If you’re not from the ghetto, stop talking about ghetto lifestyles
Every all-black neighborhood is not the hood
I was sitting in a newsroom brainstorm meeting when a Features Editor made that comment. Up until that moment, I’d been pretty neutral on her. She would’ve been classified as the “white woke” type, who loved Common and was from the LGBTQ+ community. I expected her to know better before the words came flying out of her mouth, especially at work. However, someone made a suggestion about a feature article (on either home decor or fashion), and she snickered and said, “That’s kinda ghetto.”
Blonde-haired, in her 20s, dressed like Ellen DeGeneres and definitely not from the hood, I looked up from my notebook and over at her. My expression wasn’t hostile, just more like disappointment. I was the only black person in this brainstorming meeting with about 20 other white colleagues, and I could hear someone gasp in the background. Our boss quickly moved onto the next subject. Although the editor and I had on-the-surface conversations before that meeting, I cut it to bare minimum after the “ghetto” analysis. I answered her work questions and went about my day.
In college, I ran into the same kind of energy. A mutual friend of my roommate’s brought up (in her Yooper voice) how “all you’s guys say it” regarding the term “birfday” instead of “birthday.” I paused and asked her when had she ever heard me say “birfday.” She thought about it for a second, realized she had not and laughed it off, insisting her (black) boyfriend always does. She said it was an ongoing joke with him and went on to state that she just assumed it was “what people in the ghetto said.”
I cut her off again, asking her was she insinuating that I lived in a ghetto if she assumed I used the term “birfday.” She stumbled over her words before admitting she had no idea what my neighborhood was like. It still didn’t sit with me well because my college roommate had been to my neighborhood a couple of times. (Our parents took turns taking us back and forth to school since we both were car-less.)