Monday, May 14, 2007

Book Review: Ghetto Nation

I found this book at the College of William & Mary bookstore (Barnes & Noble), while we were on our Spring Break trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, last month.

I was very excited about it, in fact, I was so excited about it, Mrs. Gunfighter bought it for me as a gift* I couldn't wait to read it, and I started it the next night.

The premise of the book was a discussion and critique on the use of the term "ghetto" in contemporary American parlance, the proliferation of "ghetto culture" which devalues education, is demeaning to women and promulgates the worst of Black American stereotypes as black culture. The author, Cora Daniels also discusses who benefits from "ghetto culture" and whom it destroys.

I enjoyed the book, and although I didn't agree with every conclusion that Ms. Daniels arrived at, we certainly agree about the incredible damage that "ghetto culture" is having in the United States today.

One of the main points that Daniels makes in her book is that, unlike in days past, the word ghetto rarely equates to a geographic location. Today, ghetto is a set of values, a behavior, in short; a mindset.

The following are my opinons:

Once upon a time, ignorant, uncouth behavior is something that we used to see and shake our collective heads about, silently tsk-tsking at people doing stupid and self-destructive things... many people would say or think to themselves: "Well, what do you expect form those people, especially peole who live there?"

Today, that same behavior (obnoxious swearing in public; baggy jeans hanging off of your ass; rude, unwelcome, attention towards women) isn't only tolerated... it's celebrated (in the suburbs no less!). Some of you are no doubt shaking your head and saying: "not by me it isn't!", that's great, but it sure as hell IS celebrated by enough people to make several industries hugely profitable.

Instead of screaming about it, people today shrug their shoulders and say (cue the Paris Hilton voice) "God, that's SO ghetto!"

Make no mistake my friends, the multicultural society that so many of us have advocated has arrived... and it isn't what you thought it would be. Multiculturalism today, isn't about the blending and uplifting the various cultures that make America. Today, multiculturalism means that white kids buy most of the gangsta rap that is produced. Multiculturalism has come to mean the glorification of ghetto dress and behavior, it is the mainstreaming of destructive pathological behavior.

The clothes, the music, the language of "ghetto" has become welcome in America... and we should all be ashamed. The tabloids celebrate scum, yes... I said scum, like 50 cent, Jay-Z, Eminem, K-Fed, Lil Kim, Busta Rhymes, and any number of the fountains of filth that pollute our homes, and our children's schools. Worse yet, the mainstream media have been so completely cowed that they say nothing about ghetto behavior for fear of being labeled racist.

Multiculturalism today, has given us the phenomenon of the so-called "Wiggers"

In this manner we have indeed become "GhettoNation"

We should be collectively ashamed.

A few months ago, I blogged about the following: Several years ago, famed comedian, actor, and educator, Bill Cosby had the nerve to speak out about the pathology of ghetto culture, and he was reviled by many, from black activists to white liberals, for having the guts to speak the truth. Unfortunately, Cora Daniels, in her otherwise excellent book, agrees with many of those that lashed out at Cosby..., but in the opinion of this humble blogger, Cosby was, and still is, absolutely right.



* Your pal, Gunfighter, loves to read. Gifts of books or bookstore giftcards never get wasted on me.


DJ Black Adam said...

Well GF, you know we are in agreement on this issue. This is not us seperating from "them" per se, since they really don't like being around "us" either. It is about people with similar values grouping together, and it seems like "color" or the scientific fiction of race are less and less the definer of what those values are.

Tsiporah said...

Great post, I am going to have to pick up the book. I agree with you on this issue 100%.

soccer mom in denial said...

I heard a terrific analogy (which I've already mentioned before) that the "hair bands" of the 1980's did not go on to define white culture, or at least all white men.

Queen of the Mayhem said...

Excellent post!

