Friday, July 8, 2016

A response to the writer of "Ghetto Homie"

A response to "Ghetto Homie."

“Ghetto culture”, is a pejorative term for a complex and diverse culture that grew out of subjugation and oppression. The cultural examples you provide are just a cursory listing of things that befuddle (and annoy) middle class white folks.

Do you know how the ghettos came to be? It’s an interesting and awful story. Read and talk to people about redlining, contract deeds, racial covenants. Insurers, banks, government and private citizens all played their parts in focusing the growth of impoverished black communities to specific areas within the cities. What happens to a disempowered community that is constantly taught that money is power and power is the only way to get ahead?

Bling? Exhibition of money that increases the perception of power. And we live in a society that worships consumption. You have doubts? Bling just takes it to an obvious extreme. Gangster rap? An exhibition of a different kind of power. In fact, most of the things you list should be understood within the context of a power struggle, or a struggle to find and assert power and “get ahead,” that quintessentially American dream. Milking the state? Welfare? Food Stamps? These are examples of zany delights? Do you know how many recipients of food stamps are employed and not paid a living wage? Is that zany? I realize you were employing ironic humor, but these are real lives we’re talking about here.

Our “ghetto” communities are filled with poverty, drugs, alcohol, violence, mental illness, disease. Okay. But they’re also filled with people that are doing their best to survive, struggling with chaos, figuring out how to live in a world where an astounding percentage of the men are incarcerated or dead. Out of American “ghettos” have come jazz, the blues, and hip-hop. You may abhor the stuff, but it’s everywhere, including in contemporary jazz and rock.

And we just love a good rags to riches story, don’t we? Did you hear the one about the scrappy fighter that overcame all odds to make a better life? Hence the politics of respectability. You know what happened to the scrappy fighter that never quite managed to break out of the obstacles in his life? The one that was gunned down, or tossed in prison rather than overcoming? Those stories are worth hearing, too.

Look at our media. We celebrate the little Napoleons who dare, take great risks, and succeed, and then we preach sermons reflecting the old Protestant work ethic of yore to those who are closest to the edge of our society. We like to think we are the underdogs, which may explain why the concept of white privilege is so upsetting. And yet, do you truly see no disparity in the reality that is experienced by different races or classes of people in this country? The wealthy have always lived with a vastly different life experiences than the poor. We all get sick, but some have better access to health care. We all suffer the fates of natural disaster, but who is better situated to recover? If you’re white you stand less of a chance of getting convicted. If you’re white and convicted you stand a better chance of getting a lighter sentence. I’ve never feared for my life when I’ve been pulled over for speeding. I’ve never been afraid that I was going to be randomly, arbitrarily stopped and frisked. I’ve never had to work to convince people in America that my life, or that my kids’ lives matter.

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