Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

The Broken Path: Juvenile Violence and Delinquency in Light of Sociological Theories

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

The Broken Path: Juvenile Violence and Delinquency in Light of Sociological Theories

Article excerpt

I have always been interested in the study of people's everyday struggles and it had been made very clear to me from early on that education was the "key to success" in the United States; my parents made certain that this idea was etched in my mind. We emigrated from Russia when I was eight years old, and my parents knew that paying for me to go to college was beyond their financial means. Throughout my childhood, I saw my parents work long hours (at jobs that did not satisfy them mentally or financially) in order to give my sister and I a better future. My personal struggle has always been to put aside all of my vices in order to achieve the so-called 'American Dream' for me and to make my parents proud and justify all of the effort that they have put forth on my behalf.

I attended a very diverse (and very affordable) Catolic high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it was there that I first came to an understanding of just how fortunate I am. I only battle my own internal limitations in order to excel in life, but there are people all around me that have to struggle with their surroundings in order to 'make it' in this world. During my high school years I also spent much of my free time working as a mentor with underprivileged teen girls in a program run by a non profit magazine called Teen Voices. The girls that partook in this program were from impoverished inner city families and the program worked to focus the girls' attention on education as way out of their grim reality and into a better future.

Both in my high school and at Teen Voices, I saw how crime and violence impacts individuals' lives and hinders their opportunities for success. I developed many close friendships in these two areas of my life and had the opportunity to take a closer look into the lives of the people that seem to me to have been forgotten or discarded by the mainstream society. For the first time, I began to venture into the 'unsafe' neighborhoods of the city, and get to know the 'unconventional' families that had to struggle with what seemed to be all the problems of the world. These problems included a lack of economic opportunities, a lack of educational opportunities and (as a result of these) a high risk of violence and crime in their day to day lives.

I developed a close friendship with a group of girls who resided in the Mission Hill projects in Roxbury. Among these girls, Alexis became my close friend and my makeshift guide through the reality of life for the urban poor. Alexis has all of the internal qualities for success; she is intelligent, dedicated when she puts her mind to her work, confident despite her situation, attractive and in full control of her self image. Alexis would often tell me stories of her friends who had been killed in one way or another mostly by their own peers. With an almost matter-of-fact attitude, Alexis attended roughly six funerals of boys her age who were killed as a result of juvenile violence. When I asked about her cold attitude toward the death of her neighbors and childhood friends, Alexis replied that "when you see death, drugs and violence all around you throughout life, your heart turns from grief to anger and retribution." She said that if she allowed herself to ponder on the horrors of her surroundings, she would become depressed and 'crazy.' I began to take her approach to violence and crime, and found myself paying less and less attention to the newspaper stories and television news stories of people killed due to youth violence in the poor neighborhoods of Boston. I felt that although this violence was all too real, it was invisible for as long as I avoided it. I thought, "as long as I have my friends, classmates and neighbors, I don't need to focus on the rest."

All of that changed one night in the summer of 2006. Alexis and I were spending some time with a few former classmates and catching up on life after high school. It was a hot July night and many people were outside of their homes in a little courtyard in the middle of the Mission Hill projects. …

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