Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City
by Elijah Anderson
, one may ask. According to Elijah Anderson, author of
Code of the
the street code stems from the evolution of a street culture “which amounts to a set of
formal rules governing interpersonal public behavior, particularly violence.” It is a way of life, a
culture, a belief system, a cause and an effect. There are rules to the code, and if you live in the
streets you must follow them. What lies at the very top of the street code is the act of respecting
someone else, their things, property, life, or anything else they may deem as worthy of respect.
Once you disrespect someone, their loved ones, or their things, in the streets this “dissing” or
disrespectful behavior can be grounds for angry affect, retaliation, revenge, or criminal activity
thus resulting in violence—the single most behavior the street code governs.
Respect plays a big role in maintaining the street code because an individual gains respect
by being “tough” and by being tough one has to play the “tough” guy role. Thus fighting and
using violence becomes a way to gain self-status and is deemed as being “tough.” To gain
respect a person has to have high status and to gain high status, one usually does anything to
attain it meaning robbing, stealing, being confrontational, and using intimidation. As a result, the
use of guns is inevitable and the police are usually not involved due to the lack of trust and care
the residents have for them, resulting in unnecessary killings and increased hostile tensions
between the victim’s family and the offender occurring within the same neighborhood.
Violent behavior is then positively reinforced and rewarded as a result of “winning” a
fight or robbing someone for everything that they own. Thus the accolades of having high status
by using violence are reinforced and are tangible, more so creating to the code of the street.
The street code normally originates in the communities of the working to poor class
inner-city neighborhoods where “acting” street is the go-to solution for making do of everyday
tribulations like joblessness, unemployment, limited basic public services, race relations,