Beyond the Code of the Streets - NYTimes.com: ...For black men like us, the feeling of having something to lose, beyond honor and face, is foreign. We grew up in communities — New York, Baltimore, Chicago — where the Code of the Streets was the first code we learned. Respect and reputation are everything there. These values are often denigrated by people who have never been punched in the face. But when you live around violence there is no opting out. A reputation for meeting violence with violence is a shield. That protection increases when you are part of a crew with that same mind-set. This is obviously not a public health solution, but within its context, the Code is logical.
Outside of its context, the Code is ridiculous. Some years ago, I attended a reading by a black male author. There was a large crowd who’d come to hear him. A rowdy group in the back refused to give him their attention. He asked for it, quite nicely, a few times, but they paid him no heed. I could see the anger rising in his face, as the old laws worked on him. He was being disrespected. Again. Finally the author said loudly and menacingly, “Don’t let the suit fool you.” But it was the streets that had fooled him. Most tough guys don’t live long enough for memoirs.