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  • Renegade Magazine

The Term Ghetto: First They Mock then Copy


The term ghetto was first used to describe the Italian slums in which the Jews were restricted to live in, deriving from the word “borghetto”. When the term transferred to the United States it became the definition of the quarter of the city a heavily populated area where minority or segregated groups live, sadly becoming the reality for many disadvantaged and marginalized African American neighborhoods.

But what is the weight of this word? It depends on who is saying it. For a long time in the Black community ghetto was a word that weighed us down because we knew it was used as a tool to depict the actions, environments, and styles of the less fortunate black community. But it still gets a little confusing because depending on the context ghetto can mean a multitude of things. “That’s so ghetto”- Stop being ignorant and reflect your black excellence queens and kings. Here ghetto is being used as a negative connotation; you're acting below your character.“I’m from the ghetto”- I’m reppin my set, and I’m from the slums. Here ghetto is describing a place or origin where one has learned to survive in the midst of chaos, here it’s used simply to describe class.

Now it seems as though we have taken back the word ghetto. Once again, Black people are re-translating the meanings of words that were once used to degrade us and change them to have new meanings. Where the man uses “ghetto” to demean our culture and make us feel inferior now we’ve reclaimed the word “ghetto” to mean innovative. Let me break it down for you. During your childhood, if you used to cut rolls of paper towel in half to use it for toilet tissue, that is ghetto as hell, meaning your family just single handedly found a way to save money and live better when toilet paper isn't available. If you added water to your dishwashing soap when it got low, that doesn’t mean your family is ghetto or too cheap, it means they knew that they could get the rest of the soap out and save more money. Wearing long acrylic nails is ghetto, ghetto enough to be the latest nail trend among celebrities like the Kardashians. I hope yall see where I’m going here, embrace the word ghetto and remember that first they mock you then they copy you.



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