Code of the street, respect, the youth and anderson
It is generally more of a comparison between the extreme economic situations of the inner city. Code of the street is a concept descriptive of a common but not necessarily normal situation of the youth and their families who are living a “street life”. Anderson in his book was able to capture how the young ones in this kind of society develop their own concept and version of respect.
What is interesting with Anderson’s discussion of the street life is his concept of “code-switching.” He explained that the young ones adopt some sort of codes, meaning that they tend to act the way the rest of the street people generally do their own things to be able to display their conformity with standards of the street life. However there are cases where the young ones need to switch codes as certain situations require. They need to do this in order to gain the respect of others. This is true for those who are considered “decent” who, as Anderson said, are required to switch to street behavior in order to protect themselves. It is in this way that decent young people learn to get along with the youngsters of the street. It is to be stressed that code-switching is seen as a must for gaining respect and not to be one of them.
On the other hand, the street youngsters develop behaviors that they believe will make them “respectable” in a relatively different way with that of the decent youngsters. For these people, code-switching will not work. Rather they need to learn the code, internalize the code and be able to live up with the code of the street for them to be worthy of respect. At young age, they knew a different context and concept of respect. Considering the example cited by Anderson, these people try to look up at specific models and then will create a personality that is the nearest possible with their model. Anderson set hip hop and rap artists who are being considered as models of these youngsters. That way they are able to have the pride of being better than the others and so are deserving of what they call respect.
The lives of the young generation are shaped by the things they see around them especially with that of the elders. What they see from their parents is what they perceive as right attitude and because they see that the heads of the family are respected for such behavior, they are likely to adopt the same behavior. It is also because of the fact that the elders or the parents are the ones teaching and guiding their kids as they grow up, they are most likely be adapting the culture and beliefs of their elders or parents. Quoting Anderson, street people “tend to approach all persons and situations as part of life’s obstacles.” Considering this, street children therefore are prone to be trained in unhealthy environment wherein respect is gained by being able to get over life’s obstacles. What they therefore do is to find ways to exploit others.
Since decent and street families approach life a different way, children tend to be shaped in regarding respect a different way too. As have been discussed earlier, decent people code-switch to gain respect while street oriented people try to get over life’s obstacles by outsmarting others. We therefore say that respect is a virtue that is relative. Relative because people of different societies look at it in different faces and levels. That alone will give us the idea how children of these families will be shaped a different way too.
Specifically, Anderson set the example of the family of Marge. Being classified as a decent parent, she has to raise her children in a way that will ensure their security in the midst of the street people. Her experience with the people around them taught her the reality that being educated and acting the most decent way possible will not in anyway give them the respect they are expecting from their street neighbors. Her experience taught her that as early as the child’s life they learn to adopt the street life they see from their parents.
It is therefore important that parents learn the best way to get along with other people. It is also critical that parents have to be sensitive with the standards of the society they are living with. To be sensitive does not however mean that parents let their children to freely associate themselves with the street people which will surely give them the opportunity to learn the bad behavior these people generally display. To be sensitive is to know the best possible means of educating their children of the importance of values even if it will take others to consider them different individuals. It takes a parent to inculcate in the minds and hearts of their children the value of excellent behavior in line with the values taught by a Christian way of living. It is vital that they grow in love and they be well-equipped with the qualities of a truly respectable person. However it will not take a parent to be strict enough to the point of depriving their children of associating with the children or people in the street. To let them go out in the streets and get along with other people will somehow show that they too, despite their education and intelligence and of being decent also respect others. What is important is for parents to continually guide their children into the right concept and context of respect.
Parents need not to move out of the inner city in order to raise their children in a manner that will shape them into people who have respect with others. What it takes is for a parent to be a good role model for their children. Parents and elders should join hands in keeping peace and order and respect inside their own homes. That way they will be able to ensure that their children are well-equipped with the battle gear enough to make them survive in the battle between winners and losers of the street.