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Gang Leader For A Day

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on 20 April 2015

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Transcript of Gang Leader For A Day

In "Gang Leader for a Day," Venkatesh, a sociology graduate student, decides to research poverty of African Americans. Venkatesh decides to go to the Projects to give people a questionnaire. He ends up going into the Black Kings territory and is forced to stay the night. After this ordeal, he decides to come back to learn more about them. He soon befriends the gang leader, J.T, and learns about the inner workings of the gang. He also learns about the inner workings of the Robert Taylor community. Perspective Research Methods:
Quantitative Lessons Learned Gang Leader For A Day
By Sudhir Venkatesh Problems Sudhir Venkatesh learns that gangs and poor neighborhoods’ problems are not just rooted in the neighborhood. There are many external factors, such as the public's response, their opinion of them, and the poor’s need to survive. Education and poverty are inversely correlated. The more education you have, the less likely you are to live in poverty. Venkatesh has a conversation with Mrs. Bailey relating to this topic. He states that "if kids can get through high school, they have a twenty-five percent greater likelihood of escaping poverty. Mrs. Bailey reminds him that education isn't the only issue. Many of these families need to survive and need to get food on the table. This need to survive holds a higher standing than continuing education (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 148-149). Face Values Venkatesh also learned that you cannot take information at face value. There is always a hidden meaning or motive. When Venkatesh was expanding his research of the Robert Taylor Homes, he decided to interview the hustlers. Mrs. Bailey and J.T. was excited about his new direction in his research. During these interviews, he found out how much each hustler made. The earnings were kept from Mrs. Bailey and J.T. on purpose. Without thinking, Venkatesh told Mrs. Bailey and J.T. all about his interviews including their actual earnings. Once J.T. learned about their actual earnings, he taxed everyone (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 203). Mrs. Bailey did the same thing. She went to the tenants claiming they owed her money. One instance where Venkatesh emphasizes the importance of research is during the time where he first met J.T and his gang members. He came to the projects with a survey that had general [test-like] questions. One gang member in particular was disappointed with his question, "How does it feel to be black and poor?" (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 16). After this he was forced to stay the night. Venkatesh learned a lot more about this community by listening rather than by using a questionnaire.

