An Essay: Being Black and Poor in the American Inner City

William Julius Wilson describes culture as an “Explanatory variable in the study of race and urban poverty.” He believes that this topic hasn’t been addressed in this way because some would see it as “Blaming the victim.” Goffman has done a great job in portraying the real facts as to why the victim is not to blame. The environmental setting and cultural upbringing is what really should be on trial here. In Wilson’s book, More than Just Race, he tends to focus on the natural views and cultural traits that can have an affect on injustice in the communities. Goffman has the same formatting. She takes the way of life by living in the environment she studies and examines behavioral tendencies and economic values while contemplating why these two are irrefutably linked. Goffman and Wilson have the some outlook on the issues that arise in the environments at hand. Wilson discusses his finding on a topic known as the “Code of the street” or a “Code of shady dealings.” He mentions a man named Sudhir Venkatesh who describes this as, “ A response to circumstances in inner city ghetto neighborhoods where joblessness is high and opportunities for advancement are severely limited.” Both Venkatesh and another man, Anderson, agree that this code hinders the integration of inner city cultures into the broader society. Goffman has the opportunity to analyze this code on a first hand basis and personally see how the collaboration of unlawful activity can obstruct the development and progression of this seemingly distant environment. As Wilson simply puts, this activity “Continues in the perpetuation of poverty.” Agreeing with Anderson and Venkatesh, Wilson knows that unless there is a change at the base level of these societies, nothing will change and this cycle of illegal activity and unlawful actions will continue to persist and require the attention of outside forces. Alice Goffman can vouch for these three men when they say that anyone can be susceptible to criticism if they analyze and deem the victims themselves cause the actions taken and consequences given in these poverty-stricken cities. It seems to me that blaming the victim in these cases tends to be seen as taboo and is rarely done in fear of disapproval of the majority. It has come to my attention that blame seems to be an issue just as important as finding a solution. There doesn’t appear to be one group who should be at fault here, instead there should be some form of guidelines or format that can change the ways of the inner city workings. Alice Goffman understands that no one individual the cause of this unconventional reliance on crime and corruption. Culture seems to be the main contributor here and changing that might be the most difficult challenge yet.


About ben james

"The stars keep me up at night" -some song I heard one time Human. Studying the intersection of Neuroscience and Computation. Wanna be (astro) physicist.
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