Spanish Harlem and Drug Economy Essay

Submitted By tinker101
Words: 763
Pages: 4

In his book, In Search of Respect, Philippe Bourgois discussed his experiences living in El Barrio (East Harlem). An interesting new insight into the street culture found in New York was captured in this book. The amount of poverty in this portion of our country is much higher than that in most other areas. Bourgois argues that this neighborhood, which is well known for high rates of violence, does not have widespread violence occurring amongst all of it’s members. The higher crime rate, argues Bourgois, occurs for the most part within the factions of the underground economy. Some insight into this economy would explain the reasons for higher rates of violence.

This book is a summary of the events that occurred during Bourgois’ stay in El Barrio. The original purpose of the book was to write a first-hand account of poverty and ethnic segregation in the heart of one of the world’s largest cities. Bourgois was swept into the area drug economy because of the abundance of information from the dealers and their families who all lived within the immediate area. The problem was so prevalent that the focus of the book was changed to deal exclusively with the underground drug economy.

Most of the accounts given in the book come from a single crack house near Bourgois’ tenement. The group of crack dealers filtered through Bourgois present a compelling argument that reform within the economy needs to take place in order to reduce the amount of violence within the inner-cities of the United States.

Bourgois states that there is a strong feeling of community among the people living in El Barrio. Those people not involved in the drug market rarely encounter violence themselves because the dealers have nothing to fear from them. Bourgois states that, during the day, children are safely left to play in the streets unattended by their parents. At night, when the legitimate working force of the community is eating dinner or asleep, is when the brunt of violence takes place.

The amount of drug dealers or crack houses is an indirect result of the lost jobs in Harlem. Bourgois states that many of the unemployed in the inner-city are not successful in finding work because they lack the skills of working efficiently with people that they don’t already have an every day relationship with, something that factory jobs provided. Factory jobs that moved out of the inner-cities left the large minority groups without a collective workplace where everybody knew their task and how to complete it. The current availability of jobs within the inner-city is mostly within the service sector. These jobs are individualized jobs where independence is required rather than a group effort. The jobs pay little and aren’t generally respected. This tends to lead many people within this community to become involved in the drug economy.

Within the drug market of East Harlem, the dealers use frequent displays of violence in order to scare off thieves, professional holdup artists, and other drug dealers. This violence is