The Canadian Code of the Street and the Structural and Symbolic Repercussions for Youth from Priority Neghbourhoods

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:50
Oral Presentation
Mitchell MCIVOR, University of Toronto, Canada
Julian TANNER, University of Toronto, Canada
Scot WORTLEY, University of Toronto, Canada
Jooyoung LEE, University of Toronto, Canada
Julius HAAG, Universty of Toronto, Canada
Using data from 300 interviews with youth under 25 in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods—areas marked by high poverty and crime rates—this paper discusses how youth negotiate a high potential for physical violence from peers within and between neighbourhoods as well as structural and symbolic violence from authority figures like police, educators, and potential employers. In line with Anderson’s Code of the Street we find that youth express a strategy of self-preservation through maintaining respect and honor. Youth report that respect is earned and maintained through courage and willingness to engage in physical violence if one’s honour has been violated. Honour is maintained through strict adherence to community norms, most prominently by abiding by a code of privacy marked by not communicating knowledge to authority figures like police or educators. The codes of respect and honour that allows youth to navigate and survive the potential for physical violence in their neighbourhoods, however, exposes youth to high levels of confrontation with figures of authority. Youth report physical and symbolic violence from police whose primary objectives of crime prevention and investigation run in direct opposition to the code of honour and privacy these neighbourhoods maintain. Youth also report being exposed to structural violence from employers who discriminate based on address and a supposed complicity with the violence and crime their address is associated with. Finally, youth also report structural and symbolic violence from educators at both the high school and post-secondary levels due to the code of honour and reputation that come from living in a priority neighbourhood. In sum, the authors describe how the codes developed in neighbourhoods to survive the threat of physical violence creates and maintains symbolic and structural violence from authority figures that youth experience and actively attempt to resist in an effort to gain prosperity.