The introduction chapter first explains the different types of neighborhoods that the city of Philadelphia has and each of the risks that go along with each neighborhood. Some of the neighborhoods are predominantly white, some are racially mixed, and some are predominately black. In the white-middle class neighborhoods, the neighborhood farthest away from the core downtown area, there is little crime and upscale restaurants and stores. In the racially mixed neighborhood the blacks and whites tend to get along but the whites are still aware that blacks are around. In the black neighborhoods public decency gets little respect. The author explains a story about a women stopping her car in the middle of the street and nobody says a word or beeps a horn. This is because nobody wants to start an uproar or see the women’s wrath. “This way, the code of the street provides an element of social organization and actually lessens the probability of violence.
Code of the Street
The main problems in the inner-black communities, is the interpersonal violence and aggression. This aggression and violence is the result from the lack of jobs, limited public services, the stigma of race, the fallout from rampant drug use, and drug trafficking on the streets. The street culture has evolved a “code of the street”, which amounts to a set of informal rules governing interpersonal public behavior, particularly violence. In the code of the streets everything is revolved around respect. With respect, people have peace and security in public. The respect needed in a city like Philadelphia can cause people to do wrong things, but respect is needed to live in a city like Philadelphia.
Chapter 1 Decent and Street Families
The beginning of chapter one explains that “decent” and “street” labels is the result of a social contest among individuals and families of the neighborhood. Even though a person might be a “decent”, that person might act like a “street”. Even though a person might be a “street” that person might act like a “decent”. This action is called code switching. Decent teenagers are more often engage in code switching. This is because decent people don’t get the same respect as “street” people on the streets of Philadelphia. This causes decent people to do the same actions of street people. Street people pride themselves on living the thug life. These people are usually highly intelligent but lack the education needed. The street people tend to embrace the street code to the max and will live and die on the street. Decent Families
From what I took from that section of the chapter is that decent families from the inner cities pride themselves on being like middle class nuclear families. The decent family prides themselves on working hard and making do with what they have. The decent family saves their money for material things. The decent family instills a sense of responsibility in its younger members. Most decent families have the father still living with them. The father is usually the head of the household and sets rules for his children. He is a very strict man trying to keep his children away from the street life.
The street family lives by the code of the street. These families have very little resources compared to the decent family. The lives of street-oriented families are usually disorganized. Bills are usually unpaid but instead money will be spent on drugs, cigarettes, and liquor. Street families are usually considered to be lowlifes or bad people and are seen as a bad influence on the community. The kids of street families have it the hardest. These kids usually live in homes of crack addict mothers and drug dealing fathers. The kids learn from their parents and tend to grow up to be the same things. This is an example of the social learning theory. This is a prime example because the kids are learning this from the parents and then go on to do the same things their parents are doing. It is usually a cycle until someone in the family breaks it.
Chapter 2 Campaigning for Respect
This chapter in my opinion is the most important chapter in the book. The code of the streets is all about respect. Everything a person does on the streets is all for respect. Without respect the person will not be able to survive on the streets. “Respect becomes critical for staying out of harm’s way.” To get respect on the streets a person might fight for it. Much of the code has to do with achieving and holding respect.
The Social Shuffle
The first chapter talked about decent kids trying to act like street kids, this section of the chapter is all about that. Decent kids grow up with street kids and the street kids usually bully the decent kids. To get respect the decent kids are typically fighting for respect so they are not bullied. “As a means for survival having a “name,” a reputation for being willing and able to fight is a way to get respect among peers.”
The Self-Image Based on Juice
Juice is a term in the streets that refers that there are no guarantees against challenges, because there are always people around looking for a fight in order to increase their share of respect. In the streets the right look can get a person respected. Physical appearance and clothes plays an important role in respect. If a person does not have the right clothes to fit it a way to get those materialist things is by taking possessions.
The School as a Staging Area
In class we learned that a young age kids get labeled. This label can be carried all the way through high school. In the code of the street I learned that even though the decent kids are good kids they would act like the label that gives them respect instead of the good label that they are. In Philadelphia most kids don’t take school seriously. To accept school would give in act white, to give up the value of the street for some other thing. This shows weakness and does not give respect on the street.
Chapter 3 Drugs, Violence, and Street Crime
Drugs and crime go hand and hand. The more drugs on the street the more crime is being committed. The same thing goes for jobs and education. The better education a person has, the more chance of a person finding a job. Kids from the inner city are pretty much are set to fail. The inner cities usually have poor education systems resulting in kids not having the proper education to find a decent paying job. This is forcing kids to go into the streets and dealing drugs. This results in more crime for the cities. If cities would give kids a proper education then there would be less drugs, violence, and crime. This section in my opinion is the strain theory. The social structure around the children pressures them into committing street crimes. Chapter 4 The Mating Game
The sentence that stood out to me the most in this chapter was “a street-oriented young man may rationalize his marriage as a “trap” into which the women has lured him.” The fact that young girls want to get pregnant at a young age to keep their baby daddy’s around is crazy to me. In society it is hard to afford a child when the person has a well-paying job. When an inner city child has a child that kid is set up to fail.
The Baby Club
The section of this chapter talks about how girls have the dream of a “good life” and to have that “good life” it is necessary to have a baby. It is the “cool” thing to have a baby in the inner city, as the book says. The girls have social clubs and peer groups that give social support for having a baby at a young age. In the inner city it was an accessory to have a baby and to have the coolest accessory, there was a need to get the baby decked out in the coolest/hippest clothes. This is an example of ration choice theory. Even though rational choice was not to have a child, the lack of emotion for the father and child caused the person to have a kid.
Chapter 5 The Decent Daddy
The Decent Daddy is someone that is respected in the neighborhood and in the household. This person is a true man. He respects his wife and provides for his kids. The wellbeing for his family is his main priority. In the inner city of Philadelphia there are not many of these people. In the inner city it is all about the game and money, and less about the family. This chapter showed many examples of decent men in the inner city and all the men cared about their family more than the street life. I believe if there were more men like this in the inner city this would be a positive example of a social learning theory. In class we talked mostly about how it is a negative aspect of sociology, but this is a circumstance that it can be a positive.
Chapter 7 John Turner’s Story
The whole entire time I was reading John Turner’s story I was thinking “is the author trying to make us feel bad for this guy.” I did not feel bad at all for John Turner because if he didn’t bring that gun to solve a dispute he wouldn’t be in this situation. He got himself in this situation. From what the author said, John Turner was a big guy and more than likely could have defended himself without the need of a gun. John had many struggles after his day in court. He had a job, went to jail, started dealing drugs, found another job, and then lost the job. John wanted a life that was socially acceptable but his life in the streets altered those views. In class we learned about culture. It is the set of norms and values passed down from generation to generation in society. The code of the street is like cancer. It the code is in their genes and gets passed down from generation to generation.
Conclusion: The Conversion of a Role Model
Robert was very respected on the streets for his gang like mentality but got locked up in jail. In jail he learned that the hustle in the streets is not a good way of life. When he got out of jail, Robert started his own hotdog stand business. People on the streets recongnized that he was doing well in his life without committing criminal acts. The code of the streets is still in Roberts mind but he does not have to live by the code of the streets.
My Honest opinion of the Book
I feel like this book repeated itself way too much. I am a criminal justice major and have taken a gangs class and a lot of what I learned about in that class was in this book. The author could have saved 300 pages of paper by just writing the last sentence of the conclusion. “Unless serious efforts are made to address this problem and the cycle is broke, attitudes on both sides will become increasingly hardened, and alienation and violence, which claim victims black and white, poor and affluent, will likely worsen.”