Code of the Streets is a book set in an inner city neighborhood in Philadelphia written by Elijah Anderson. The “code of the streets” combined with respect, loyalty, and honor is a system used to regulate social interactions within the city. The people within the inner city are pressured into living by the code of the street as a survival mechanism. The book describes the issues that are present within the city like teen pregnancy and the absence of economic opportunity. Anderson used ethnography research methods to obtain his information on the African American’s in certain parts of the city in the 1990’s. His research accounted for street violence and the disadvantaged African American in the communities.
The drug industry is one of the underlying issues associated with the code of the street. Economically these communities are deprived and are covered with drugs and crimes resulting in joblessness, oddly enough the people turn to violence and drugs for economic gain. The drug trade creates economic trade within the communities, and even though being a drug dealer is risky they enjoy the rewards that come with job. Some people see drug dealing as a legitimate way to get goods like clothes or food. Being able to get such goods further strengthens their status within the streets. As more and more kids are being brought up on the streets they need role models and someone there for them to keep them on a straight path.
In the book Anderson talks about the difference between “decent families” and “street families”. A decent family is middle class and hardworking they had mainstream values and attempt to include them in their children’s lives. Decent parents are more willing to use schools and churches to help their children. They also teach their children to be polite and use manners as well as how to defend themselves when it comes to violence and not being another victim to the streets. Street families on the other hand do not identify with society they have a lack of concern and do not really establish a since of family and community. Street parents use the code of the streets as a way to coerce their children into violent behaviors.
Family members usually resort in self destructive behaviors like drugs and alcohol. For the children in decent homes it is important for them to grow up street smart and to recognize the street codes, and for the children growing up in street homes it was important for them to know the preparations for drug trades and even sometimes murder. The children in these neighborhoods are brought up on what the family believes to be most valuable to them.
In the streets your nothing without respect and people will do anything to get it. They do many things to get respect like fighting, jumping someone, or even shooting someone. If you live in the streets and you did not have respect people would try every day to get at you or you would be tested by people who saw you as vulnerable. Without a reputation in the streets a person’s credibility would be questionable.
In Anderson’s thesis he argues that the code of the streets is the result of cultural adaption is socially and economically poor communities. He even states that by abiding by the code a person can reduce their risk of being victimized. The high violence rates among young African American’s males have led to some concerns and more research based on Anderson’s findings.