Anderson 1994a

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Unformatted text preview: The
Code
of
the
Streets
–
May
1994
 
 In
this
essay
in
urban
anthropology
a
social
scientist
takes
us
inside
a
world
 most
of
us
only
glimpse
in
grisly
headlines­­"Teen
Killed
in
Drive
By
Shooting"­­ to
show
us
how
a
desperate
search
for
respect
governs
social
relations
among
 many
African­American
young
men
 
 by
Elijah
Anderson
 
 Of
all
the
problems
besetting
the
poor
inner‐city
black
community,
none
is
more
 pressing
than
that
of
interpersonal
violence
and
aggression.
It
wreaks
havoc
daily
 with
the
lives
of
community
residents
and
increasingly
spills
over
into
downtown
 and
residential
middle‐class
areas.
Muggings,
burglaries,
carjackings,
and
drug‐ related
shootings,
all
of
which
may
leave
their
victims
or
innocent
bystanders
dead,
 are
now
common
enough
to
concern
all
urban
and
many
suburban
residents.
The
 inclination
to
violence
springs
from
the
circumstances
of
life
among
the
ghetto
poor‐ ‐the
lack
of
jobs
that
pay
a
living
wage,
the
stigma
of
race,
the
fallout
from
rampant
 drug
use
and
drug
trafficking,
and
the
resulting
alienation
and
lack
of
hope
for
the
 future.
 
 Simply
living
in
such
an
environment
places
young
people
at
special
risk
of
falling
 victim
to
aggressive
behavior.
Although
there
are
often
forces
in
the
community
 which
can
counteract
the
negative
influences,
by
far
the
most
powerful
being
a
 strong,
loving,
"decent"
(as
inner‐city
residents
put
it)
family
committed
to
middle‐ class
values,
the
despair
is
pervasive
enough
to
have
spawned
an
oppositional
 culture,
that
of
"the
streets,"
whose
norms
are
often
consciously
opposed
to
those
of
 mainstream
society.
These
two
orientations‐‐decent
and
street‐‐socially
organize
 the
community,
and
their
coexistence
has
important
consequences
for
residents,
 particularly
children
growing
up
in
the
inner
city.
Above
all,
this
environment
 means
that
even
youngsters
whose
home
lives
reflect
mainstream
values‐‐and
the
 majority
of
homes
in
the
community
do‐‐
must
be
able
to
handle
themselves
in
a
 street‐oriented
environment.
 
 This
is
because
the
street
culture
has
evolved
what
may
be
called
a
code
of
the
 streets,
which
amounts
to
a
set
of
informal
rules
governing
interpersonal
public
 behavior,
including
violence.
The
rules
prescribe
both
a
proper
comportment
and
a
 proper
way
to
respond
if
challenged.
They
regulate
the
use
of
violence
and
so
allow
 those
who
are
inclined
to
aggression
to
precipitate
violent
encounters
in
an
 approved
way.
The
rules
have
been
established
and
are
enforced
mainly
by
the
 street‐oriented,
but
on
the
streets
the
distinction
between
street
and
decent
is
often
 irrelevant;
everybody
knows
that
if
the
rules
are
violated,
there
are
penalties.
 Knowledge
of
the
code
is
thus
largely
defensive;
it
is
literally
necessary
for
 operating
in
public.
Therefore,
even
though
families
with
a
decency
orientation
are
 usually
opposed
to
the
values
of
the
code,
they
often
reluctantly
encourage
their
 children's
familiarity
with
it
to
enable
them
to
negotiate
the
inner‐city
environment.
 
 At
the
heart
of
the
code
is
the
issue
of
respect‐‐loosely
defined
as
being
treated
 "right,"
or
granted
the
deference
one
deserves.
However,
in
the
troublesome
public
 environment
of
the
inner
city,
as
people
increasingly
feel
buffeted
by
forces
beyond
 their
control,
what
one
deserves
in
the
way
of
respect
becomes
more
and
more
 problematic
and
uncertain.
This
in
turn
further
opens
the
issue
of
respect
to
 sometimes
intense
interpersonal
negotiation.
In
the
street
culture,
especially
among
 young
people,
respect
is
viewed
as
almost
an
external
entity
that
is
hard‐won
but
 easily
lost,
and
so
must
constantly
be
guarded.
The
rules
of
the
code
in
fact
provide
a
 framework
for
negotiating
respect.
The
person
whose
very
appearance‐‐
including
 his
clothing,
demeanor,
and
way
of
moving‐‐deters
transgressions
feels
that
he
 possesses,
and
may
be
considered
by
others
to
possess,
a
measure
of
respect.
With
 the
right
amount
of
respect,
for
instance,
he
can
avoid
"being
bothered"
in
public.
If
 he
is
bothered,
not
only
may
he
be
in
physical
danger
but
he
has
been
disgraced
or
 "dissed"
(disrespected).
Many
of
the
forms
that
dissing
can
take
might
seem
petty
to
 middle‐class
people
(maintaining
eye
contact
for
too
long,
for
example),
but
to
those
 invested
in
the
street
code,
these
actions
become
serious
indications
of
the
other
 person's
intentions.
Consequently,
such
people
become
very
sensitive
to
advances
 and
slights,
which
could
well
serve
as
warnings
of
imminent
physical
confrontation.
 
 This
hard
reality
can
be
traced
to
the
profound
sense
of
alienation
from
mainstream
 society
and
its
institutions
felt
by
many
poor
inner‐city
black
people,
particularly
 the
young.
The
code
of
the
streets
is
actually
a
cultural
adaptation
to
a
profound
lack
 of
faith
in
the
police
and
the
judicial
system.
The
police
are
most
often
seen
as
 representing
the
dominant
white
society
and
not
caring
to
protect
inner‐city
 residents.
When
called,
they
may
not
respond,
which
is
one
reason
many
residents
 feel
they
must
be
prepared
to
take
extraordinary
measures
to
defend
themselves
 and
their
loved
ones
against
those
who
are
inclined
to
aggression.
Lack
of
police
 accountability
has
in
fact
been
incorporated
into
the
status
system:
the
person
who
 is
believed
capable
of
"taking
care
of
himself"
is
accorded
a
certain
deference,
which
 translates
into
a
sense
of
physical
and
psychological
control.
Thus
the
street
code
 emerges
where
the
influence
of
the
police
ends
and
personal
responsibility
for
one's
 safety
is
felt
to
begin.
Exacerbated
by
the
proliferation
of
drugs
and
easy
access
to
 guns,
this
volatile
situation
results
in
the
ability
of
the
street
oriented
minority
(or
 those
who
effectively
"go
for
bad")
to
dominate
the
public
spaces.
 
