subjects with insufficient attention to larger sociological theoretical issues

  • Mad scramble for accessible books on sexy topics

  • Anderson is sexist

Anderson’s response

  • The sociologist’s job is to challenge conventional wisdom (The Sociological Imagination)

  • Ethnographic work, involving participant observation and personal interviews, gives one an in depth picture

  • Most people, including young people in the inner city, would like to be decent people

  • Respondents may be sexist but he is not

Overview of Anderson, 1-2, 5-6

  • Most people in the inner city are decent people trying to make the most of a difficult situation

  • Question: Is Anderson replacing negative stereotypes with positive stereotypes?

Overview, continued

  • The social structure of the inner city (lack of opportunities, drugs, violence) and the culture of the inner city reinforce one another.

  • Question: How responsible are individuals in the inner city for their personal behavior in this difficult setting?

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