A lot of folks below noted, in the post about Vernon Forrest, that there's nothing "Street" about stepping up to protect your kids. I think this sums up the feeling:
I basically agree with this, but I want to take it a step further. The commenter argues that what I really was obeying was a deeply primal instinct. It's funny because that's exactly how I always defined "street." You know, at our core, we're pretty violent. I don't say that in a condemning way, the little reading I've done on the nature of animals indicates that the impulse toward violence, some of it pretty savage, is a natural thing.
No- I grew up pretty suburban, and I nearly ate someone's neck when they pushed and yelled at my 6 year old a couple years back. I'm taller than you, and am usually fairly conflict management oriented, but protecting your kid may feel like street, but it's deeper and more primal than a cultural overlay.
Here in Harlem, I'm shocked by how often the smallest offense can turn to threats. It's been like that in just about every neighborhood I've ever lived. Someone cuts you off while walking down the street, and it's an international incident. Of course it was insane in the 80s--you leave an accidental footprint on a dude's suede Pumas and you better be ready to go for the guns. There's a sense that that sort of foolishness comes from a particular cultural place, that most people can't access. But I think it actually comes from a deeply human, perhaps even biological, place.
One of the great features of capitalism is that it takes an old dynamic, the desire to dominate, and harnesses it to productive ends. I think a lot of poor people in urban America, feel, on some deep level, that they really don't have a shot at competing in that way, and so they get hyper-protective about what they do have. The jewels, the kicks, the fitted, and most of all, basic respect. Now, this may look alien--but I'd maintain it's very natural, and is exactly what happens when you put human animals into a society that prizes the material.
In other words, I'd submit that Street Knowledge is exactly what the commenter is talking--primal law. The "culture" masks what is, essentially, an animal dynamic. There's a reason that they call it "Jungle Law." It's funny because, as a kid, I was a terrible student of Street Knowledge. But you get disrespected enough times, and suddenly it's a part of you, you're indoctrinated. Or, more aptly put, you're not indoctrinated--you're revealed. Or maybe more aptly, you revert. You are not so much acculturated, as you are forced to go native, to obey basic primal impulses--and then a culture arise around that.
I've been doing some reading about the early history of Richmond, Va. And one guy was saying that the violent crime rate, in some years, when you consider the population, in Richmond would actually exceed the crime rate today. We're violent creatures. I'd submit that we all have a little "Street" in us. It's just a question of what it takes to bring it out.
UPDATE: Forgive the font guys. My brain is exhausted, after last week.