 
 
 DECENT
AND
STREET
FAMILIES
 
 ALTHOUGH
almost
everyone
in
poor
inner‐city
neighborhoods
is
struggling
 financially
and
therefore
feels
a
certain
distance
from
the
rest
of
America,
the
decent
 and
the
street
family
in
a
real
sense
represent
two
poles
of
value
orientation,
two
 contrasting
conceptual
categories.
The
labels
"decent"
and
"street,"
which
the
 residents
themselves
use,
amount
to
evaluative
judgments
that
confer
status
on
 local
residents.
The
labeling
is
often
the
result
of
a
social
contest
among
individuals
 and
families
of
the
neighborhood.
Individuals
of
the
two
orientations
often
coexist
in
 the
same
extended
family.
Decent
residents
judge
themselves
to
be
so
while
judging
 others
to
be
of
the
street,
and
street
individuals
often
present
themselves
as
decent,
 drawing
distinctions
between
themselves
and
other
people.
In
addition,
there
is
 quite
a
bit
of
circumstantial
behavior‐‐that
is,
one
person
may
at
different
times
 exhibit
both
decent
and
street
orientations,
depending
on
the
circumstances.
 Although
these
designations
result
from
so
much
social
jockeying,
there
do
exist
 concrete
features
that
define
each
conceptual
category.
 
 Generally,
so‐called
decent
families
tend
to
accept
mainstream
values
more
fully
and
 attempt
to
instill
them
in
their
children.
Whether
married
couples
with
children
or
 single‐parent
(usually
female)
households,
they
are
generally
"working
poor"
and
so
 tend
to
be
better
off
financially
than
their
street‐oriented
neighbors.
They
value
 hard
work
and
self‐reliance
and
are
willing
to
sacrifice
for
their
children.
Because
 they
have
a
certain
amount
of
faith
in
mainstream
society,
they
harbor
hopes
for
a
 better
future
for
their
children,
if
not
for
themselves.
Many
of
them
go
to
church
and
 take
a
strong
interest
in
their
children's
schooling.
Rather
than
dwelling
on
the
real
 hardships
and
inequities
facing
them,
many
such
decent
people,
particularly
the
 increasing
number
of
grandmothers
raising
grandchildren,
see
their
difficult
 situation
as
a
test
from
God
and
derive
great
support
from
their
faith
and
from
the
 church
community.
 
 Extremely
aware
of
the
problematic
and
often
dangerous
environment
in
which
 they
reside,
decent
parents
tend
to
be
strict
in
their
child‐rearing
practices,
 encouraging
children
to
respect
authority
and
walk
a
straight
moral
line.
They
have
 an
almost
obsessive
concern
about
trouble
of
any
kind
and
remind
their
children
to
 be
on
the
lookout
for
people
and
situations
that
might
lead
to
it.
At
the
same
time,
 they
are
themselves
polite
and
considerate
of
others,
and
teach
their
children
to
be
 the
same
way.
At
home,
at
work,
and
in
church,
they
strive
hard
to
maintain
a
 positive
mental
attitude
and
a
spirit
of
cooperation.
 
 So‐called
street
parents,
in
contrast,
often
show
a
lack
of
consideration
for
other
 people
and
have
a
rather
superficial
sense
of
family
and
community.
Though
they
 may
love
their
children,
many
of
them
are
unable
to
cope
with
the
physical
and
 emotional
demands
of
parenthood,
and
find
it
difficult
to
reconcile
their
needs
with
 those
of
their
children.
These
families,
who
are
more
fully
invested
in
the
code
of
the
 streets
than
the
decent
people
are,
may
aggressively
socialize
their
children
into
it
 in
a
normative
way.
They
believe
in
the
code
and
judge
themselves
and
others
 according
to
its
values.
 
 In
fact
the
overwhelming
majority
of
families
in
the
inner‐city
community
try
to
 approximate
the
decent‐family
model,
but
there
are
many
others
who
clearly
 represent
the
worst
fears
of
the
decent
family.
Not
only
are
their
financial
resources
 extremely
limited,
but
what
little
they
have
may
easily
be
misused.
The
lives
of
the
 street‐oriented
are
often
marked
by
disorganization.
In
the
most
desperate
 circumstances
people
frequently
have
a
limited
understanding
of
priorities
and
 consequences,
and
so
frustrations
mount
over
bills,
food,
and,
at
times,
drink,
 cigarettes,
and
drugs.
Some
tend
toward
self‐destructive
behavior;
many
street‐ oriented
women
are
crack‐addicted
("on
the
pipe"),
alcoholic,
or
involved
in
 complicated
relationships
with
men
who
abuse
them.
In
addition,
the
seeming
 intractability
of
their
situation,
caused
in
large
part
by
the
lack
of
well‐paying
jobs
 and
the
persistence
of
racial
discrimination,
has
engendered
deep‐seated
bitterness
 and
anger
in
many
of
the
most
desperate
and
poorest
blacks,
especially
young
 people.
The
need
both
to
exercise
a
measure
of
control
and
to
lash
out
at
somebody
 is
often
reflected
in
the
adults'
relations
with
their
children.
At
the
least,
the
 frustrations
of
persistent
poverty
shorten
the
fuse
in
such
people‐‐
contributing
to
a
 lack
of
patience
with
anyone,
child
or
adult,
who
irritates
them.
 
