Code of the Street
Two cultural forces are responsible for shaping the reactions of people in neighborhoods: decent values and street values. Decent values are attached to the middle-class and are taught by families that represent the culture, values, and mindset of the mainstream expectations, standards, and behavioral goals (Siegel 194). While the middle-class families are better off compared to their street-focused neighbors, they are still working poor. Their values are strategically placed on hard work and self-reliance with hopes of a brighter tomorrow for their children (Siegel 194). For example, both parents work 3-4 jobs combined to give their children a better education with hopes of a better tomorrow. In complete opposite of decent values, street values are representative of the results of despair in inner-city lifestyles and are opposed to the mainstream thought of a given society (Siegel 194). The street culture pushes individuals towards deviance, opposing the law, and creating a counter culture. Elijah Anderson asserts that civil law is weak street justice fills the void. For instance, the violence in the streets is so bad that 20-year old young adults describe their life as a “kill or be killed” type of existence.
The code of the street demands that individuals have a dominant attitude and temperament. The informal rules that govern the attitudes and ways of responding to a challenge are often brutal and very violent, sometimes fata (Siegel 94). Anderson points to the same theme, asserting the role of respect to be of critical consequences in the way people relate in the streets. According to Anderson, respect defines an invisible hierarchy, understanding how to treat the next person, whether to challenge their position, and being ready to live with the consequences of the actions. Respect, when attained, gives people the power to survive unbothered in the streets. For example, one way to gain respect is through violence. The availability of drugs and weapons in the community also worsens the situation, because it demands one to be ready to act in the way of the street. The code of the street demands that no one involves the police because the street takes care of its own, a mindset that has destroyed life for young black people, yet used as one way of gaining respect.
Theoretically, for the community to reflect collective efficacy, there needs to have a change in how the neighborhood views law enforcement. Collective efficacy means that community members are able to control the behavior of groups and individuals in their neighborhoods. Controlling the behavior of people will allow the community to create safer and more orderly societies. For the community to reflect collective efficacy, more people will need to adopt decent values. Theoretically, this can be attained by raising the status of communities to middle-class working families. For example, if people are more concerned with getting the best for their families, working hard to pay off that mortgage, getting their kids through private schools, and similar decent-valued perspectives, then the overall collective efficacy of the community will be achieved.