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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