 In
these
circumstances
a
woman‐‐or
a
man,
although
men
are
less
consistently
 present
in
children's
lives‐‐can
be
quite
aggressive
with
children,
yelling
at
and
 striking
them
for
the
least
little
infraction
of
the
rules
she
has
set
down.
Often
little
if
 any
serious
explanation
follows
the
verbal
and
physical
punishment.
This
response
 teaches
children
a
particular
lesson.
They
learn
that
to
solve
any
kind
of
 interpersonal
problem
one
must
quickly
resort
to
hitting
or
other
violent
behavior.
 Actual
peace
and
quiet,
and
also
the
appearance
of
calm,
respectful
children
 conveyed
to
her
neighbors
and
friends,
are
often
what
the
young
mother
most
 desires,
but
at
times
she
will
be
very
aggressive
in
trying
to
get
them.
Thus
she
may
 be
quick
to
beat
her
children,
especially
if
they
defy
her
law,
not
because
she
hates
 them
but
because
this
is
the
way
she
knows
to
control
them.
In
fact,
many
street‐ oriented
women
love
their
children
dearly.
Many
mothers
in
the
community
 subscribe
to
the
notion
that
there
is
a
"devil
in
the
boy"
that
must
be
beaten
out
of
 him
or
that
socially
"fast
girls
need
to
be
whupped."
Thus
much
of
what
borders
on
 child
abuse
in
the
view
of
social
authorities
is
acceptable
parental
punishment
in
the
 view
of
these
mothers.
 
 Many
street‐oriented
women
are
sporadic
mothers
whose
children
learn
to
fend
for
 themselves
when
necessary,
foraging
for
food
and
money
any
way
they
can
get
it.
 The
children
are
sometimes
employed
by
drug
dealers
or
become
addicted
 themselves.
These
children
of
the
street,
growing
up
with
little
supervision,
are
said
 to
"come
up
hard."
They
often
learn
to
fight
at
an
early
age,
sometimes
using
short‐ tempered
adults
around
them
as
role
models.
The
street‐oriented
home
may
be
 fraught
with
anger,
verbal
disputes,
physical
aggression,
and
even
mayhem.
The
 children
observe
these
goings‐on,
learning
the
lesson
that
might
makes
right.
They
 quickly
learn
to
hit
those
who
cross
them,
and
the
dog‐eat‐dog
mentality
prevails.
In
 order
to
survive,
to
protect
oneself,
it
is
necessary
to
marshal
inner
resources
and
 be
ready
to
deal
with
adversity
in
a
hands‐on
way.
In
these
circumstances
physical
 prowess
takes
on
great
significance.
 
 In
some
of
the
most
desperate
cases,
a
street‐oriented
mother
may
simply
leave
her
 young
children
alone
and
unattended
while
she
goes
out.
The
most
irresponsible
 women
can
be
found
at
local
bars
and
crack
houses,
getting
high
and
socializing
 with
other
adults.
Sometimes
a
troubled
woman
will
leave
very
young
children
 alone
for
days
at
a
time.
Reports
of
crack
addicts
abandoning
their
children
have
 become
common
in
drug
infested
inner‐city
communities.
Neighbors
or
relatives
 discover
the
abandoned
children,
often
hungry
and
distraught
over
the
absence
of
 their
mother.
After
repeated
absences,
a
friend
or
relative,
particularly
a
 grandmother,
will
often
step
in
to
care
for
the
young
children,
sometimes
 petitioning
the
authorities
to
send
her,
as
guardian
of
the
children,
the
mother's
 welfare
check,
if
the
mother
gets
one.
By
this
time,
however,
the
children
may
well
 have
learned
the
first
lesson
of
the
streets:
survival
itself,
let
alone
respect,
cannot
 be
taken
for
granted;
you
have
to
fight
for
your
place
in
the
world.
 
 
 
 CAMPAIGNING
FOR
RESPECT
 
 THESE
realities
of
inner‐city
life
are
largely
absorbed
on
the
streets.
At
an
early
age,
 often
even
before
they
start
school,
children
from
street
oriented
homes
gravitate
to
 the
streets,
where
they
"hang"‐‐socialize
with
their
peers.
Children
from
these
 generally
permissive
homes
have
a
great
deal
of
latitude
and
are
allowed
to
"rip
and
 run"
up
and
down
the
street.
They
often
come
home
from
school,
put
their
books
 down,
and
go
right
back
out
the
door.
On
school
nights
eight‐
and
nine‐year‐olds
 remain
out
until
nine
or
ten
o'clock
(and
teenagers
typically
come
in
whenever
they
 want
to).
On
the
streets
they
play
in
groups
that
often
become
the
source
of
their
 primary
social
bonds.
Children
from
decent
homes
tend
to
be
more
carefully
 supervised
and
are
thus
likely
to
have
curfews
and
to
be
taught
how
to
stay
out
of
 trouble.
 
 When
decent
and
street
kids
come
together,
a
kind
of
social
shuffle
occurs
in
which
 children
have
a
chance
to
go
either
way.
Tension
builds
as
a
child
comes
to
realize
 that
he
must
choose
an
orientation.
The
kind
of
home
he
comes
from
influences
but
 does
not
determine
the
way
he
will
ultimately
turn
out‐‐although
it
is
unlikely
that
a
 child
from
a
thoroughly
street
oriented
family
will
easily
absorb
decent
values
on
 the
streets.
Youths
who
emerge
from
street‐oriented
families
but
develop
a
decency
 orientation
almost
always
learn
those
values
in
another
setting‐‐in
school,
in
a
youth
 group,
in
church.
Often
it
is
the
result
of
their
involvement
with
a
caring
"old
head"
 (adult
role
model).
 
 In
the
street,
through
their
play,
children
pour
their
individual
life
experiences
into
a
 common
knowledge
pool,
affirming,
confirming,
and
elaborating
on
what
they
have
 observed
in
the
home
and
matching
their
skills
against
those
of
others.
And
they
 learn
to
fight.
Even
small
children
test
one
another,
pushing
and
shoving,
and
are
 ready
to
hit
other
children
over
circumstances
not
to
their
liking.
In
turn,
they
are
 readily
hit
by
other
children,
and
the
child
who
is
toughest
prevails.
Thus
the
violent
 resolution
of
disputes,
the
hitting
and
cursing,
gains
social
reinforcement.
The
child
 in
effect
is
initiated
into
a
system
that
is
really
a
way
of
campaigning
for
respect.
 
