Well actually, she didn’t. But her daughter did. Black activist, calm down for a moment and roll with me while I explain it. She and and I were chatting and she mentions that while we were talking the night before, her daughter asked her who she was speaking to. She tells her it’s me, to which the daughter replies in a shocked tone, “Oh! She sounds ghetto.” Insert the immediate neck swirl reaction….my friend then says to me, (in what I assume was a poorly executed effort to clean that up a little), “Well, I just don’t think she thinks of you as a real Black person.” Insert sharp intake of breath and a complete neck break. Meanwhile my friend is laughing and completely, or seemingly completely, oblivious of the insult she just shot at me.
Ya’ll already see the problem, I know. But let me break it down for those that may not. This short exchange warrants some serious explanations and clarification:
Let’s start with a history lesson my friends: The term ghetto originated in Italy which referenced a small area that Jews were restricted to. Note that Jews are not Black nor did they choose to be living there. Fast forward to the early 1900’s when the term began being used to describe impoverished areas. Note that people do not CHOOSE to live in the ghetto; they are often left with no choice and also, as a bonus fact, people inhabiting the ghetto are not restricted to Black people. So when did ghetto begin being used to describe a single person? How can the term even be applied to an individual? This question is where our problem lies and this how we fall victim to stereotypes.
Allow me drop a little knowledge: Everything about the conversation was hella inappropriate and offensive and had she been someone else, my reaction would have a little more lethal. The thing that struck me the most was that she seemed to think that she was giving me a compliment by giving me a “not a real Black person” pass. These kinds of things are never okay to say and it’s not about being too sensitive or about pulling the race card; its about understanding how your words may be interpreted before you speak. If we take what they both said at face value, what they meant was that they didn’t think of me as ghetto which insinuates that they regard Black and ghetto as one in the same. Even uttering the phrase “real Black person” casts a negative connotation on being Black. Do you need me to walk up to you and say, “What’s good my n****” to prove my Blackness to you? News flash: it is possible to be Black and not be “ghetto.” *gasp* So yes, I am REAL Black person. Every single day of my life.
The terms ghetto and Black are NOT synonymous. Alluding that they are is offensive. I wrote this post because I felt that it was beyond necessary. The Black community has to deal with these sort of offhand comments on the daily and we are always made to feel that we are making a big deal out of nothing. Well guess what? It IS something. Do not make assumptions about me because I do not live up to your stereotypes. There is no mold. We are individuals and deserve to be treated as that. It’s about respect and nothing more than that.
Until next time, keep smiling.
Someone close to me told me, “I feel like your life has no purpose…