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Code of the Street:
As sociologist Elijah Anderson shows in the detailed and devastating Code of the Street, the senseless crime in the inner city represents a complex, though ultimately self-defeating, set of social mores. These mores, called "codes," stress a hyperinflated sense of manhood through verbal boasts, drug selling, sexual prowess, and--ultimately--violence and death. "At the heart of the code is the issue of respect," Anderson writes, "loosely defined as being treated 'right' or being granted one's 'props' (or proper due) or the deference one deserves." Anderson reveals a world where unemployment is rampant, teenage pregnancy is common, and social and educational achievement is viewed as "acting white." Although Anderson states that racism is a major factor for this condition, he notes that this type of behavior is further exacerbated by modern economic and political forces, and that it has existed as far back as ancient Rome.
As an African American himself, Anderson moves through the middle- and lower-class Philadelphia neighborhoods with ease, interviewing a variety of subjects, all of whom deal daily with consequences of urban decay--from the high-achieving young woman who had to reject her poorer relatives to better herself, to the former delinquent who tries to go straight after returning from prison. For Anderson, these are the true heroes of Code of the Street: people who overcome the temptations of the streets to help create a better space for the next generation. --Eugene Holley Jr. [via]