 In
addition,
younger
children
witness
the
disputes
of
older
children,
which
are
often
 resolved
through
cursing
and
abusive
talk,
if
not
aggression
or
outright
violence.
 They
see
that
one
child
succumbs
to
the
greater
physical
and
mental
abilities
of
the
 other.
They
are
also
alert
and
attentive
witnesses
to
the
verbal
and
physical
fights
of
 adults,
after
which
they
compare
notes
and
share
their
interpretations
of
the
event.
 In
almost
every
case
the
victor
is
the
person
who
physically
won
the
altercation,
and
 this
person
often
enjoys
the
esteem
and
respect
of
onlookers.
These
experiences
 reinforce
the
lessons
the
children
have
learned
at
home:
might
makes
right,
and
 toughness
is
a
virtue,
while
humility
is
not.
In
effect
they
learn
the
social
meaning
of
 fighting.
When
it
is
left
virtually
unchallenged,
this
understanding
becomes
an
ever
 more
important
part
of
the
child's
working
conception
of
the
world.
Over
time
the
 code
of
the
streets
becomes
refined.
 
 Those
street‐oriented
adults
with
whom
children
come
in
contact‐‐
including
 mothers,
fathers,
brothers,
sisters,
boyfriends,
cousins,
neighbors,
and
friends‐‐help
 them
along
in
forming
this
understanding
by
verbalizing
the
messages
they
are
 getting
through
experience:
"Watch
your
back."
"Protect
yourself."
"Don't
punk
out."
 "If
somebody
messes
with
you,
you
got
to
pay
them
back."
"If
someone
disses
you,
 you
got
to
straighten
them
out."
Many
parents
actually
impose
sanctions
if
a
child
is
 not
sufficiently
aggressive.
For
example,
if
a
child
loses
a
fight
and
comes
home
 upset,
the
parent
might
respond,
"Don't
you
come
in
here
crying
that
somebody
beat
 you
up;
you
better
get
back
out
there
and
whup
his
ass.
I
didn't
raise
no
punks!
Get
 back
out
there
and
whup
his
ass.
If
you
don't
whup
his
ass,
I'll
whup
your
ass
when
 you
come
home."
Thus
the
child
obtains
reinforcement
for
being
tough
and
showing
 nerve.
 
 While
fighting,
some
children
cry
as
though
they
are
doing
something
they
are
 ambivalent
about.
The
fight
may
be
against
their
wishes,
yet
they
may
feel
 constrained
to
fight
or
face
the
consequences‐‐not
just
from
peers
but
also
from
 caretakers
or
parents,
who
may
administer
another
beating
if
they
back
down.
Some
 adults
recall
receiving
such
lessons
from
their
own
parents
and
justify
repeating
 them
to
their
children
as
a
way
to
toughen
them
up.
Looking
capable
of
taking
care
 of
oneself
as
a
form
of
self‐defense
is
a
dominant
theme
among
both
street‐oriented
 and
decent
adults
who
worry
about
the
safety
of
their
children.
There
is
thus
at
 times
a
convergence
in
their
child‐rearing
practices,
although
the
rationales
behind
 them
may
differ.
 
 
 
 SELF‐IMAGE
BASED
ON
"JUICE"
 
 BY
the
time
they
are
teenagers,
most
youths
have
either
internalized
the
code
of
the
 streets
or
at
least
learned
the
need
to
comport
themselves
in
accordance
with
its
 rules,
which
chiefly
have
to
do
with
interpersonal
communication.
The
code
 revolves
around
the
presentation
of
self.
Its
basic
requirement
is
the
display
of
a
 certain
predisposition
to
violence.
Accordingly,
one's
bearing
must
send
the
 unmistakable
if
sometimes
subtle
message
to
"the
next
person"
in
public
that
one
is
 capable
of
violence
and
mayhem
when
the
situation
requires
it,
that
one
can
take
 care
of
oneself.
The
nature
of
this
communication
is
largely
determined
by
the
 demands
of
the
circumstances
but
can
include
facial
expressions,
gait,
and
verbal
 expressions‐‐all
of
which
are
geared
mainly
to
deterring
aggression.
Physical
 appearance,
including
clothes,
jewelry,
and
grooming,
also
plays
an
important
part
 in
how
a
person
is
viewed;
to
be
respected,
it
is
important
to
have
the
right
look.
 
 Even
so,
there
are
no
guarantees
against
challenges,
because
there
are
always
 people
around
looking
for
a
fight
to
increase
their
share
of
respect‐‐or
"juice,"
as
it
is
 sometimes
called
on
the
street.
Moreover,
if
a
person
is
assaulted,
it
is
important,
 not
only
in
the
eyes
of
his
opponent
but
also
in
the
eyes
of
his
"running
buddies,"
for
 him
to
avenge
himself.
Otherwise
he
risks
being
"tried"
(challenged)
or
"moved
on"
 by
any
number
of
others.
To
maintain
his
honor
he
must
show
he
is
not
someone
to
 be
"messed
with"
or
"dissed."
In
general,
the
person
must
"keep
himself
straight"
by
 managing
his
position
of
respect
among
others;
this
involves
in
part
his
self‐image,
 which
is
shaped
by
what
he
thinks
others
are
thinking
of
him
in
relation
to
his
peers.
 
