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Copyright ©2018 by SAGE Publications, Inc. This work may not be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means without express written permission of the publisher. Draft Proof - Do not copy, post, or distribute
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326 PART FOUR: Children, Social Problems, and the Future of Childhood and into the working class. Spirituality also sustains her family against many of the dangers—crack houses, drive-by shootings, robberies—of their inner- city environment. (In Angela’s neighborhood in 1992, 80 people were mur- dered; as Wilkerson pointed out, this is more than the number of murders in Omaha and Pittsburgh combined for that year; 1993, p. 16). Every morning before her children go to school, Angela shakes an aero- sol can containing a special religious oil and tells them to close their eyes tight as “she sprays them long and furious so they will come back to her, alive and safe, at day’s end” (Wilkerson, 1993, p. 16). She has faith in the oil, but she also recites the rules to her children each morning: no playing on the way to and from school, and if you hear shooting—run! “Why do I say run?” the mother asks each day. “Because a bullet don’t have no eyes,” Nicholas and his brother Willie shout in reply. Once Willie almost got shot on the way home from school as he straggled along behind his brother—a sixth-grade boy pulled out a gun and started shooting. Willie heard the shots and ran, unhurt, to catch up with his brother. So far the rules and the oil have worked. In many ways Nicholas is a typical 10-year-old. He gets only average grades, and he slides down banisters, shirttail out, hoping to become a fire- man. But he has many of the responsibilities of a man. He must look after his younger siblings, often getting their breakfast in the morning and wash- ing clothes at night because the children have so few things to wear. “I know my baby’s running out of hands,” Angela says low one night as Nicholas works on the laundry. She worries about him, and Nicholas, in turn, worries about her and about his siblings. He worries much too much for a young boy. He is worried the morning his mother has an early test and he has to take the little ones to day care before going to school him- self. At the day care center, his youngest brother, John-John, begins to cry as Nicholas walks away. “Nicholas bent down and hugged him and kissed him. Everything, Nicholas assured him, was going to be O.K.” (Wilkerson, 1993, p. 16). In a follow-up story written by Isabel Wilkerson (2005) 12 years later, we learn more about the lives of Nicholas and his family. Things have gotten better for some family members, worse for others. Angela and her younger children have fared the best. She met and married a Chicago police detective, finished her studies and became a registered nurse, found a steady job in the (Continued) Copyright ©2018 by SAGE Publications, Inc.
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