Over: People Using The Word “Ghetto”

by Clutch

It means “a part of a city, esp. a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups.” But over time, “ghetto” has become synonymous with all things related to stereotypical black, urban or hip hop culture. A rap song? A bag littered with designer logos? Talking loud on your phone while chewing gum? “So ghetto!”

Urban Dictionary describes it as a “word which rich white girls use to describe almost everything thats not clad with lily polos and pearls. “Look how ghetto I look!” Muffy said as she put on her Gucci sunglasses.”

It’s time the phrase gets buried.

It’s a term that stereotypes and lampoons a culture and is wrought with racial implications. Now instead of acting “black,” or “poor,” because those terms aren’t politically correct, people substitute the word “ghetto” and it’s suddenly acceptable.

“Ghetto” isn’t seen as racially charged. So it’s safe for someone to use it to degrade, shame and humiliate a race of people without being held accountable for it.

“Ghetto” also makes the problematic assumption that people of a certain socioeconomic status all act the same way. The thinking goes “ghetto” people are poor and therefore, uncouth, classless, ignorant, combative and lacking of social graces.

If viral personalities like “Sweet Brown,” and mud-slinging, drink-throwing VH1 reality stars are the new minstrel characters, “ghetto” is the new racist slur used to describe them.

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    um YES! i had to check the hell out of my boyfriend (who is hispanic) and he described a beautiful normal black woman as “the ghetto looking lady” when i turned around i was like ” how on earth is she ghetto??” he said ‘ghetto, black, whatever isn’t it the same thing?”


  • binks

    Yes, to this article. I thought I was the only one who gears get grind when hearing the word “ghetto” being used incorrectly especially by non-black people who probably never visited a ghetto. I simply replied with “what exactly makes such and such ghetto?” and usually they are hard press to find an answer.

  • Teefuh

    I’ve been feeling this way about the term “ghetto” for a while now. So glad that you addressed this topic!

  • ivorp

    While I commend you for checking/correcting your partner…I just want to remind you that ‘hispanic’ is not a race. Many Afro Latinos have a tendency to deny their blackness and we make the mistake of enbracing them as some exotic ‘other’…We are in fact kindred throughout the Diaspora, only seperated by language and slight cultural variances. Sorry to get a bit off topic…just thought a teachable moment….one love!

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    Are you Black? If so does your “Hispanic” boyfriend refer to you as his ghetto girlfriend? And also, if you are Black, wasn’t your boyfriends using ghetto in the place of Black a deal breaker?

  • ivorp

    ‘hispanic’ is not a race….afro latinos have a tendency to not embrace their African roots/ties and many of us embrace them as an exotic ‘other’….remember that we a kindred throughout the Diaspora, what seperates us is language and slight cultural variances…still we are one…1 Love!

  • AMB

    Thank you!!! I cringe when i hear people use the term “ghetto” to describe any and everything!!

  • apple

    white people and other races use ghetto to mena what ever is black or hispanic, whether its poor or not

  • kc

    I think “ghetto” is–or perhaps, was–the most apt term to describe certain geographies. Ghettoes refer to places that have been purposely isolated and downcast–intentional geographies of want. People aren’t ghetto, they have been ghettoized, or subjugated and outcast.

    Unfortunately, modern parlance has made “ghetto” a passive term, transforming it from a word that points the finger at the racist establishment to one referencing supposedly innate, bad characteristics of our people. White people sure no how to shift the blame…

  • Rochelle

    I use the term “ghetto” and will continue to do so. I will continue becasue i call a spade a spade. If a person is a waste of blood, flesh, and air, mostly likely they from the ghetto. To me it is simple. Crime ridden, drug infested, run down areas are ghettos and have more ghetto people than decent folk. I’m not sorry for telling it how it is.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    lol Val you are bold but I was curious as well! I didn’t want to get all into your business Chanela17 but these are some good questions raise for an interesting discussion. I hope your boyfriend opinion soon changed after you corrected him because that would be quick grounds for dismissal into the ex-category. Because how would he feel if you start using a passive-aggressive slang in place of Hispanic…chances are he would give you the side eye. But great for you on correcting him sadly I see a handful of situations concerning this very thing in interracial couples (assuming you are not Hispanic) that goes uncorrected. I hope he seen the error of his ways.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val


    Lol. Well since she shared I figured I’d ask.

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    How’d I end up way down here?

  • ?!?

    LOL. You say some crazy stuff. Folks still call folks country where I live to bring up that they are unsophisticated and uncouth.

    But yea many white people will call just everybody on this site ghetto. They think African American culture is hip hop culture and ghetto culture, so they will probably call you ghetto as well. Anything we do that they don’t do is acting black or ghetto.

    Ghetto is like country to me. I know that not everyone in the ghetto or the country is classless. But classless behavior is not a stereotype for no reason. It is common in these areas and that’s why the term is used.

  • Nicole

    OMG! Thank you for this article. A white girl in one of my classes bought a pack of mechanical pencils and she was having issues with them after fiddling with them for a few minutes she get up and goes “ugh! these are soooooo ghetto”

    To white people anything that isnt right to them is ghetto.

  • http://beautyandthestreetmag.blogspot.com Amber

    It isn’t just white people that use this word in a negative light. I actually have a friend (black) who is always using the term to describe people who look, act, and dress a certain way. It is really annoying because look, I don’t condemn certain behavior but when it is used all the damn time I feel like as a black person it is just another way to feel superior; like you are above those who come from those environments. I admit I used ‘ghetto’ often in highschool but now as a grown woman I no longer do so. It is rather degrading to say the least…..

  • http://gravatar.com/lovegiraffes onegirl


  • http://gravatar.com/lovegiraffes onegirl

    And my previous comment was meant to be directed at Nicole’s story of the girl with the pencils. I can just imagine that scenario.

  • Ghetto_Risen

    I was at work the other day, and one of my white female coworkers was telling a few of us about her vacation trip to Philadelphia, she says” I was iffy about going at first, because its just so damn ghetto there, but it ended up not being that bad” I looked at her and said “honey you wouldn’t know ghetto if it was staring you in the face” I paused, and then stared at her for a while.” Like I said, u wouldn’t know ghetto if it was “staring” you in the face” And walked away. My family comes from “the ghetto” and we have all migrated ao far from those times. This girl was just throwing around this world as to describe something negative and unpleasant yet it was something she could not connect with. But that word hits home to me. It describes a time and place in my life, and she could not see this ghetto girl if it was staring her in the facccce….Know my struggle before you judge someone or something, or place with the word GHETTO.

  • CallThemOut

    Eh, I’ll continue calling out ghetto as I see fit and anyway “ratchet” is the new “ghetto”,
    used by ghetto people who have never seen the word outside of its new usage. I wonder who made it “cool”, a rapper or trash tv-er? I know someone out there knows;-)

  • http://www.martinlutherking.org Bob Fairlane

    Negros create “ghettos.” No matter how much money is thrown at you by self-hating whites, no matter how much local, state, and federal government kisses your ass, you still are jungle animals, and the vines return wherever you congregate.

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