Analysis of Elijah Anderson’s Ethnography

Elijah Anderson’s Code of the Street takes an in-depth look into the world of crime based mostly upon the situations in which folks discover themselves, like poverty, unemployment, and drug use, and illustrates that the behaviors are definable beneath a “code of the street,” by which even people who attempt to get good jobs and move into better properties fall sufferer to their situations. It is the code itself that’s responsible, main folks to less fascinating conditions and behaviors.

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To absolutely understand the code of the street, a glance shall be taken into the John Turner case study which can show how casual social control, or the circumstances of a youth’s surroundings, solely serves to perpetuate violence and self-destruction.

Before writing his e-book, Elijah Anderson wrote for The Atlantic Monthly journal, positing his concept for his friends. His project started with the desperation brought on by attempting to know the driving force behind the rampant violence amongst, specifically, young African-American males.

He cites that the “inclination to violence springs from the circumstances of life among the many ghetto poor—the lack of jobs that pay a dwelling wage, the stigma of race, the fallout from rampant drug use and drug trafficking, and the resulting alienation and lack of hope for the long run . ” This thesis, practically exactly that of the primary focus for his guide, illustrates his belief that individuals are certain by their circumstances, and, regardless of their drive for fulfillment, Anderson believes that such circumstances make it nearly impossible, if not totally so, for people to enhance their lives and progress out of the ghetto.

Moreover, “simply residing in such an environment locations younger individuals at particular risk of falling victim to aggressive behavior…above all, this surroundings implies that even kids whose home lives replicate mainstream values—and nearly all of homes in the community do—must be in a position to deal with themselves in a street- oriented setting . ” Anderson is making the assumption that the environment during which a youth is introduced up, particularly an African-American black male, will determine how they understand and interact with life.

Mostly, which means because the circumstances are unhealthy and violent within the ghetto, so too, would be the perspective and interactions of the younger black male. Indeed, in the event that they can’t deal with themselves in a violent and powerful method, they will be a failure; they will not be the man that they imagine they must be, and easily, they will not survive. Anderson involves the idea that the code of the streets comes down to at least one essential concern: that of respect. He writes that “at the heart of the code is the difficulty of respect—loosely outlined as being treated ‘right,’ or granted the deference one deserves.

However, in the troublesome public setting of the internal metropolis, as individuals increasingly really feel buffeted by forces past their management, what one deserves in the finest way of respect turns into more and more problematic and unsure . ” Undeniably, and the rising crime charges can attest to this, something is driving up the violence in city cities. Thus, it could actually be stated that with the need to compete with one’s surroundings, young black males are taking higher strides of their acts of violence, merely to outlive.

But it’s the endless cycle as this setting “further opens the problem of respect to generally intense interpersonal negotiation. In the street culture, especially amongst younger people, respect is viewed as almost an external entity that is hard-won however easily misplaced, and so should constantly be guarded . ” Respect, particularly in a gang-type surroundings, is the means by which young males find their value, and it must be fought for at all costs. Violence is, essentially, the simplest approach to respect, and thus, their environment has led them to continue the pattern of violence.

But, it’s a vicious circle. To have respect, one have to be willing to take the suitable actions, normally violent and horrible ones, and that furthers the crime rate. But, with out respect, a younger black male doesn’t, in accordance with Anderson, no less than, have value in his life, and that too will drive him to violence, appearing out in opposition to his unfair circumstances. With his article written and revealed, Anderson eventually gathered enough analysis and ethnography to publish his guide, Code of the Streets.

In his e-book, one case particularly stands out; that of John Turner. Anderson personally met with John Turner, who, he writes, “had a mental picture of the upstanding man and father figure he typically longed for and even wished to be. His makes an attempt to enact the function had been regularly compromised, however, by the shortage of an effective [role] mannequin, but additionally by the unrelenting pull of the street . ” Anderson’s picture of Turner was that of the effected youth, delivered to violence and bother by his circumstances alone.

Anderson writes that John Turner was an African-American who labored in a local diner. One day, Turner got here directly up to Anderson, and in desperation, requested for assist. As the story unfolds, Anderson found that Turner was a twenty-one yr old football star, highschool graduate, with 4 kids (two extra arrived by the time Anderson wrote his book), and is proud of his circumstances—being a virile manly-man for his procreation success. He still lived at house together with his parents and was in a lot bother with the regulation that he was contemplating working away.

Anderson writes that “John understood the code of the road very well…he had made a name for himself working his personal neighborhood with the help of his personal boys…as proof of his gang activities, he proudly confirmed [off his quite a few and horrible scars]…all of them indicating incidents of road violence to which he had been a willing or unwilling get together . ” Indeed, Turner’s life was one of intense crime and violence, and he seemed proud to have been get together to it—telling his tales with the air of self-importance for his actions.

But then things turned ugly for Turner, as he was caught with an unregistered pistol and arrested. As the proceedings went, Turner felt wronged by his public defender and the choose, insisting that his dealings with the regulation have been unfair. Of course, Turner gets fired from work and eventually will get a new job where he additionally feels the victim, telling Anderson that his coworkers handled him in a prejudiced manner. Turner later explains that he is a man and doesn’t thoughts going to jail, however he fears that his household won’t be in a position to make ends meet.

