Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Indian Expert on the Hoods

Columbia university sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh's work formed a chapter in the book, Freakanomics. Now he's got his own book, Gang Leader for a Day. While I haven't read the book, this interview reminds me how interesting his work is. Think: if drug dealers are so successful, how is it that most live with their mother?

As I read the interview, it is sad to see how much we miss with a merely criminal view of gangs, ignoring the social causes.

An excerpt:
There is significant exposure to lead and asbestos and extremely poor nutrition. One of the most jaw-dropping experiences I continue to have is to walk into a grocery store in the inner city. There's a lack of fresh food, decent food.

And another:
It's depressing to see the cycle of failure and the reproduction of poverty. The typical story goes like this: Job is going well, then their kid gets sick. They start missing work, then they get fired. It just makes you want to scream. We're talking about the folks who are trying to help themselves, and they can't do it. That's another kind of sadness.

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