Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Great Book - on Poor Urban Black Men

I just finished reading: "Wrong Place, Wrong Time" - by John A. Rich. It is by far the best book I've ever read at explaining inner city violence (as it relates to poor, Black young men).

p.57 - as per "Jimmy"

* If you want to avoid being a sucker, you have to have a rep.
* If you want to have a rep, you have to earn it.
* You earn a rep by putting in work.
* In Jimmy's world, work means doing violence.
* Have a rep, even if you got it by violence, makes you known.
* When you are known, you are somebody.
* You could get a rep for doing good, but people still come after you for disrespecting them in the past. Therefore violence is more effective.

"Violence worked in his world to accomplish something that all of us wanted- to be somebody- but that Jimmy could not find any other way to do."

John Rich is a Black, middle-class (raised and currently) physician whose worlds had shielded him from much of what he discovered (in 2006 he was awarded a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship).

Rich's best informant: Roy Martin tellingly answered him explaining: (p.60)
' "I bet this kid isn't the kind of kid who's gonna be a basketball star. Or a lady's man, a player, right?" Roy said, answering his own question. "He probably ain't no great brainiac who's going to college. If he was any one of those things, he would be doing that. He'd be about that kind of stuff. But he's not." '

p.63 - "If these young men were numb from all the violence that they had seen and if they, like Jimmy, were unable to see a clear future, then the whole concept of violence in the inner city was beginning to make sense."

Dr. Rich provides a brilliant expose of the humanity of poor, "tough" Black young men and their worlds. He talks of the traumas the violence creates (and often is ignored by others). His picture in no way romanticizes this life, but it really helps "outsiders" to understand a lot more.

This book isn't long. It isn't difficult to read, though much of what it talks of is scary. For anyone interested in such a subject, I highly recommend it!


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