At the top of the story, Anderson contacts an attorney for Turner and while waiting for the courtroom proceedings to start, Anderson began to really feel as if the lawyer his friend despatched over already held a prejudice in opposition to Turner. But Anderson fully believed that Turner was “a confused young black man in bother, whose circumstances have been difficult by his ignorance, by his limited funds, by who he was, and by the implications [of his present trouble]. ” Then, the choose offers Turner a monthly nice of $100 and a model new probation officer.

Eventually, Anderson even gets Turner a new job, however when Turner is expected to go to work, the information comes that he’s in jail for beating up his girlfriend. He is finally let out and attends work, and is an effective employee till the information drops that he hasn’t paid his courtroom fine and is again sent to jail. Anderson reflects that “people like John –low income, city black males in trouble—generally have very low standing in the minds of these staffing the system . ” But their relationship begins to deteriorate when Turner begins to ask for cash, asking for a brand new job, and coming to Anderson’s home with completely different girlfriends.

Anderson ultimately finds himself frustrated with being Turner’s constant caregiver and their relationship is ended. Even so, Anderson “did not lose hope for John Turner…nor would he tolerate inserting all responsibility for his or her issues on the youth themselves . ” Moreover, John’s interactions with the world might be seen as conceited habits and “his proclivity to violence in reaction to shaming or being dismissed, however in the end pathological, remains in his world additionally normative and sustaining .”

While some blame should be placed upon Turner for his actions, so too, can blame be positioned upon his conditions. Ultimately, however, there have to be some turning point with any youth—an understanding of proper from mistaken. Being introduced up with violence does not make it a normal a part of life and it actually does not make it rationale habits to any situation—despite what Anderson seems to consider. Essentially, with the John Turner case, Anderson went into it with the belief that Turner was a person affected by his circumstance, and it would not matter what came his means, he was always handled unfairly and with prejudice.

Anderson knew that the “code of the streets” was robust, especially in African-American males, and that made it much more troublesome for a man like Turner to make something of himself besides that which society expected of him. Anderson discovered, however, that it will not be simple circumstance that holds a man again from success—and whereas he finds it against his thesis for example totally, he does mark this level when he ends his relationship with Turner. Anderson insinuates “that ‘street’ and ‘decent’ values are in rigidity within a neighborhood.

Moreover, those that work in or study inner-city communities know that this rigidity can exist throughout the similar individual . ” Basically, a youth can know proper from wrong but really feel torn between his decisions based upon the circumstances set in his path. With all of his analysis, Anderson maintains that “a vicious cycle has thus been shaped. The hopelessness and alienation many younger inner-city black men and women feel, largely because of endemic joblessness and chronic racism, fuels the violence they engage in .” Because of their circumstances, they’re virtually pressured to feel helplessness for themselves and their situations—and this, Anderson believes, is what incites further violence. And it is this violence that “serves to confirm the adverse emotions many whites and a few middle-class blacks harbor towards the ghetto poor, additional legitimating the oppositional culture and the code of the streets within the eyes of many poor younger blacks.

Unless this cycle is damaged, attitudes on each side will turn out to be more and more entrenched, and the violence, which claims victims black and white, poor and affluent, will solely escalate . ” But, in acknowledging this circle, Anderson virtually brings more credence to it. Indeed, racism has been a battle fought for more years than can be counted in American historical past, however, there should come a time when the past is forgotten, or forgiven, and people can move on. Perhaps it’ll at all times exist, however the best that it exists as a outcome of it has to is just as incorrect as expressing racism within the first place.

What Anderson has failed to grasp is that the cycle cannot be damaged till folks decide it is going to be. People should resolve for themselves that violence is not the answer, that violence does not breed respect, and that violence just isn’t the one technique for survival. It doesn’t matter who they are, or what color their pores and skin, and even where they live—only that, as human beings, they have the choice to make the choice between right and mistaken. Only then can this code of the streets be damaged.

Overall, Elijah Anderson’s Code of the Street represents a new ideal that the younger African-American male is, basically, going to fall into hassle and violence as a result of that’s what his circumstances provide. There is not any chance to rise from his conditions as a result of he will at all times be handled unfairly and will always have setbacks. In looking at how casual social management, or the circumstances of an setting, affect the reactions of John Turner, Anderson discovers that Turner is, ultimately, a person of circumstance.


While Anderson maintains that it isn’t Turner’s fault that he finds himself in deep trouble time and again, it may be mentioned that Anderson got here to his personal silent reality that there could be something to say a few youth’s capacity to choose on between right and wrong—despite his circumstances. And whereas Anderson never actually makes this presumption, a reader is led to grasp that there could be a rigidity between young African-American youths that drives them, inexplicably, to violence, and makes them unable to make the best decisions as a end result of they’re by no means given the possibility.


  1. Anderson, Elijah. (2000). Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.
  2. Anderson, Elijah. (1994). The Code of the Streets. The Atlantic Monthly, Vol 273 (5), 80+.
  3. Dykstra, Robert. (1997). Counseling Troubled Youth. London: Westminster John Knox Press.
  4. Forman, James. (2004). Community Policing and Youth as Assets. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol ninety five (1), 1+.

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