During my first five years of teaching I taught at an inner city school. My students were 99.5% black. I used to tell them that I would not tolerate and gangsters or gangster wannabes. What I did expect was them to use correct grammar at all times in the classroom. To which many in the community saw me as trying to make them "more white". While I believe there is a time and a place for MOST things and cultural differences should be embraced, I believe that allowing children to present themselves in a thuggish manner is detrimental to their success. It's a first impression kind of world...and we have to make the best of it!

Jenn said...

Great post and thanks for pointing this book out.

Unfortunately I do not see the "ghetto culture" fading any time soon precisely because it is so profitable to the music, clothing, etc industries.

You even see it in China. There is a store near Nanjing University called "The Ghetto" and kids at the middle school across the street randomly spray paint Jay-Z and Eminem on the walls.

It's odd because most Chinese are extremely racist towards blacks (which they assume are all Africans, since at one time most coming to China were wealthy children of African diplomats).

Jenn said...

Also, to comment on the hair bands analogy, the hair bands never made the claim that they were singing about truth, the real situations in the neighborhoods, about their people, etc.

Did they?

PunditMom said...

The first use of the term "ghetto" was in Italy in Venice in the 1400's when the Jews were forced into closed enclaves as a result of the Inquisition.

We've come a long way with the use of that term, haven't we?

soccer mom in denial said...

Hair bands sang about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. Something for everyone, no?

I too taught in a predominately black school. One response when I asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up was "I want to kill a n@#ger like my daddy and my granddaddy and go to prison FOR LIFE!" He was 8 years old.

But there is also just a general level of disrespect across all races, classes and ages regardless of what music is listened to. A fist fight broke out in Boston Symphony Hall last week during a Boston Pops concert. A 25 year old kept asking a 45 year old to stop talking during the concert. So the older guy hit the kid asking for quiet.

viciousrumours said...

I always thought that the biggest insult was that in allowing the "ghetto" attitude to be perpetuated was it was basically saying, "These children aren't as good or as smart as other children, so why bother." When I see kids dressed with their pants around their ankles or talking like they never learned proper English, it makes me cringe. I don't really get upset with them, I get upset with their parents and the society that allows it to happen without regard to how it will handicap them in the future.

Rebecca said...

(have just realised as I'm about to post this comment - that it is actually a comment on your earlier post on not being black enough - sorry 'bout that - hope it's still relevant!)

there is a similar kind of 'prescripitive' element within certain feminist communities. ie If you don't behave a certain way (usually related to work and children), believe certain things, dress a certain way etc etc you're not a feminist.

And this is so pervasive that many women now proclaim, in a horrified kind of voice, 'oh no I'm not a feminist' as if being a feminist means you have to be some kind of man - hating, NEVER-wearing-make-up, corporate climbing, extremist - which to me seems to be utter rubbish - and really quite sad.

I can see how frustrating you must find it; to be told you have to fit into a certain mould to be 'black' enough. It is very limiting and stifling and destructively restrictive. And a dreadful thing, I imagine, for young impressionable black Americans to have shoved down their throats.

People are really free, really liberated - when they are free live their life the way they see fit without all this criticism.

Jenn in Holland said...

Interesting to note that this particular brand of "multiculturalism" is also prevelant in The Netherlands. Which begs the question, what do these children know of the ghetto? It is complete copy cat behavior and stems I believe from the perpetuation by Hollywood and the media that this behavior is indeed somehow glamorous and justified and acceptable. Not so, I say!

But to lighten the mood just slightly, you've never heard anything sillier in your life than DUTCH rap. (!)

However, the angst, the tagging, the dress? It all needs serious redirection.

Madame M. said...

I was planning on picking up that book in exchange for the dud I bought a couple days ago... whoa for synchronicity.

I agree with your views, and I'm glad you specifically addressed the fact that anyone trying to criticize it and call it out would be labeled a racist. It's like a self-imposed gag order on behaviors that are only perpetuating racism and classism.

Lawyer Mama said...

