Who You Claim by Robert Garot, Essay Example

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Essay

Introduction

Robert Garot’sWho you Claim: Who You Claim: Performing Gang Identity in School and on the Streets is perhaps the most honest and theoretical contemporary works on youth and their every day struggles with identity in school and on the streets. The identity that these teenagers  link themselves with, most often involuntarily, is the gang identity. The title of the book, Who You Claim is actually a way of inquire in the streets which, to rephrase it, means “What gang to do you represent?” Garot’s four year research at Choices Alternative Academy (CAA) resulted in this book, which not only searches for the thesis of the gang identity, but seeks to deconstruct the term in a way so that the reader could easily construct a personal perspective  for each of those problematic and still existing factors. CAA students are mostly students who have previous history with gangs, drugs, robbery. In addition, by deconstructing the overall concept of gang identity he emphasizes that these young individuals, too, are human and like everyone else they are the son or the daughter of some parents, brother or the sister- they are like everyone else. In addition, one of the primary causes of their situation is the low-income neighborhoods that they all live in.The neighborhoods transfer their violence to educational institutions, which means that these individuals have two “turfs” to survive, school and streets. This is why Garotdivided the book into two parts.In the first part he widely discusses the identity of the youth in school based on his personal research at CAA. The second chapter, “Moral Dramas at School” unfolds the daily rules that these students are required to obey (most of them having a pointless existence). The third chapter,  “The Contradictions of Controlling Student Dress” analyzes the presences of dress codes at CAA, which he calls “meaningless rules” (p45). In the second part of the book, he discusses the issues and struggle with identitythat take place on the streets. Chapter four, “Claims,” which discusses the primary and most common ways by which one can confirm his/her identity by exercising things like ‘Hitting up’. Chapter five covers the issue of “affiliations” which is linked to the latter chapter,  except that chapter five gives specific examples of affiliations like tagging.  Chapter six (Violence and Nonviolence) and chapter seven ( Avoiding Retaliation) analyzes the strict codes that are supposed to be followed in the streets and how in some cases they can surprisingly be avoided. These two chapters were based on collection of stories that Robert Garot compiled together and gave his conclusion on it. Garot’sWho You Claim is an important literature that analyzes the importance of identity in the outer world for teenagers and their own performance of those identities.

Who You Claim is an interesting piece of critique that managed to have an in-depth analysis on troubled youth and their identity based on the personal, 4 year research at CAA. One of the primary reasons why the book came out to be successfully is for the reason that it is all based on first-hand accounts. But it also creates a bias in the overall compilations of all those stories. He labels the teachers very negatively since he mostly has accounts from the students. It is also important to recall that most the students here are there because they have committed something illegal. Most of them do not like to accept the blame and so they easily blame random people for random unimportant issues.At lastGarot does not easily answer every question but leads to a certain point where he wants the reader to do a self-critique of a particular situation based on the information that he provided.  For instance, after briefly introducing the reader with the gang and the teenager he says, “So  what if a student is in a gang? Should young people be judged based by their social ties or their actions?” (page 58). This can engage the reader to the discourse about the youth and further question about how they can judge the youth.

The issue of identity and the way it is exercised

In Who You Claim Robert Garot that the issue of identity and assimilating into that identity is a priority for those teenagers. When discussing identity and can go on to bring several colors to this issue: it can be forced upon the person, involuntarily chosen, or simply a choice. Many of the students at CAA assimilated into that identity because their place of residence forced it upon them indirectly, in order to avoid conflicts. This alternative, however becomes a paradox since it itself brings that person closer into the circle of those people in the neighborhoods. For instance, in the book Garot talks a great deal about the issue of dress code that is an unwritten law in most of those low-income neighborhoods.ButGarot misses and important point here when it comes to those minor elements and it is is how all these elements shape the functionality of those students within schools and outside of school area.

Discourse regarding identity with the students

Another interesting aspect that this story contains is the way these teenagers use the identity. As Garot’s consultants told him , there are rules that have to be followed and so they can’t hide their identities, the gang that they are from. It is interesting that there were actually times when these consultants did try to forget their identity. For instance, when being ‘hit up’ or asked to identify him/herself  and tell the other what gang he/she is representing one has to actually say the gang’s name. There were, however, a lot of those consultants that being from a gang said that they were from “nowhere.” Also, another important factor of identity that these teenagers have to live with is the clothes that they wear and how they wear them. The biggest problem with clothes is its colors. When one wears a certain color that is not favorable in a certain neighborhood then something might happen to that person. All these colors and gang rules are meant to be forgotten when at school but administrators of those schools actually make it a lot harder.  They have designed rules, codes, and other relevant things to have an impact on gangs. Here Garotdescribes that this actually entrenches the identity that the teenagers already had on the streets and that these rules, in reality, are “inconsistent, meaningless rules” (page 46) Doing away from the issue of formation of perspective by bystanders, in chapter  two “Moral Dramas at School” Garot speaks about the daily encounters between the students and the staff at school. In my opinion the author misses a significant point here: how the daily encounter can or cannot have an effect on the student. To give a personal perspective, it perhaps makes these young students more bellicose since the staff are, most of the time towards them.

In sum, Robert Garot’sWho You Claim is a breakthrough in the contemporary literature on youth violence. Though written in a simple language, this book is interestingly deep and interconnected with in-depth concepts. The reason for that is quite simple- the book takes a more microscopic approach to look at the situation. After reading the book, one will understand the other side of the story that is rarely told and even more rarely depicted in literature. The group of youth that commonly get arrested in that area are composed of minority groups such as teenagers who are black or are of  Hispanic origin. In that sense, Garot is attempting to deconstruct  stereotyping and what it means for the minorities to live in those areas. As he explained on page 180, gang researchers and law enforcement agencies do not help the issue and instead on top of that disadvantage they add up to the injury. In addition, Garot says, “Struggles over the ways

gang members are depicted are not simply academic squabbles. Rather, in the words of one nonprofit organization, ‘Its abut the youth.'” (p180). Overall, this book is perhaps one of the best surveys regarding the contemporary issue of gangs and the formation of “gang identity.” Garot successfully depicted the overall image and the issues concerning the image of troubled youth with only minor issues that were left  not-discussed .

Reference

Contemporary Sociology, September, 2011 , Who You Claim: Performing Gang Identity in School and on the Streets, by Robert Garot. New York: New York University Press, 2010, Andrew V. Papachristos

Critical Sociology, Who You Claim: Performing Gang Identity in School and on the Streets, by Robert Garot. New York: New York University Press, 2010, JoylinMurr

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