One "Ghetto" Dinner Conversation

On Sunday I went to Chevy's for dinner with my girlfriend and some of the people she knows from her tech-crew (she is doing lighting for a play at San Francisco State University). Sitting near me were these three white women (one was a Mexican Landino [white, rich Latino]) whom neither I nor my girlfriend knew, but I made casual conversations with them. During a conversation one of the girls was taking about differences in dialect between San Francisco Bay Area people and people from Orange County and how Bay Area people use the term "Hella" a lot. She said how people in Sol Cal (Southern California) use the term "Ghetto" or "Gay" to describe a lot of things.

"I had no idea that it was apparently wrong to use the term 'ghetto.'" She said in an exasperated and sarcastic tone. "That's so stupid." She then went on to allude that it was only a term to describe certain things and how they are.

Obviously this woman has no idea that using the term ghetto to describe something is extremely offensive and racist. Saying, "That's so ghetto." Is basically saying, "Man, that's so poor" or "That's so Black." Ghetto is almost always identified by people as a negative term and the imagery that comes to mind are poor areas that have high crime rates and house Black people. It was especially offensive the way she was trying to justify her use of the term, especially because she's a white woman who seems to be quite well off and from a county that's predominantly white and has a high income rate.

The other two girls seemed to agree with her. In fact, one said that there was basically nothing wrong with using the term "Gay" to also describe something and she said. "I have gay friends who say 'That's so gay.'"

Wow, that's great, so does that somehow give you the right to use a term (describing someone's sexuality) in a negative tense? (But that's more of a side note)

So, yeah, like, totally, those white chicks were like totally ghetto.

Images From:
Alpha Gamma Delta (Beta Delta Indiana University Chapter)


Anonymous said...

I'm preparing to write a blog post on this myself and found your post interesting and helpful. I live in a lower income neighborhood, but am white and have white friends who often use the phrase "that's so ghetto."

I have mixed feelings when I hear it or use the term. On the one hand, sometimes there are things that could be improved and seem unique to the area we live in, like the garbage truck that comes at 4 am. I feel like saying it's a "ghetto" or slipshod way of doing things when I think of that, but I also don't want to imply that everything about the inner city is slipshod.

On the flipside, my husband and I try to drive cars till they fall apart or use technological devices (computers, digital cameras, etc.) till they die. But our friends will be bothered by this, saying we have "ghetto cars" when the bumper is duct-taped, or a "ghetto computer" that is need of being replaced.

A question I have is, what would be a better way of expressing the feelings these people are showing? If "ghetto" is a lazy, offensive, and inappropriate use of the language, what should they say instead?

Jack Stephens said...

There's a lot of ways of saying different things than just saying "ghetto." One thing you have to ask yourself is why are you saying it? Why is it so hard to come up with other terms but so easy to say something shitty or fucked up is "ghetto."

If I had a "ghetto" car I would say, "I have a shitty car." Or, "That's my hoopty over there." Which I tend to say a lot about my car.

There are plenty of terms to say.