Another instance where Venkatesh emphasizes the importance of research is when Venkatesh was learning about the illegal economy in Robert Taylor. He learn about the residents who were a part of this economy by allowing two-way conversation. He allowed them to speak for themselves and not prompt them for specific kinds of answers (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 193). Pros and Cons of Quantitative Research Ethics Concepts Compare/Contrast The Four Concepts Many issues affect poor black neighborhoods including the government. In 1995, the Clinton administration was planning to demolish the Robert Taylor Homes and many others like it. The administration claimed that these complexes did not work, yet they do not explain how these families will relocate (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 243). Venkatesh learned not to take all of Mrs. Bailey's words seriously. She would present herself in a positive light and made it seem that the tenants were really benefiting from her. Venkatesh learned the truth later on. During one of the writing sessions, he learns that Mrs. Bailey is not as 'good' as she seems. One of the women attending the sessions said, "You know, one time I had to let her sleep with my man so I wouldn't get kicked out of the building" (Venkatesh, 2008, p.213). Venkatesh learned that Mrs. Bailey created a strong regime that abused its power. Since this regime was so powerful, the tenants had no chance to change it. After reading this novel, I realized that gang members are human. Most of the media portrays gangs as heartless and evil. In addition, my background made it hard to understand their motives. As Venkatesh gets to know J.T, the reader sees more of his personality. When Venkatesh tells J.T. that he might have to leave soon, J.T. dismisses his response and Venkatesh describes his reaction as "child-like" (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 245). With these kinds of descriptions, it is easier to see the gang leader as a human. The same occurs with the younger gang members. After there was a shooting at Robert Taylor, the young members "looked shaky, eyes wide and fearful" (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 223) even though they would always brag about being able to kill for their families. The fact that Venkatesh describes the fear these members experience portrays them as being vulnerable which is easier to relate. I also learned that gangs were similar to a business and not as chaotic as I used to think. J.T. makes sure that the gang members sell their customers good crack and not altered crack. If the customers found out that they were selling an inferior product, then the gang would lose their business (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 140). The same idea works with legal business. If a product is inferior, the company will lose their customers. The other way gangs are like business are their levels of power along with their rules. J.T. was the boss of many members. And as you go down the hierarchy, the members have less and less powers. Also, if you lied about your earnings, you would receive a violation. This would either be physical punishments or they would lose their privileges. On the other end, if a member did extremely well, they would receive extra privileges (Venkatesh, 2008, p.138). These ideas are comparable to the way a legal business promotes and demotes their employees. Pros Cons This kind of research sometimes has objectivity missing. The participants of the study might not be giving the entire truth (Whorton, 2009). Sometimes, the researcher has a conflict between his role as a researcher and his role as a participant (Woods, 2006). It is very demanding for the researcher. They must take a lot of time to collect the data and interpret it (Woods, 2006). It allows the researcher to develop a better understanding of the topic through first-hand experiences (Woods, 2006). The researcher is able to develop rapport and intimacy with the participant (Whorton, 2009). This kind of research allows the researcher to create a structure for other research (Woods, 2006). As Venkatesh become closer and closer to the gang and J.T, the ethics of his research were being challenged. During his research, he learned that he cannot watch the gang plan a shooting. If he witnessed this planning, he is obligated to tell the police about it (Venkatesh, 2008, p.185-186). At this point, Venkatesh has passed the point of "going native." He needed be reminded that he still needs to complete his role as a researcher. This is a problem ethically because he is "contributing" to illegal activities. Another instance of Venkatesh's questionable ethics occurs when Bee-Bee beats Taneesha. Mrs. Bailey calls C-Note and a few others to catch Bee-Bee and Venkatesh comes along as well. The group finds Bee-Bee and starts to beat him. Bee-Bee gets one of them in a choke hold and Venkatesh kicks Bee-Bee in the stomach in order for him to release the guy he was choking (Venkatesh, 2008, p. 170). This caused a question in his ethics because this beating was under the radar. The police was not called, and an ambulance for Taneesha was not called. In other situations, he could face charges against him. Presentation by: Kristen Altomare The Underclass The book, "Gang Leader for a Day," captures the idea of the underclass. The underclass has little connection to the job market or if they have a job it is a low paying one. Welfare and food stamps are the main way of surviving (Henslin, 2004, p. 223). The community described in the book matches that of the underclass. Many have to use welfare and food stamps. Some people do not have jobs and earn their income through welfare and an underground economy. But, even with this underground economy, those people are still earning less than $20,000 a year with several people in their family. Education Another concept "Gang Leader for a Day" encompasses is the idea of education. The more education a person has, the less likely they are going to live in poverty (Henslin, 2004, p. 232). In the novel, many residents of the Robert Taylor Homes did not complete high school. And a few did not even complete elementary school. Social Mobility Another idea seen in this novel is the idea of social mobility. There are multiple types, but the main types are downward social mobility and upward social mobility. With upward social mobility, a person will experience a higher level of living than what they started with. With downward social mobility, they either stay at the same level or move downward (Henslin, 2004, p. 227). In the novel, many of the children will experience downward social mobility. They do not finish high school or college and end up staying in a development like Robert Taylor. Very few people are able to move up on the social ladder. Children of Poverty The other concept the book captures is the concept of children in poverty. Children are even more likely to stay and live poverty than adults and the elderly (Henslin, 2004, p. 233). In the novel, many children who grow up in the Robert Taylor homes continue living in these homes. There is a minuscule chance for them to get out of poverty. Differences On main differences between these two communities is location. In 'Gang Leader for a Day," the community is located in urban Chicago. The other community is located in the Appalachian area.
Although the community in "Gang Leader for a Day" did have a drug trade, many of the other tenants had other means to earn a living. But, in the Appalachian community, the biggest economy was the drug trade.
Similarities In both instances, drug abuse is very common in their communities. Many of the prostitutes in "Gang leader for a Day" were addicted to heroin. The Appalachian community also had drug problems. For example, Courtney's mother had drug problems and was trying to fix it. Many other families in this community have similar problems.

Another similarity is that both communities still have members thriving for education. In "Gang Leader for a Day," T-Bone was working towards a degree in college so he would not have to be in the gang any longer. In the Appalachian community, Shawn Grim worked hard to finish high school and college in order to have a better life than his family.
("A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains", 2009) ("A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains", 2009)
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