City Kid Morals

The interviewer’s initials are denoted through the initials BD, while the informant’s responses are marked as WC.

WC: This is just—a, a little banter between different moral codes that exist within my own consciousness because I come from an environment in which the law of the land may be one thing, but how I feel on the inside is an entirely different set of morals. To survive this environment, you do have to adopt the law of the land. The saying goes “the boys outside are takin’ lives, but can’t run and hide. Say if you’re scared, go to church, but they’ll put me in the dirt if I testify.” Which basically just means that things happen that may be a little scary but you’re living in an environment that if you try to tell on somebody because something scares you, the scariest thing possible can probably happen to you. That level of paranoia kinda, maybe sometimes will guide people away from their nature. You know? Because there’s usually problems that we want to solve, but people run from problems because they don’t want more problems.

BD: Did you come up with this?

WC: No, the words I came up with, but the idea is something that has existed generations before I was even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes.


This is the second piece of folklore I collected from this particular informant, and it is interesting how his folk beliefs seem to center around karma and attitudes towards what will happen in the future and what is under one’s own control. This particular belief is one that stems from his life growing up in Oakland, where he witnessed a lot of violence and crime. He did not want to share specifics or allow me to record, but he did relate that it was rough growing up in the inner city, and as a result he coined this saying, which embodies a few of the ideas and “rules” of growing up in such a place.