Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal


This Article is largely an argument that the pervasive sense of cultural resistance in the African American community must be considered by criminal theorists as, at least, a partial explanation of “criminality” within the African American community. Woven into the fabric of African American culture is a vital oppositional element. This element, spoken of in many circles as “oppositional culture” constitutes a bold and calculated rejection of destructive mainstream values that have perpetuated social inequalities and power imbalances. African American resistance culture is captured by novelist John Edgar Wideman in his account of his brother ’s criminal lifestyle and the ambivalent attitude of some urban blacks toward street crime: “We can’t help but feel some satisfaction seeing a brother, a black man, get over on these people, on their system without playing by their rules. No matter how much we have incorporated these rules as our own, we know that they were forced on us by people who did not have our best interest at heart. . . . We know they represent rebellion—what little is left in us.” If this sentiment is any way indicative of a broader cultural perspective, criminal theorists in law and social science should be more curious and critical about the meaning and consequences of the minority oppositional mindset.


Cultural Resistance Theory, Oppositional Culture, African American culture

Publication Citation

Trevor George Gardner, The Political Delinquent: Crime, Deviance, and Resistance in Black America, 20 Harv. BlackLetter L.J. 137 (2004)