Socioeconomic Inequalities in El Barrio.
In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio was written by Philippe Bourgois in order to explain why a substantial amount of the residents of El Barrio stray from legal job markets and into lifestyles of crime and poverty. Many people attempt to blame the socioeconomic gap between "mainstream" and "ghetto" societies on laziness and poor morals. However, Bourgois argues that because of societal oppressions, these residents are forced to chase the "American Dream" of respect and success in extremely different approaches than those of mainstream America.
Philippe Bourgois moved to an apartment in an area in East Harlem known as El Barrio in 1985 to research the cultural apartheid that is present in the United States. He eventually gained the trust of El Barrio residents and through thousands of taped conversations and one-on-one experiences he tries to explain the struggles of street life from a first hand point of view.
The biggest struggles represented in the book are due to racism, poverty, and crime. The majority of the people living in El Barrio are Puerto Rican; therefore we witness many instances of discrimination throughout In Search of Respect. In the "Goin" Legit" chapter of the book we see the discrimination that is experienced by Primo and Caesar when they attempted working in a "legitimate" work environment. They where shunned by their coworkers and superiors because of their "ghetto" dialect, attire, and ethnic heritage. It is not surprising that because of the way that they are treated due to their unfortunate backgrounds, that it would reinforce why the underclass find criminal activities to be rational career choices. These activities provide the underprivileged with their own subcultures in which they can obtain the respect and opportunities that are denied to them by mainstream culture. .
Poverty is also a major issue within these sub-cultural societies.