Analysis Of In Search Of Respect: Selling Crack In El Barrio

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Like the majority of people in the United States, even illegal drug dealers in East Harlem are captivated by the American Dream. In Phillipe Bourgois' ethnography In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio, the Puerto Rican crack dealers of El Barrio want an opportunity where they can obtain jobs to support their families and ultimately become financially successful. However, in the job search, some cultures must face more obstacles than others. Social marginalization, cultural capital “clash”, and institutionalized racism take a significant toll on a minority’s ability to prosper in employment. Despite the ambitions of Puerto Rican drug dealers to succeed in the legal workplace, the structural inequalities they face make it impossible…show more content…
Without proper education, the young adults do not receive the prospect of a bright future like those living in privileged neighborhoods do. Instead, the undereducated urban youth are led down the path of stealing, violence, substance abuse, and eventually, drug trading. Later on in life, El Barrio drug dealers discover that they do not have the cultural capital to gain legitimate work. Cultural capital in the workplace entails types of knowledge and education, skills, and any advantages one has—such as family or friendly connections—to improve their societal status. In In Search of Respect, Primo learns of his unawareness of professional propriety. His attempt at finding a job yields disappointing results before he even sets foot in the workplace. When confronted with the matter of purchasing clothes for a job, Primo experiences a startling revelation: "his problem was not merely that he did not have enough money to buy clothes but, rather, that he had no idea of which clothes to choose when he went to buy…show more content…
Due to their deficiency of proper schooling, they cannot obtain jobs that require any type of higher education. Thus, the drug dealers are left with service sector jobs that pay little over minimum wage. While some service sector jobs require manual labor skills, a large part of jobs require interpersonal skills—something the crack dealers are familiar with in the streets, but do not comprehend in an office setting. In particular, attitude is a key deciding factor of success or failure in the workplace. Since the drug dealers Bourgois writes about are so accustomed to street culture, they do not understand how to adjust their attitudes on the job. Instead, they engage in “weapons of the weak”: refusal to perform as expected, unenthusiastic and uncooperative behavior, and petty theft. Bourgois further elaborates “this kind of disgruntlement, however, is particularly unacceptable in the new office service sector, where “attitude” — enthusiasm, initiative, and flexibility — often determines who is fired and who is promoted” (Bourgois 155). One can only imagine that with such behavior, there is less than a slight possibility for drug dealers to remain lawfully employed. However, these “weapons of the weak” are used because low-level service sector employees do not possess the appropriate institutional strategies to ease their

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