Great topic, GF. While not one I've had a lot of experience with yet as my boys are quite young. I do see it in our suburban mall and the "ghetto" fad of dress and attitude has always seemed quite ridiculous to me. Perhaps part of the problem is that, until recently, most people just see the "style" and not the scary substance behind it.

I do wonder what drives this copy cat behavior though? I mean, every generation has their own culture of rebellion, most of which were seen as disrespectful at the time. But as far as I know, this is the only rebellious teenage culture that actually *is* disrespectful. I guess I don't understand what's so appealing about it beyond seeing it in movies and on TV. Any ideas?

super des said...

I'd like to have that book cover as a poster hanging in my apartment.

Golden Silence said...

"[M]ost people just see the "style" and not the scary substance behind it."

It's hard not to miss the "substance" behind that mess. The cursing, violence and anger is too prominent to ignore. If there was a way to get down to the heart of the matter and make changes, then I would! A lot of these kids are, for lack of a better term, happy being ghetto. You try to correct how they act or what they say, and they cop an attitude or think it's funny. I honestly wonder what has happened to the minds of these kids to the point of this corruption!

I need to check this book out, too. I was speaking with a friend a few months ago and he told me he feels the "ghetto culture" will die out soon. Sadly, I doubt it. I am not looking forward to getting old because I'm afraid I won't be able to defend myself against these future junior hoodlums. It's scary.

Tasha said...

I really have to check out this book. I find myself occasionally at a crossroads regarding "ghetto culture". I find it difficult to quantify calling it a culture when it's really a pathology, and as we all know, they are two very different things. However, I grew up with a lot of "ghetto offspring" and saw them blossom into great people while the suburban kids turned into so-called ghetto trash.

It's easy to say suburban is better, which seems to be a popular thought, but in so doing you have to deal with shades of classism, elitism, aristocratic thought, etc etc...

I really do need to read this! Great post, GF!

Gunfighter said...

"I find it difficult to quantify calling it a culture when it's really a pathology, and as we all know, they are two very different things."

Bingo, Tasha!

Unfortunately, there are huge numbers of people in the black community that equate the two.

To your point about suburbanites... No doubt about it... "ghetto culture" pathology isn't geographic... it is psychological.

DJ Black Adam said...

@GF and Tasha:

I agree, "ghetto" is not a place or an income its a mentality, all about MINDSTATE.

Jenn said...

I don't think hair bands having something for everybody makes the analogy work still. It wasn't advertised as "this is what all white culture or all white men" are really like. And, even if they did, the media didn't back it up and proliferate that definition. I really think the media and the only industries that make tons of money off of this are to blame.

Also I think that all music genres have subcultures where people who want to "be" whatever they think that music "is" can take on certain attributes.

For instance, Deadheads. Or Dirty hippies who listen to Phish, DMB and smoke pot and drop acid and eat shrooms all day. Then you have your run of the mill grunge alternative group who all scowl at every other form of music and wear flannel shirts and chain smoke at coffee houses. And the people who listen to country and therefore take on more of a hick attitude than they really need to. Etc, etc. Meanwhile all thinking that they are somehow unique or special and that absolutely nothing has influenced them in dressing or acting the way that they do. It's just "how" they are.

Unfortunately the main difference with gangster rap and all of these other subcultures is that involves some pretty dangerous elements. Guns. Drugs. And a dangerous mentality regarding both of those two things. Etc.

It also totally screws over rappers who are actually talented, who are real musicians and who have real thoughts behind their music.

It's too bad the positive parts of rap wasn't what defined the subculture. I guess truth and illustrating real knowledge just isn't marketable.

Gunfighter said...

Ni hao, Jenn. n

Nicely summed up.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your views and believe that you mean them full-heartedly, but I am curious as to why you found it appropriate to use the screen name
"gunfighter" given your stated opinions.

Gunfighter said...

Clearly, you haven't done your homework.