No More “That’s So Ghetto!”


( ENSPIRE OPINION ) No More “That’s So Ghetto!”

I was standing in a local print shop, making copies of a freshly-updated résumé for a friend of mine a couple weeks ago. I noticed one of the copiers was out of order. One of the associates
had used gray duct tape to affix a handwritten “out-of-order” sign to the copier. I didn’t think much of this as I proceeded to the next copier and loaded it with ivory résumé paper. Shortly thereafter, several customers approached the broken copier and expressed their utter abhorrence of the unsightly note. As I retrieved my originals from the copier, I heard several passersby comment that the note on the copier was ghetto.

I’ve heard the term “that’s so ghetto” hundreds of times and I’ve admittedly become somewhat desensitized to it. After all, people use that phrase to describe anything that is less than desirable. If a waitress serves a glass of iced tea and forgets the ice cubes—its ghetto! If someone rushes out of the house and forgets to iron his shirt—it’s oh so ghetto! If a person has lost a license plate and resorts to replacing it with a hand-written paper tag until they can afford to replace it—you guessed it—it’s ghetto!

The incident in the copy center really annoyed and agitated me because the person making the comment probably didn’t have an inkling of what the ghetto is. I myself cannot intelligently discuss what makes something ghetto. After all, a ghetto is no laughing matter. By definition, a ghetto is a segment of a city where persons live because of social and/ or economic oppression. Is that funny? I’m sure the ghetto life is no laughing matter to those who live there. The substantial influx of violent crime, hopelessness and destitution is factual. It is my humble opinion that we must collectively bury the phrase “that’s so ghetto”. Give it a proper burial. People innately adapt phrases and make them a part of everyday conversation without weighing the spirit of the words we use.

Crime infestation is so ghetto. Substandard housing and poverty are so ghetto. What about children innocently playing in the front yard who could become victims of misguided gunshot? Now
that’s so ghetto! The lost, the underemployed. The oppressed and the angry. The needy and overlooked.

They are all so ghetto. A beverage that is shy of a few ice cubes is not and shall never be ghetto. A note taped to a broken copier is not ghetto. Tacky maybe. Messy perhaps. But ghetto it is not.My research of this topic has rendered me stunned yet engrossed—yearning to learn more about the history of the ghetto. It is a tangled history. It is interesting to note that the ghetto is an old term that most likely means “enclosed”. It is documented that in 1908, the term “ghetto” was used to describe slums for a certain class of people (mostly Jewish immigrants). As time progressed,the ghetto became a hotbed of violence, calamity, fear and anger. That is so ghetto.

In this, the culmination of Black History Month, it would be behoove us as a people to lay the phrase to rest. It’s tired. It is weary and it should be condensed to complete insentience. Surely our vocabulary is broad enough to express our dislike for this or amusement with that—without using that tired statement. So many of our ancestors owe their greatness, and in turn, pay homage to the ghetto.

The ghetto protects its greatness—nurtures its talents and with pride, it catapults its sons and daughters to their rightful places in the world and in history. Let us each emphasize our
consideration on what mark we will leave on the world. Who is the next Langston? Martin? Rosa? Eartha MM White? Is it you? Is it me?

Because of our Father’s guidance and protection, even in the desert of the ghetto, we have everything we need to live a blessed life and inspire, enrich and enlighten the world around us.

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