University of Chicago Law Review

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The violence experienced by young people of color in the city is multidimensional—both interpersonal and structural. So many of the young have to swallow their rage as they are surveilled in stores and on the streets, as they are targeted by cops for endless stops and frisks, as they are denied jobs, as their schools are closed, and as they are locked in cages by the thousands. For some, the violations and the deprivation turn outward. The instrumental use of violence by some young people becomes a rational adaptive strategy in response to racial and economic oppression. For some of the young people I’ve worked with, the specter of death is a constant companion. A young man who has been behind bars for most of his formative years has told me on more than one occasion that he was always certain his life only held two vi-able possibilities: “die in the streets or die in prison."

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