Bad Boys and Why They Are Not Naughty by Nature but by Culture

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Samantha Latting Charise Albritton Sociology 3255 4 April 2013 Bad Boys And Why They Are Not Naughty By Nature But By Culture “Don’t Believe the Hype. ” I believe the title of the very first chapter perfectly introduces and summarizes Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity. These young boys are adultified and are tied to these two controlling images of the criminal and the endangered species. The way these young boys are treated in school is a parallel to how they will be treated in juvenile detentions centers and in a lot of cases the penal system when they reach adulthood.

Due to the adultification and controlling images black male youth develop different coping mechanisms to deal with these negative assumptions they know are made about them. This includes they way they act out in their classrooms. The way in which these young boys are behaving is not because they are “naughty by nature,” it is an act, or a defense mechanism that is brought upon by how they are treated by educators and other authority figures. [Black boys] are not seen as childlike but adultified; as black males, they are denied the masculine dispensation constituting white males as being ‘naturally naughty’ and are discerned as willfully bad (80). ” School is supposed to be a place where children learn, develop and grow. However, when a child is adultified this cannot really occur. This means that adults they interact with believe that their future is pre-determined. A common phrase used without the book is “that kid has a jail cell with his name on it. When educators have this kind of mentality where they believe they are not going to be able to change this student they do not attempt to—in their head they are as developed, as they will ever be, just as an adult would be. The two controlling images that are tied to adultification are the criminal and the endangered species (83). Criminalization was touched on a bit when the bit about teachers believing the child would end up in jail was mentioned. Young black males and their actions and transgressions “are made to take on a sinister, intentional, fully conscious tone that is stripped of any element of childish naivete (83). The second controlling image, the endangered species, is a mirror image of the criminal. By calling the young black male an endangered species we’re saying they are in an obsolete stage of social evolution. When looking at the boys in either light, as a criminal or as an endangered species “contemporary imagery proclaims black males to be responsible for their own fate. The discourse of individual choice and responsibility elides the social and economic context and locates predation as coming from within (82). This means that although it may be said that the black male is in control of his own actions the discourses in which we view them actually says the opposite; that people believe that they are, once again, naughty by nature. Black male youth have too frequent relationships with the penal system, which could be, in part, because of this naughty by nature belief. Due to profiling and stereotyping their chances of entering the juvenile detention system is high and there is an even higher chance of being jailed as an adult (233).

We see the criminality and demonization of black male youth that was present in their school experiences in the penal system as well. This process is repeated through “surveillance, policing, charges, and penalties (233). ” Black male youth perform masculinity using three strategies. These strategies are gendered acts, classroom performance, and fighting. Gendered acts means the boys act as aggressors and treat the females as victims. These strategies often get the boys in trouble, however it is a way for him to make a place for himself as a ‘real boy. These gendered acts are not just imitation; they are a “highly strategic attachment to a social category that has political effects (171). ” Performance in the classroom is also a tactic used to perform masculinity. It is “fundamental to the masculine performance is engagement with power. ” In the book there are several instances of black male youth causing classroom disruptions. This could include laughing, constantly talking, interrupting, being loud, being sassy, demanding other’s attention, etc. The kids see most of these acts as humorous and times of self-expression (175).

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Some kids are stars at these performances. The performances are rituals that involve their own script, roles, and timing. “These dramatic moments are sites for the presentations of a potent masculine presence in the classroom (176). ” The ‘good bad boy’ engages power, makes the class laugh, takes risks and makes the teacher smile (176). The final tactic used to perform masculinity is fighting. In the book, fighting is the most common offense in which students are sent to the Punishing Room and the vast majority of the offenders are African American males (180).

Students are told that fighting is not the answer; if someone tries to start a fight with you then you should tell a teacher and allow them to intervene. However, this goes against the code of masculinity. Letting an adult intervene is a sign of weakness. Another reason children don’t want teachers to intervene is because they don’t believe an adult can really change the relationship between kids. The only thing she can really do is instruct them to stop (180). Black male youth develop coping mechanisms in response to the reception they receive in public.

Included in these mechanisms are “processes of identification, the formation of self at the conjecture of how one is seen an how one sees oneself. (125). ” On one level the boys brush off the fear and surveillance as flattering and a sign of their ability to attract attention and be noticed (125). This can be a temporarily rewarding reaction. However, on another level “identities are constituted in relationship to the perceptions and expectations of other people (125). ” The act the boys are putting on becomes a reality—they reinforce the idea of this stereotype of behavior.

We can look at Horace to personify these examples. Horace is prepared to fight both physically and verbally. He has learned that in public he needs to challenge authority. His fighting has earned him respect and authority among his peers. This is easily tied in to how classroom performance plays a role in masculinity, which was briefly touched upon before. For African American boys this performance in the classroom of being a ‘class clown’ or causing other disruptions “invokes cultural conventions of speech performance that draws on a black repertoire (178). This performance in the classroom is a way for African American boys to establish their desired reputation and to make a name for themselves, as well as achieve status at school. Don’t simply believe the hype and stereotypes surrounding black male youth. They are not “naughty by nature,” but by the culture in which they live and learn in. These boys are adultified and seen as a criminals and/or an endangered species. Many times this ‘bad’ behavior is simply an act to achieve masculinity and status among peers and over time becomes reality.

This is one of the coping mechanisms that these boys develop to deal with the way they are treated and perceived by the adults in their lives. They way these authority figures at school treat them is very similar to how they will be treated in juvenile detentions centers (which they are likely to encounter) and by people in the penal system in which they very well may be subjected to as adults. The behavior of these young boys is due to a cause and effect relationship between how they are treated by their educators and other adults in positions of authority.

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Bad Boys and Why They Are Not Naughty by Nature but by Culture. (2017, Apr 14). Retrieved from

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