Guns, Violence, and Identity Among African American and Latino Youth
Wilkinson studies 125 violent African American and Latino males aged 16 to 24 in New York City, analyzing 306 violent situations of which 151 involve guns. The social world of these youths is characterized by violence, internalized street codes, limited opportunities, and the availability of firearms. Violent events are public social performances. These performances often have serious consequences for social identity and personal safety. Wilkinson shows how violence is a resource for gaining/maintaining social identity (masculinity) and status on the street. The dynamic of moving from victim to victimizer is clearly understood in the socio-cultural context of the street. She demonstrates the role that guns play in “empowering” adolescents to engage in conflict outside of age-specific groups.