Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Ghetto Ghetto?

Ta-Nehisi Coates hits back -- hard -- at the essentialization of folks who hail from the "ghetto".
What I know about "inner city blacks," of those who "act ghetto," is the same as what I lately came to know about about suburban whites, about Puerto-Rican New Yorkers, about Ivy Leauge graduates, about gay conservatives, and Israeli-Americans. That they are all different from us all and from each other, that they deserve to be treated with the same nuance, with the same soft touch, with the same eye for complexity and dimension that you'd want for your own family in friends.

My partner Kenyatta says that one of the things that convinced her to go to Howard was a habit she observed among some of her white friends. She was a smart girl, well-spoken and kind. Sometimes when she'd gotten close to a white girl at her school, the girl would make some casually prejudice remark about black people and then say, "But you're not black." The point being that, despite Kenyatta darkness, what they saw as "black" was everything that she was not. She talks about jhow she initially took this as a compliment, and then she realized the true insidiousness within it--that had they exchanged no words, said white friend would have drawn the same conclusions about her.

In that same spirit, I think people who meet and talk to me, who read this blog don't think of me as "ghetto." But I'm not sure they'd think the same if they saw me at 8 A.M. on Lenox Ave, rocking the black hoodie and grey New Balance, on my way to the Associated. Ghetto, in its most unironic usage, is a word for people you don't know. It's word that allows you to erase individuals and create boxes. It's true that I was different than most of my friends--but most of my friends were different from my friends. All people, at their core, ultimately are.

PostBourgie weighs in as well. Two excellent posts.

No comments: