Loitering?

Often when you see a group of people standing outside of an apartment building or near a store front your first thought is to think they are loitering, unproductive members of society.  This is a point of view brought about by the social norms of a 9 to 5 job with designated areas and times for gatherings such as parks, bars, or one’s private property.  Often these people are also looked at with suspicion of criminal activity. When we do this we are not taking into account their own standpoint on their social activities and how they view the workings of society.

Standpoint theory states that an individual’s perspective on the social performances, theirs and of those around them, is informed by their social experiences.  Many times when one person attempts to understand the point of view of a particular demographic, typically a socially or politically marginalized group, they will consider that one demographic point.  When this attempted understanding is applied to an individual within that group this ends up producing an incomplete picture as more than one demographic label applies to a single person.

In the article “Knowing a Society from Within: A Woman’s Standpoint.” by Dorthy Smith, she points out that when trying to understand her social standpoint you think of her only has  Black or only as a woman.  You need to think of her as a Black woman and all that entails.  Not just how society looks a Black people or how it looks at women but how those roles interact.

When it comes to a group of people who hang out in front of their apartment building during the day, it is more likely that they have irregular jobs.  Often these buildings are in poorer areas which means the residents end up having to take these irregular jobs to earn enough to get by.  Because of these irregular hours they keep, it is difficult to socialize in the way our social norms prescribe.  Instead the stand around outside their building to catch up with their friends and neighbors as the people come home from or head of to work.  What looks like loitering to the average passer by is instead vital social activity within their community.