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Dangerous or Endangered?

Dangerous or Endangered?: Race and the Politics of Youth in Urban America

Jennifer Tilton
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Dangerous or Endangered?
    Book Description:

    How do you tell the difference between a good kid and a potential thug? In Dangerous or Endangered?, Jennifer Tilton considers the ways in which children are increasingly viewed as dangerous and yet, simultaneously, as endangered and in need of protection by the state.Tilton draws on three years of ethnographic research in Oakland, California, one of the nation's most racially diverse cities, to examine how debates over the nature and needs of young people have fundamentally reshaped politics, transforming ideas of citizenship and the state in contemporary America. As parents and neighborhood activists have worked to save and discipline young people, they have often inadvertently reinforced privatized models of childhood and urban space, clearing the streets of children, who are encouraged to stay at home or in supervised after-school programs. Youth activists protest these attempts, demanding a right to the city and expanded rights of citizenship.Dangerous or Endangered? pays careful attention to the intricate connections between fears of other people's kids and fears for our own kids in order to explore the complex racial, class, and gender divides in contemporary American cities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8427-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Who’s Responsible for Kids?
    (pp. 1-24)

    In June 1999, recently elected Mayor Jerry Brown visited a Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) meeting in an elementary school auditorium at the eastern edge of Oakland, California’s sprawling flatlands. Speaking to approximately fifty, mostly African American, middle-class homeowners, Mayor Brown detailed his plans for revitalizing the city, “When I talk to people everywhere in Oakland, they are concerned about crime and schools.” Crime rates were declining, but “not fast enough.” He knew that Oakland’s citizens disagreed on how to respond; some at the meeting took “an overtly hard line on crime” while others focused on economic development, improving schools,...

  5. CHAPTER 1

    • Back in the Day
      (pp. 25-30)

      Linda Jackson had never wanted to be involved in politics. As “a preacher’s kid,” she was in church seven days a week doing community work. When she left home she swore, “I was never going to participate in anything else. That’s the end of it.” But she got “thrown back into” community work as white flight and economic decline hit Elmhurst hard in the 1970s and ‘80s, and she watched her neighborhood struggle with crime and blight that erased the precarious distinctions between middle-class and poor in East Oakland. Over twenty years later, when I first visited her home, Linda...

    • Disciplining Youth and Families in the Flatlands
      (pp. 31-68)

      In February 2001, one of the Elmhurst Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils (NCPC) met in a classroom at a local middle school. Bill Clay, the dapper African American NCPC president, invited two uniformed community policing officers, a tall, broad-shouldered white officer and a heavyset Asian officer, to sit up at the front of the room with him, “on the hot seat.” The officers explained that they had been doing a lot of violence suppression in response to the recent rise in homicides, “flooding” particular areas with as many as twenty-five officers and “stopping everyone we can.” They were targeting parolees and...

  6. CHAPTER 2

    • Trying to Get up the Hill
      (pp. 69-74)

      “What I see in Oakland is everyone doing this shift up the hill.” Liz Walker explained that parents in the Laurel district often drove their kids up to Montclair Recreation Center in a wealthy enclave in the hills and tried to get their children into schools farther up the hill. Families from the flatlands did the same thing, coming into the lower hills to find safe spaces and schools for their kids. “Everybody’s trying to get up, up, and up…. I don’t want to drive my kid up the hill for everything. Why don’t we have anything going on right...

    • Dangerous Times: Reconstructing Childhood in a Volunteer State
      (pp. 75-112)

      In May 2000, the Laurel Redwood Heights NCPC gathered in the Laurel Elementary School auditorium for a town hall meeting with Mayor Jerry Brown. The mayor sat alongside the local city council member and assorted other city, county, and school district officials at a long table on the stage at the front of the room. Neighborhood activists had advertised the meeting well, and at its height well over a hundred people filled the room. Participants reflected this neighborhood’s political networks: slightly more white than black, with a few Asian and Latino residents, ranging in age from the late twenties to...

  7. CHAPTER 3

    • Protecting Children in the Hills
      (pp. 113-116)

      In January 2001, a white man in a Rolls Royce was driving up the tree-lined street to his home in the Oakland hills when he saw some young people spray-painting a sign for Skyline High School. They were students painting a new sign as part of a school project, but that is not what he saw. Primed with mass-mediated images of “youth criminality,” he saw a group of young people wearing hoodies and baggy pants, holding spray paint, and he immediately assumed they were vandals. He stopped his car and threatened them with a gun before driving off.

      A few...

    • Youth in a “Private Estate” in the Oakland Hills
      (pp. 117-152)

      In January 2001, five high school students came to the monthly Skyline Task Force meeting to present their idea for creating a Youth Center at Skyline High School. Youth Together, a multiracial youth leadership and organizing group, had been organizing high school students to prevent youth violence, especially interracial violence in the public schools. Luis, a junior and long-time youth organizer, explained that the Youth Center would increase the number of students in AP classes, offer tutoring, and provide health services and counseling. He carefully argued that the center would benefit the neighborhood as well as the school. By providing...

  8. CHAPTER 4

    • Cruising down the Boulevard
      (pp. 153-158)

      One spring day in 2003, as I took pictures along MacArthur Boulevard in the Laurel district, a fifteen-year-old African American girl asked me what I was doing. When I told her I was writing a book about youth in Oakland, she asked if I knew that they were trying to move the bus stops from the corner of 35th and MacArthur. She added in a matter-of-fact voice, “They don’t want youth in this neighborhood.” Every school day at 2:30 in the afternoon, a trickle of students wearing backpacks and holding bus passes turned into a flood, filling the bus stops...

    • Potential Thugs and Gangsters: Youth and the Spatial Politics of Urban Redevelopment
      (pp. 159-190)

      On February 25, 2003, Oakland City Council held a public hearing on a new ordinance that would “prohibit loitering in public for the purpose of engaging in illegal drug activity.” This law was narrowly crafted to target drug dealing, not kids hanging out on the street, but the debate at the hearing was almost entirely about how the law would or should affect Oakland’s youth. Oakland’s multiracial youth activist organizations had mobilized close to one hundred young people and several parents and grandparents to testify that this law would increase the racial profiling and harassment youth already faced on Oakland’s...

  9. CHAPTER 5

    • What Is “the Power of the Youth”?
      (pp. 191-228)

      On a sunny afternoon in April 2001, a multiracial crowd of 150 teenagers and young adults marched through downtown Oakland to demand that the Board of Supervisors abandon plans to build a “Super Jail for Kids.” Months before, the county supervisors had unanimously approved plans to build a new juvenile hall, expanded from 299 to 540 beds, in a far-flung suburb of Alameda County. At first this plan attracted little attention, but that changed as youth activists began a sustained campaign. At this first protest, Latino, Southeast Asian, Tongan, black, and Jewish high school students marched alongside local college students,...

  10. Conclusion: Hope and Fear
    (pp. 229-242)

    Young people are growing up today in contradictory times: increasing inequality alongside expanding dreams, deep poverty beside lavish wealth, racially unequal childhoods in an era that promises equal opportunity. At a special police-youth dialogue organized by performance artist Suzanne Lacy, two young people asked questions of Oakland’s black police chief that captured their experiences of this contradictory moment. An African American young woman challenged, “Y’all like to beat us down. How can we respect your authority?” In a more plaintive tone, a fifteen-year-old black young man on probation asked, “How come we can’t get together? We all supposed to be...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 243-264)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-284)
  13. Index
    (pp. 285-295)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 296-296)