 Objects
play
an
important
and
complicated
role
in
establishing
self
image.
Jackets,
 sneakers,
gold
jewelry,
reflect
not
just
a
person's
taste,
which
tends
to
be
tightly
 regulated
among
adolescents
of
all
social
classes,
but
also
a
willingness
to
possess
 things
that
may
require
defending.
A
boy
wearing
a
fashionable,
expensive
jacket,
 for
example,
is
vulnerable
to
attack
by
another
who
covets
the
jacket
and
either
 cannot
afford
to
buy
one
or
wants
the
added
satisfaction
of
depriving
someone
else
 of
his.
However,
if
the
boy
forgoes
the
desirable
jacket
and
wears
one
that
isn't
 "hip,"
he
runs
the
risk
of
being
teased
and
possibly
even
assaulted
as
an
unworthy
 person.
To
be
allowed
to
hang
with
certain
prestigious
crowds,
a
boy
must
wear
a
 different
set
of
expensive
clothes
‐‐sneakers
and
athletic
suit‐‐every
day.
Not
to
be
 able
to
do
so
might
make
him
appear
socially
deficient.
The
youth
comes
to
covet
 such
items‐‐
especially
when
he
sees
easy
prey
wearing
them.
 
 In
acquiring
valued
things,
therefore,
a
person
shores
up
his
identity‐‐but
since
it
is
 an
identity
based
on
having
things,
it
is
highly
precarious.
This
very
precariousness
 gives
a
heightened
sense
of
urgency
to
staying
even
with
peers,
with
whom
the
 person
is
actually
competing.
Young
men
and
women
who
are
able
to
command
 respect
through
their
presentation
of
self‐‐by
allowing
their
possessions
and
their
 body
language
to
speak
for
them‐‐may
not
have
to
campaign
for
regard
but
may,
 rather,
gain
it
by
the
force
of
their
manner.
Those
who
are
unable
to
command
 respect
in
this
way
must
actively
campaign
for
it‐‐and
are
thus
particularly
alive
to
 slights.
 
 One
way
of
campaigning
for
status
is
by
taking
the
possessions
of
others.
In
this
 context,
seemingly
ordinary
objects
can
become
trophies
imbued
with
symbolic
 value
that
far
exceeds
their
monetary
worth.
Possession
of
the
trophy
can
symbolize
 the
ability
to
violate
somebody‐‐to
"get
in
his
face,"
to
take
something
of
value
from
 him,
to
"dis"
him,
and
thus
to
enhance
one's
own
worth
by
stealing
someone
else's.
 The
trophy
does
not
have
to
be
something
material.
It
can
be
another
person's
sense
 of
honor,
snatched
away
with
a
derogatory
remark.
It
can
be
the
outcome
of
a
fight.
 It
can
be
the
imposition
of
a
certain
standard,
such
as
a
girl's
getting
herself
 recognized
as
the
most
beautiful.
Material
things,
however,
fit
easily
into
the
 pattern.
Sneakers,
a
pistol,
even
somebody
else's
girlfriend,
can
become
a
trophy.
 When
a
person
can
take
something
from
another
and
then
flaunt
it,
he
gains
a
 certain
regard
by
being
the
owner,
or
the
controller,
of
that
thing.
But
this
display
of
 ownership
can
then
provoke
other
people
to
challenge
him.
This
game
of
who
 controls
what
is
thus
constantly
being
played
out
on
inner‐city
streets,
and
the
 trophy‐‐
extrinsic
or
intrinsic,
tangible
or
intangible‐‐identifies
the
current
winner.
 
 An
important
aspect
of
this
often
violent
give‐and‐take
is
its
zero‐sum
quality.
That
 is,
the
extent
to
which
one
person
can
raise
himself
up
depends
on
his
ability
to
put
 another
person
down.
This
underscores
the
alienation
that
permeates
the
inner‐city
 ghetto
community.
There
is
a
generalized
sense
that
very
little
respect
is
to
be
had,
 and
therefore
everyone
competes
to
get
what
affirmation
he
can
of
the
little
that
is
 available.
The
craving
for
respect
that
results
gives
people
thin
skins.
Shows
of
 deference
by
others
can
be
highly
soothing,
contributing
to
a
sense
of
security,
 comfort,
self‐confidence,
and
self‐respect.
Transgressions
by
others
which
go
 unanswered
diminish
these
feelings
and
are
believed
to
encourage
further
 transgressions.
Hence
one
must
be
ever
vigilant
against
the
transgressions
of
others
 or
even
appearing
as
if
transgressions
will
be
tolerated.
Among
young
people,
 whose
sense
of
self‐esteem
is
particularly
vulnerable,
there
is
an
especially
 heightened
concern
with
being
disrespected.
Many
inner‐city
young
men
in
 particular
crave
respect
to
such
a
degree
that
they
will
risk
their
lives
to
attain
and
 maintain
it.
 
 The
issue
of
respect
is
thus
closely
tied
to
whether
a
person
has
an
inclination
to
be
 violent,
even
as
a
victim.
In
the
wider
society
people
may
not
feel
required
to
 retaliate
physically
after
an
attack,
even
though
they
are
aware
that
they
have
been
 degraded
or
taken
advantage
of.
They
may
feel
a
great
need
to
defend
themselves
 during
an
attack,
or
to
behave
in
such
a
way
as
to
deter
aggression
(middle‐class
 people
certainly
can
and
do
become
victims
of
street‐oriented
youths),
but
they
are
 much
more
likely
than
street‐oriented
people
to
feel
that
they
can
walk
away
from
a
 possible
altercation
with
their
self‐esteem
intact.
Some
people
may
even
have
the
 strength
of
character
to
flee,
without
any
thought
that
their
self‐respect
or
esteem
 will
be
diminished.
 
 In
impoverished
inner‐city
black
communities,
however,
particularly
among
young
 males
and
perhaps
increasingly
among
females,
such
flight
would
be
extremely
 difficult.
To
run
away
would
likely
leave
one's
self
esteem
in
tatters.
Hence
people
 often
feel
constrained
not
only
to
stand
up
and
at
least
attempt
to
resist
during
an
 assault
but
also
to
"pay
back"‐‐to
seek
revenge‐‐after
a
successful
assault
on
their
 person.
This
may
include
going
to
get
a
weapon
or
even
getting
relatives
involved.
 Their
very
identity
and
self‐respect,
their
honor,
is
often
intricately
tied
up
with
the
 way
they
perform
on
the
streets
during
and
after
such
encounters.
This
outlook
 reflects
the
circumscribed
opportunities
of
the
inner‐city
poor.
Generally
people
 outside
the
ghetto
have
other
ways
of
gaining
status
and
regard,
and
thus
do
not
feel
 so
dependent
on
such
physical
displays.
 
