I came across the above post in my Facebook feed this past father’s day:
My first reaction was to post a response about it being racist. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the importance of language and their hidden meanings. This is something I was not really aware of several years ago in all honesty.
I started to really think about the ways in which this particular word is used and I wanted to get the input from others. I decided to repost this image on my own Facebook page and pose a question to all of those who I am friends with what they thought of the picture. As a waiting on responses I decided to write down some of my own personal reflections.
For the longest time I viewed the word ghetto not as a noun but as an adjective. Don’t get me wrong, I was fully aware that ghetto was an actual place but I feel as if it has more common use as the adjective. As a noun, I related to this word as a place where Hitler centralized the Jews during Nazis Germany and world war two. I also knew it as a place usually found in the heart of urban areas where life for those who lived there was often times a struggle and dangerous. Bit for me, I heard this word more and more often to describe pole, how they act, what they wear, what they own, the car they drive, the way their house is decorated, how they speak, etc. I used this adjective as a way to describe anyone of any race and never thought anything wrong of it. Until I went back to college to finish what I started many moons ago.
I decided to go to doctionary.com and look up the word ghetto. I was surprised to see a definition for both a noun and an adjective. For the noun we have the following four definitions;
– A section of a city, especially a thickly populated slum area, inhabited predominantly by members of an ethnic or other minority group, often as a result of social or economic restrictions, pressures, or hardships.
– (Formerly, in most European countries) a section of a city in which all Jews were required to live.
– A section predominantly inhabited by Jews.
– Any mode of living, working, etc., that results from stereotyping or biased treatment: job ghettos for women; ghettos for the elderly.
Now for the definition of the word ghetto when used as an adjective:
– Pertaining to or characteristic of life in a ghetto or the people who live there: ghetto culture.
– Often Disparaging and Offensive. noting something that is considered to be unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior: Her furniture is so ghetto!
This one little e-card post has gotten made my brain go into overdrive. As I write this, the jury is deliberating in the Zimmerman trial. A young African American boy, just 17 years old lost his life to a neighborhood vigilante. This vigilante had an unassuming last name; Zimmerman, yet he is a man who shares something with the young Travon and that is that he too, is a minority. The difference as that being half of Latin decent and half white, with lighter skin and a European last name.
As people discuss this extremely sad and tragic event, the topic of race has become very important. I have read a few articles on the internet and I also have read a lot of commentary from individuals who use their first amendment right to voice their opinion. I realize that when it comes to the internet there is a certain amount of trolling that happens just to get individuals fired up. I also realize that there are even more people who hide behind the anniminoty of the internet to speak truly what is on their mind. This is what strikes fear into me.
The fear comes from realizing that my ideas of race relations has been shattered into a million pieces. I thought we were further along as a country when it came to equality when it comes to minorities, but we aren’t. Sure there are things in place that try to even the playing field for all but there are even bigger things in place that keep things status quo with whites males on top and all others below them. It is true that places can’t discriminate or segregate but that doesn’t mean that there are ways in which we are all predisposition to think and act. What I have realized is that no matter your race, your gender, your sexuality or your geographical location, when we are born we do not see color. We do not see material things. We do not yet understand these complex ideas nor are we acting them out. What new, young eyes see is an individual. One who might feed them when they cry out in hunger or hold them when they are scared.
As we grow we take in the actions and the comments around us. We might not realize it in the moment, we can look back at our younger years and see exactly how physical location of where we live, where we go to school and where we play do in fact have an impact on how we view other people regardless of race, gender, creed, or sexuality. This is why we might take certain vocabulary and use it in a way in which we think is rather innocent and not realize how it might negatively affect another person because it is what is considered normal. This is what I think is key.
I will take this key to open up a new door next time. My brain and ideas need to try and sleep.