Putting Ghetto on Blast
Author Cora Daniels criticizes pop Culture in her new book Ghettonation: A Journey Into the Land of Bling and the Home of the Shameless.
DI: Your book includes shocking examples of the popularity of so-called “ghetto” behavior, such as wearing gold teeth, the use of the N-word and mothers putting Pepsi in their babies’ bottles. How did our culture deteriorate to this point?
CD: It was a gradual process of letting our expectations get too low, so behavior that shouldn’t or wouldn’t have been acceptable slowly has become acceptable. We’re at the point now where, it’s like this is just how it is. But this shouldn’t be normal.
DI: Ghettonation mentions University of Chicago students holding “straight thuggin” parties in which students mock “ghetto” behavior. What’s going on?
CD: These kids go into these parties and they think they’re just having fun playing up stereotypes. I don’t think these kids think they’re being offensive and racist; that’s not their intention. But they are. They create very stereotypical poor Black images in what they dress up as, and they equate that with something to make fun of — like, that’s the most undesirable thing imaginable. It’s an indication of our attitude that it’s a joke now. I’m more worried that they are probably surprised by the outrage.
DI: What advice can you give to college administrators about how to respond to these parties?
CD: They should be treated as hate acts. To not have administration shut them down quickly would be setting the wrong tone. It shouldn’t be tolerated at all.
DI: You say “ghetto behavior” promotes out-of-wedlock births, incarceration, misogyny and worse; and most of your examples involve African-Americans. Does this phenomenon primarily affect the Black community, and do some of its members bear the primary responsibility for promoting “ghetto behavior?”
CD: Ghetto is a mindset. It isn’t where you live, it’s how you live. It’s not a Black thing; it’s an American thing. The Black community specifically has been even more crippled, and some of these issues are much more vibrant and easier to detect, and I would hope there was a special responsibility there to lift us up. But it can’t fall just on Black folks. The biggest buyers of hip-hop are White teenage boys. I think that all of us have the responsibility to put a stop to it. Adults say, “Oh, are we just getting too old?” It’s like, no.
DI: You say in one chapter, “The danger when the worst that a community has to offer becomes the mainstream is that other, perhaps more uplifting, realities from that community get ignored.”
CD: If you’re a young person of color battling stereotypes anyway, the baggage of those images is harmful to young Black folks with little connection to that. As a Black woman, I take offense to the portrayal of Black women in videos because there are folks who won’t differentiate.
DI: Ghettonation gives so many examples of average people adopting “ghetto” behavior, even yourself. Any examples of professors?
CD: If your expectations of your students are too low, then to me, that’s being ghetto.
DI: What roles could HBCUs play on this issue?
CD: I don’t want to completely blast them but they do have some ways to improve. These are Black schools, and before this was popular culture, this was Black culture. You run the danger of folks being more afraid to speak out because they’re afraid of being seen as haters. I was encouraged on Spelman’s campus by the women who stopped [rap star] Nelly from coming. They wanted him to be held accountable for the nonsense going on in his videos.
— By Christina Asquith
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