 
 
 BY
TRIAL
OF
MANHOOD
 
 ON
the
street,
among
males
these
concerns
about
things
and
identity
have
come
to
 be
expressed
in
the
concept
of
"manhood."
Manhood
in
the
inner
city
means
taking
 the
prerogatives
of
men
with
respect
to
strangers,
other
men,
and
women‐‐being
 distinguished
as
a
man.
It
implies
physicality
and
a
certain
ruthlessness.
Regard
and
 respect
are
associated
with
this
concept
in
large
part
because
of
its
practical
 application:
if
others
have
little
or
no
regard
for
a
person's
manhood,
his
very
life
 and
those
of
his
loved
ones
could
be
in
jeopardy.
But
there
is
a
chicken‐and
egg
 aspect
to
this
situation:
one's
physical
safety
is
more
likely
to
be
jeopardized
in
 public
because
manhood
is
associated
with
respect.
In
other
words,
an
existential
 link
has
been
created
between
the
idea
of
manhood
and
one's
self‐esteem,
so
that
it
 has
become
hard
to
say
which
is
primary.
For
many
inner‐city
youths,
manhood
and
 respect
are
flip
sides
of
the
same
coin;
physical
and
psychological
well‐being
are
 inseparable,
and
both
require
a
sense
of
control,
of
being
in
charge.
 
 The
operating
assumption
is
that
a
man,
especially
a
real
man,
knows
what
other
 men
know‐‐the
code
of
the
streets.
And
if
one
is
not
a
real
man,
one
is
somehow
 diminished
as
a
person,
and
there
are
certain
valued
things
one
simply
does
not
 deserve.
There
is
thus
believedto
be
a
certain
justice
to
the
code,
since
it
is
 considered
that
everyone
has
the
opportunity
to
know
it.
Implicit
in
this
is
that
 everybody
is
held
responsible
for
being
familiar
with
the
code.
If
the
victim
of
a
 mugging,
for
example,
does
not
know
the
code
and
so
responds
"wrong,"
the
 perpetrator
may
feel
justified
even
in
killing
him
and
may
feel
no
remorse.
He
may
 think,
"Too
bad,
but
it's
his
fault.
He
should
have
known
better."
 
 So
when
a
person
ventures
outside,
he
must
adopt
the
code‐‐a
kind
of
shield,
really‐‐ to
prevent
others
from
"messing
with"
him.
In
these
circumstances
it
is
easy
for
 people
to
think
they
are
being
tried
or
tested
by
others
even
when
this
is
not
the
 case.
For
it
is
sensed
that
something
extremely
valuable
is
at
stake
in
every
 interaction,
and
people
are
encouraged
to
rise
to
the
occasion,
particularly
with
 strangers.
For
people
who
are
unfamiliar
with
the
code‐‐generally
people
who
live
 outside
the
inner
city‐‐the
concern
with
respect
in
the
most
ordinary
interactions
 can
be
frightening
and
incomprehensible.
But
for
those
who
are
invested
in
the
 code,
the
clear
object
of
their
demeanor
is
to
discourage
strangers
from
even
 thinking
about
testing
their
manhood.
And
the
sense
of
power
that
attends
the
 ability
to
deter
others
can
be
alluring
even
to
those
who
know
the
code
without
 being
heavily
invested
in
it‐‐the
decent
inner‐city
youths.
Thus
a
boy
who
has
been
 leading
a
basically
decent
life
can,
in
trying
circumstances,
suddenly
resort
to
deadly
 force.
 
 Central
to
the
issue
of
manhood
is
the
widespread
belief
that
one
of
the
most
 effective
ways
of
gaining
respect
is
to
manifest
"nerve."
Nerve
is
shown
when
one
 takes
another
person's
possessions
(the
more
valuable
the
better),
"messes
with"
 someone's
woman,
throws
the
first
punch,
"gets
in
someone's
face,"
or
pulls
a
 trigger.
Its
proper
display
helps
on
the
spot
to
check
others
who
would
violate
one's
 person
and
also
helps
to
build
a
reputation
that
works
to
prevent
future
challenges.
 But
since
such
a
show
of
nerve
is
a
forceful
expression
of
disrespect
toward
the
 person
on
the
receiving
end,
the
victim
may
be
greatly
offended
and
seek
to
retaliate
 with
equal
or
greater
force.
A
display
of
nerve,
therefore,
can
easily
provoke
a
life‐ threatening
response,
and
the
background
knowledge
of
that
possibility
has
often
 been
incorporated
into
the
concept
of
nerve.
 
 True
nerve
exposes
a
lack
of
fear
of
dying.
Many
feel
that
it
is
acceptable
to
risk
 dying
over
the
principle
of
respect.
In
fact,
among
the
hard‐core
street‐oriented,
the
 clear
risk
of
violent
death
may
be
preferable
to
being
"dissed"
by
another.
The
 youths
who
have
internalized
this
attitude
and
convincingly
display
it
in
their
public
 bearing
are
among
the
most
threatening
people
of
all,
for
it
is
commonly
assumed
 that
they
fear
no
man.
As
the
people
of
the
community
say,
"They
are
the
baddest
 dudes
on
the
street."
They
often
lead
an
existential
life
that
may
acquire
meaning
 only
when
they
are
faced
with
the
possibility
of
imminent
death.
Not
to
be
afraid
to
 die
is
by
implication
to
have
few
compunctions
about
taking
another's
life.
Not
to
be
 afraid
to
die
is
the
quid
pro
quo
of
being
able
to
take
somebody
else's
life‐‐for
the
 right
reasons,
if
the
situation
demands
it.
When
others
believe
this
is
one's
position,
 it
gives
one
a
real
sense
of
power
on
the
streets.
Such
credibility
is
what
many
inner‐ city
youths
strive
to
achieve,
whether
they
are
decent
or
street‐oriented,
both
 because
of
its
practical
defensive
value
and
because
of
the
positive
way
it
makes
 them
feel
about
themselves.
The
difference
between
the
decent
and
the
street‐ oriented
youth
is
often
that
the
decent
youth
makes
a
conscious
decision
to
appear
 tough
and
manly;
in
another
setting‐‐with
teachers,
say,
or
at
his
part‐time
job‐‐he
 can
be
polite
and
deferential.
The
street‐oriented
youth,
on
the
other
hand,
has
 made
the
concept
of
manhood
a
part
of
his
very
identity;
he
has
difficulty
 manipulating
it‐‐it
often
controls
him.
 
 
 
 GIRLS
AND
BOYS
 
 INCREASINGLY,
teenage
girls
are
mimicking
the
boys
and
trying
to
have
their
own
 version
of
"manhood."
Their
goal
is
the
same‐‐to
get
respect,
to
be
recognized
as
 capable
of
setting
or
maintaining
a
certain
standard.
They
try
to
achieve
this
end
in
 the
ways
that
have
been
established
by
the
boys,
including
posturing,
abusive
 language,
and
the
use
of
violence
to
resolve
disputes,
but
the
issues
for
the
girls
are
 different.
Although
conflicts
over
turf
and
status
exist
among
the
girls,
the
majority
 of
disputes
seem
rooted
in
assessments
of
beauty
(which
girl
in
a
group
is
"the
 cutest"),
competition
over
boyfriends,
and
attempts
to
regulate
other
people's
 knowledge
of
and
opinions
about
a
girl's
behavior
or
that
of
someone
close
to
her,
 especially
her
mother.
 
 A
major
cause
of
conflicts
among
girls
is
"he
say,
she
say."
This
practice
begins
in
the
 early
school
years
and
continues
through
high
school.
It
occurs
when
"people,"
 particularly
girls,
talk
about
others,
thus
putting
their
"business
in
the
streets."
 Usually
one
girl
will
say
something
negative
about
another
in
the
group,
most
often
 behind
the
person's
back.
The
remark
will
then
get
back
to
the
person
talked
about.
 She
may
retaliate
or
her
friends
may
feel
required
to
"take
up
for"
her.
In
essence
 this
is
a
form
of
group
gossiping
in
which
individuals
are
negatively
assessed
and
 evaluated.
As
with
much
gossip,
the
things
said
may
or
may
not
be
true,
but
the
 point
is
that
such
imputations
can
cast
aspersions
on
a
person's
good
name.
The
 accused
is
required
to
defend
herself
against
the
slander,
which
can
result
in
 arguments
and
fights,
often
over
little
of
real
substance.
Here
again
is
the
problem
of
 low
self‐esteem,
which
encourages
youngsters
to
be
highly
sensitive
to
slights
and
 to
be
vulnerable
to
feeling
easily
"dissed."
To
avenge
the
dissing,
a
fight
is
usually
 necessary.
 
 Because
boys
are
believed
to
control
violence,
girls
tend
to
defer
to
them
in
 situations
of
conflict.
Often
if
a
girl
is
attacked
or
feels
slighted,
she
will
get
a
 brother,
uncle,
or
cousin
to
do
her
fighting
for
her.
Increasingly,
however,
girls
are
 doing
their
own
fighting
and
are
even
asking
their
male
relatives
to
teach
them
how
 to
fight.
Some
girls
form
groups
that
attack
other
girls
or
take
things
from
them.
A
 hard‐core
segment
of
inner‐city
girls
inclined
toward
violence
seems
to
be
 developing.
As
one
thirteen
year‐old
girl
in
a
detention
center
for
youths
who
have
 committed
violent
acts
told
me,
"To
get
people
to
leave
you
alone,
you
gotta
fight.
 Talking
don't
always
get
you
out
of
stuff."
One
major
difference
between
girls
and
 boys:
girls
rarely
use
guns.
Their
fights
are
therefore
not
life‐or‐death
struggles.
 Girls
are
not
often
willing
to
put
their
lives
on
the
line
for
"manhood."
The
ultimate
 form
of
respect
on
the
male‐dominated
inner‐city
street
is
thus
reserved
for
men.
 
 
 
 "GOING
FOR
BAD"
 
 IN
the
most
fearsome
youths
such
a
cavalier
attitude
toward
death
grows
out
of
a
 very
limited
view
of
life.
Many
are
uncertain
about
how
long
they
are
going
to
live
 and
believe
they
could
die
violently
at
any
time.
They
accept
this
fate;
they
live
on
 the
edge.
Their
manner
conveys
the
message
that
nothing
intimidates
them;
 whatever
turn
the
encounter
takes,
they
maintain
their
attack‐‐rather
like
a
pit
bull,
 whose
spirit
many
such
boys
admire.
The
demonstration
of
such
tenacity
"shows
 heart"
and
earns
their
respect.
 
 This
fearlessness
has
implications
for
law
enforcement.
Many
street
oriented
boys
 are
much
more
concerned
about
the
threat
of
"justice"
at
the
hands
of
a
peer
than
at
 the
hands
of
the
police.
Moreover,
many
feel
not
only
that
they
have
little
to
lose
by
 going
to
prison
but
that
they
have
something
to
gain.
The
toughening‐up
one
 experiences
in
prison
can
actually
enhance
one's
reputation
on
the
streets.
Hence
 the
system
loses
influence
over
the
hard
core
who
are
without
jobs,
with
little
 perceptible
stake
in
the
system.
If
mainstream
society
has
done
nothing
for
them,
 they
counter
by
making
sure
it
can
do
nothing
to
them.
 
