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


Code of the Street An effort to understand and explain violence and related problems in the inner city Zero sum!! What other examples of zero sum are out there? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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

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 Andersons characterization of life in the
    inner city on target?

Elijah Andersons Code of the Street
  • The code is a set of informal rules governing
    interpersonal public behavior, including violence
  • Respect is at the heart of the code
  • Believed that there were two types of families

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

Decent Families
  • Accept mainstream values and attempt to install
    them in children
  • working poor
  • Generally involved in a church community
  • Tend to be strict with children
  • Respect authority
  • Polite, cooperative

Street Families
  • Lack consideration for others
  • Superficial sense of family/community
  • Disorganized
  • Aggressive with children ( physical punishment)
  • Children generally come up hard

Campaigning for Respect
  • Children from street groups go to the streets
    to hang, stay out late
  • Friends are the primary social bond
  • Children from the decent families have curfews,
    taught to stay out of trouble
  • Some parents will impose sanctions if the child
    is not aggressive enough
  • Have to look capable of taking care of oneself

Self Image Based on Juice
  • Presentation of self through possessions/body
  • Objects are important ? willing to possess things
    that require defending
  • Taking possession from others gets higher respect
  • Zero-Sum Quality ? the extent to which a person
    can raise himself up depends on ability to put
    another person down.
  • Must be vigilant against transgressions or
    appearnace of transgressions

By Trial of Manhood
  • Something valuable is at stake in every
  • Must have nerve ? throw the first punch, take
    anothers posessions, have no outward fear of

Girls on the Street
  • Respect is over assessments of beauty,
    boyfriends, gossip
  • May feel required to take up for friend who has
    been slandered
  • Girls will rarely use guns
  • Wont put life on line like boys

Going for Bad/Oppositional Culture
  • Uncertain about how long they will live, so they
    live on the edge
  • They appear to go for bad but hope they will
    never be tested
  • Create oppositional culture to preserve
    themselves and their self-respect because they
    feel alienated from society
  • A street oriented demeanor is a way to express
  • This demeanor is also often used by decent

The Viscous Cycle
Explanations of Poverty
  • Causes of poverty
  • Theorists have accused poor of having little
    concern for future and preferring to live for
    the moment and engaging in self-defeating
    behavior, characterized the poor as fatalists,
    resigning themselves to a culture of poverty in
    which nothing can be done to change their
    economic outcomes. Culture of povertywhich
    passes from generation to generationpoor feel
    negative, inferior, passive, hopeless, and
  • The blame the poor perspective is stereotypic
    and not applicable to all of underclass. Not only
    are most poor people able and willing to work
    hard, they do so when given chance. Real trouble
    has to do w/ problems as minimum wages, and lack
    of access to the education necessary for
    obtaining a better-paying job.

Effects of Poverty Restricted Opportunity
  • Children who grow up in poverty suffer more
    persistent, frequent, and severe health problems
    than do children who grow up under better
    financial circumstances.
  • Children raised in poverty tend to miss school
    more often because of illness. These children
    also have a much higher rate of accidents than do
    other children, and they are twice as likely to
    have impaired vision and hearing, iron deficiency
    anemia, and higher than normal levels of lead in
    blood, impairing brain function

Big Brother
  • According to another theory, the poor would
    rather receive welfare payments than work in
    demeaning positions as maids or in fast-food
    restaurants. As a result of this view, the
    welfare system has come under increasing attack
    in recent years. What is the problem of rent
  • Hint Government created underclasses and

Explanations of Poverty
  • Poor families experience much more stress than
    middle-class families. Besides financial
    uncertainty, these families are more likely to be
    exposed to series of negative events and bad
    luck, including illness, depression, eviction,
    job loss, criminal victimization, and family
    death. Parents who experience hard economic times
    may become excessively punitive and erratic,
    issuing demands backed by insults, threats, and
    corporal punishment.

Poverty continued.
  • Sociologists have been particularly concerned
    about the effects of poverty on the black
    underclass, the increasing numbers of jobless,
    welfare-dependent African Americans trapped in
    inner-city ghettos. Many of the industries
    (textiles, auto, steel) that previously offered
    employment to the black working class have shut
    down, while newer industries have relocated to
    the suburbs. Because most urban jobs either
    require advanced education or pay minimum wage,
    unemployment rates for inner-city blacks are


Feminist Perspective on Poverty
  • Significant increase in numbers of single women
    in poverty alone, primarily as single mothers. In
    last three decades proportion of poor families
    headed by women has grown to more than 50
    percent. This feminization of poverty has
    affected African-American women more than any
    other group.
  • This feminization of poverty may be related to
    numerous changes in contemporary America.
    Increases in unwanted births, separations, and
    divorces have forced growing numbers of women to
    head poor households

Feminization of Poverty.
  • Increases in divorced fathers avoiding child
    support coupled with reductions in welfare
    support have forced many of these women-headed
    households to join the ranks of the underclass.
    Further, because wives generally live longer than
    their husbands, growing numbers of elderly women
    must live in poverty.

Exercise 1
  • The natural process of everyday labeling
  • What are some things that we put labels or tags
  • What labels do we embrace or reject

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
  • 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

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
  • Taking responsibility for children abandoned by
    their parents
  • Asserting her moral authority for the good of the
  • Sometimes rearing children herself

Challenges faced by current inner city
  • 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
  • Mad scramble for accessible books on sexy topics
  • Anderson is sexist

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?

Andersons response
  • The sociologists job is to challenge
    conventional wisdom (The Sociological
  • 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, 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?