Guns, Violence, and Identity among African American and Latino Youth

By Deanna L. Wilkinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Discussion

I started this project with the goal of gaining the trust and confidence of young violent males in order to give voice to their complex social worlds. In particular I wanted to examine the decisions they made in moments of time when they were armed and angry. I wanted to know about the ways that they coped with the daily stress and strain of innercity life. Once inside this world I felt profoundly grateful that I could go home to a safe neighborhood and that I do not have to struggle against racism and classism on a daily basis. Throughout this experience, I have never stopped wanting to make a difference with this population but grew to recognize just how difficult and complex that process is. It will be a lifetime effort for certain.

The young men in this study realized that their chances to obtain wealth and power were so miniscule via legitimate pathways that many opted for the fleeting glory of the street over a life of unremarkable toil. Most of the young men in this study choose to live “short and large” rather than long and boring lives. At a fundamental level these young men demonstrated a level of denial of personal responsibility for their actions and an unwillingness to acknowledge cause and effect. Their choices to adhere to a normative code that calls for frequent violent competition for limited rewards enables the worst sort of cycle to perpetuate. Individuals actively engage in violent power plays with others in their environment because the environment is dangerous. By using violence to resolve these conflicts the environment becomes even more dangerous ensuring that those after them will face the same limited set of behavioral choices.


UNDERSTANDING THE EPIDEMIC OF ADOLESCENT GUN
VIOLENCE

While youth violence has traditionally been a problem in American society, the modern version of it seems distinctly different: it is more lethal, in large part due to the rise of gun violence by urban adolescents. This research provides a new perspective and unique data on the role of guns in shaping the recent epidemic of youth violence. At the

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