 At
the
same
time,
however,
a
competing
view
maintains
that
true
nerve
consists
in
 backing
down,
walking
away
from
a
fight,
and
going
on
with
one's
business.
One
 fights
only
in
self‐defense.
This
view
emerges
from
the
decent
philosophy
that
life
is
 precious,
and
it
is
an
important
part
of
the
socialization
process
common
in
decent
 homes.
It
discourages
violence
as
the
primary
means
of
resolving
disputes
and
 encourages
youngsters
to
accept
nonviolence
and
talk
as
confrontational
strategies.
 But
"if
the
deal
goes
down,"
self‐defense
is
greatly
encouraged.
When
there
is
 enough
positive
support
for
this
orientation,
either
in
the
home
or
among
one's
 peers,
then
nonviolence
has
a
chance
to
prevail.
But
it
prevails
at
the
cost
of
 relinquishing
a
claim
to
being
bad
and
tough,
and
therefore
sets
a
young
person
up
 as
at
the
very
least
alienated
from
street‐oriented
peers
and
quite
possibly
a
target
 of
derision
or
even
violence.
 
 Although
the
nonviolent
orientation
rarely
overcomes
the
impulse
to
strike
back
in
 an
encounter,
it
does
introduce
a
certain
confusion
and
so
can
prompt
a
measure
of
 soul‐searching,
or
even
profound
ambivalence.
Did
the
person
back
down
with
his
 respect
intact
or
did
he
back
down
only
to
be
judged
a
"punk"‐‐a
person
lacking
 manhood?
Should
he
or
she
have
acted?
Should
he
or
she
have
hit
the
other
person
 in
the
mouth?
These
questions
beset
many
young
men
and
women
during
public
 confrontations.
What
is
the
"right"
thing
to
do?
In
the
quest
for
honor,
respect,
and
 local
status‐‐which
few
young
people
are
uninterested
in‐‐common
sense
most
often
 prevails,
which
leads
many
to
opt
for
the
tough
approach,
enacting
their
own
 particular
versions
of
the
display
of
nerve.
The
presentation
of
oneself
as
rough
and
 tough
is
very
often
quite
acceptable
until
one
is
tested.
And
then
that
presentation
 may
help
the
person
pass
the
test,
because
it
will
cause
fewer
questions
to
be
asked
 about
what
he
did
and
why.
It
is
hard
for
a
person
to
explain
why
he
lost
the
fight
or
 why
he
backed
down.
Hence
many
will
strive
to
appear
to
"go
for
bad,"
while
hoping
 they
will
never
be
tested.
But
when
they
are
tested,
the
outcome
of
the
situation
 may
quickly
be
out
of
their
hands,
as
they
become
wrapped
up
in
the
circumstances
 of
the
moment.
 
 
 
 AN
OPPOSITIONAL
CULTURE
 
 THE
attitudes
of
the
wider
society
are
deeply
implicated
in
the
code
of
the
streets.
 Most
people
in
inner‐city
communities
are
not
totally
invested
in
the
code,
but
the
 significant
minority
of
hard‐core
street
youths
who
are
have
to
maintain
the
code
in
 order
to
establish
reputations,
because
they
have‐‐or
feel
they
have‐‐few
other
ways
 to
assert
themselves.
For
these
young
people
the
standards
of
the
street
code
are
the
 only
game
in
town.
The
extent
to
which
some
children‐‐particularly
those
who
 through
upbringing
have
become
most
alienated
and
those
lacking
in
strong
and
 conventional
social
support‐‐experience,
feel,
and
internalize
racist
rejection
and
 contempt
from
mainstream
society
may
strongly
encourage
them
to
express
 contempt
for
the
more
conventional
society
in
turn.
In
dealing
with
this
contempt
 and
rejection,
some
youngsters
will
consciously
invest
themselves
and
their
 considerable
mental
resources
in
what
amounts
to
an
oppositional
culture
to
 preserve
themselves
and
their
self‐respect.
Once
they
do,
any
respect
they
might
be
 able
to
garner
in
the
wider
system
pales
in
comparison
with
the
respect
available
in
 the
local
system;
thus
they
often
lose
interest
in
even
attempting
to
negotiate
the
 mainstream
system.
 
 At
the
same
time,
many
less
alienated
young
blacks
have
assumed
a
street‐oriented
 demeanor
as
a
way
of
expressing
their
blackness
while
really
embracing
a
much
 more
moderate
way
of
life;
they,
too,
want
a
nonviolent
setting
in
which
to
live
and
 raise
a
family.
These
decent
people
are
trying
hard
to
be
part
of
the
mainstream
 culture,
but
the
racism,
real
and
perceived,
that
they
encounter
helps
to
legitimate
 the
oppositional
culture.
And
so
on
occasion
they
adopt
street
behavior.
In
fact,
 depending
on
the
demands
of
the
situation,
many
people
in
the
community
slip
back
 and
forth
between
decent
and
street
behavior.
 
 A
vicious
cycle
has
thus
been
formed.
The
hopelessness
and
alienation
many
young
 inner‐city
black
men
and
women
feel,
largely
as
a
result
of
endemic
joblessness
and
 persistent
racism,
fuels
the
violence
they
engage
in.
This
violence
serves
to
confirm
 the
negative
feelings
many
whites
and
some
middle‐class
blacks
harbor
toward
the
 ghetto
poor,
further
legitimating
the
oppositional
culture
and
the
code
of
the
streets
 in
the
eyes
of
many
poor
young
blacks.
Unless
this
cycle
is
broken,
attitudes
on
both
 sides
will
become
increasingly
entrenched,
and
the
violence,
which
claims
victims
 black
and
white,
poor
and
affluent,
will
only
escalate.
 ____________________________________________________________________________________________
 
 Elijah
Anderson
is
the
Charles
and
William
Day
Professor
of
the
Social
Sciences
at
 the
University
of
Pennsylvania.
His
essay
in
this
issue
is
based
on
research
on
 violence
and
inner‐city
poverty
funded
by
the
Guggenheim
Foundation.
Anderson
is
 the
author
of
Streetwise:
Race,
Class,
and
Change
in
an
Urban
Community
(1990).
 ...
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This note was uploaded on 02/07/2010 for the course SOC 1305 taught by Professor Mueller during the Fall '08 term at Baylor.

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