Review of Geographical Assertions Along Racial Lines or: Honkey Goes to the Ghetto

People tell me I live in the ghetto. I wouldn’t know. I’m white. So are the people that tell me I live in the ghetto. They’re all white and they live in the suburbs. I know what they went to college for; none of them have degrees in ghetto identification. I joke around about going down to the ghetto after I’m done working, but lately, there’s been a change in my perception about this. But first we need to figure out what we’re dealing with, and like any good Wittgenstein-ian, we need to establish a definition. So here goes the white guy trying to define “ghetto”.

The most common idea people get when one says “ghetto” is a run-down area where poor black people live. I’m not even sure why we need this term; “barrio” just means Mexican neighborhood and doesn’t have that low-income feel. We call any area that Asians live Chinatown, and the ones I know back home work their butts off and make a lot of money. I don’t think we call Jewish areas anything. Except maybe Israel. Anyway, the only other term I can think of that denotes an area where low-come people of the same race live would be…trailer park. Trailer parks are full of trailer trash, which is just another way of saying white trash. It’s sort of funny, when you think about it. The two mutually exclusive terms used to define both race and economic status pertain to blacks and whites. No one else. And the ghetto is basically the same thing as a trailer park. You just change the color of the people and look out!

Why exactly is this?

And think about this: picture a white person in the ghetto. You’re probably picturing him or her running like hell. Now picture a black man in a trailer park. He’s probably…okay with walking around on his way through, and why wouldn’t he be? In fact, I can’t really imagine anywhere where a black person wouldn’t be just fine walking through. Except maybe Israel. Or Colin Powell’s house.

What I’ve discovered lately is way more interesting than just racial terminology along geographical borders. I don’t technically live in the ghetto. This is more like the inner city. Now, interesting to note, this is where the white readers throw up their hands and say, “SAME THING!”. No, it’s not, and here’s why: I work in the suburbs, and I’ve seen a lot more street crimes up there then down where I live. You wanna talk about drug use? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK THOSE RICH KIDS IN TIMONIUM ARE DOING? And just because your doctor gave you a prescription for it doesn’t make it better or on a higher moral ground than heroin. An addict is an addict. I don’t care if she’s hiding in some alley off of Harford road or wearing her fur coat as she wanders the Towson mall. And technically, you’re worse off, safety wise, if you go over to West Baltimore, and I’m nowhere near there. The only person I know that’s gotten mugged lives in the suburbs. And he got mugged by white guys. Yeah, I’m not walking past mansions or fabulous lawns down here, and I’ve seen my share of passed-out people that fell out of their wheelchairs (which is a common occurrence in trailer parks, believe you me), but there’s a stretch of Harford Road that runs for a few miles north of my neighborhood that they never filmed episodes of “The Wire” on. Probably because it’s run down like hell. And really, the only reason I’d call this “inner-city” is because THAT’S WHERE IT IS. It’s like, the center of Baltimore. Which just so happens to have more black people than whites. There’s Asians, Hindus, and Hispanics down here. And of course, everyone’s favorite blogging cracker, who is starting to really enjoy the area down here.

About two months ago, I realized I hated going to the suburbs. Being at my job was fine, to a degree, but other than that, I regarded it with the same disdain and dread I usually reserve for country music. See, walking around down here, I get stared at and judged. And I know why: I’m white. Can’t really change that. And I even understand it a little bit. I don’t pretend to understand the black experience or what it’s like to be judged based on the color of your skin, but if I’m being stared at because I’m white, well, white people have done a lot of shitty things to people who looked differently throughout history. I get that. I’m not down there being racist or judging people; I’m just walking over to Starbucks. I don’t really feel that the people who are staring at me down here hate me, either. It’s more like they’re just aware that I’m walking by and they’re….just watching. And they’re forming opinions about me based on the color of my skin. And I kind of…don’t care.

But get up to the suburbs and see if you get judged. You will, and it won’t matter if you’re black or white. Those rich assholes are going to judge you, because that’s what a huge bank account gets you the privilege of doing. And I’m sort of an expert when it comes to being looked down on because you don’t drive the flashy car or have the three-story house. It’s called growing up in Panhandle, TX.
Now, I’m not moaning or complaining about my hometown. In fact, it did a very good job of preparing me to deal with shallow, materialistic people. That’s not to say that I never knew kind-hearted, generous people back home, because I’ve got a ton of stories about them. But it was a microcosom, and anytime you compress a whole bunch of honkies together in that small of a space, you get a pretty broad selection that highlights the way white people are. And even though I’m dealing with investment bankers, lawyers, accountants, and doctors now, they act a lot like the people who had money back in my hometown. If you’re not part of their country club, then you’re basically trash scum that had the misfortune to get in their way. You’re obviously so stupid that their lives are made so much more worse by having to deal with you. They judge your clothes, your job, everything. And they certainly have the time to do it; they pay someone else to count their money and run their finances.

I don’t get that down here in my neighborhood. Besides, I tend to get kicked out of country clubs.

Plus, in the “ghetto”, there aren’t any drunk frat boys running around, getting in your face. There aren’t any cheerleaders talking about the smartphones Daddy bought them. The guy in the Jaguar isn’t tearing around the parking lot like Mel Gibson on the Feast of St. Stephen. And wouldn’t you know it, I hear more rap music up in the suburbs then down here in the city. And it’s always being blared out of some white person’s car. The point being: people up in the suburbs are showing off, acting all cocky because they’ve got money. People in the ghetto act cocky because you’d better have an attitude. Someone will kick your ass if you don’t.

Now, the threat of violence is going to make some of you squirm, but bear with me on this. Sure, no one goes looking for a fight. But there’s a bit more to be learned from being arrogant and strutting around because you have to, rather than because Mommy and Daddy got you in to a nice college. And here’s the reason: ever since I moved down here, I learned that you better get your attitude on, ’cause if you don’t, someone is gonna beat your ass and run off with your shoes. Now remember, getting the shit kicked out of you is not exclusive to the ghetto or the inner-city or wherever the hell Brent lives. It happens in the suburbs. Now, I will admit, I did have a close call just over two weeks ago, but the reason I DIDN’T get mugged was because of the aforementioned reason, i.e., had the attitude going. Meaning, “BULLSHIT YOU’RE JUMPING ME.”. So basically, I’m walking around on my way to yoga or Starbucks with a “don’t fuck with me” attitude. I look people in the eye and I’m not scooting through the hood like a frat boy outside the sorority house. And this attitude translates well into pretty much every facet of our lives, because there are ALWAYS going to be people out there looking to take advantage of you. Especially if you’re kind and open-hearted. Ever sacrificed a lot for someone, only to have it thrown back in your face? I’d almost rather deal with thugs jumping me, because using your fists is quicker than dealing with some of the other ways we get screwed over. Here’s another truism: white people will sic their lawyers on you. Give me a tussle on a street corner in Baltimore any day.

Maybe I’m saying that it’s refreshing to know where exactly I stand with the people in my neighborhood. Maybe it’s a racial thing; I don’t really care. It shouldn’t be a racial thing up in the suburbs, ’cause it’s more white, but those people are being difficult and trying to wreck your day. But I’ve been screwed over more in my life by white people. Especially ones with any money. I’ve always found that the more real, well-defined people who know HOW to deal with life, and also how to enjoy it, are the ones without any money. The suburbs strike me as fake, like some sort of dream land conjured up by city councils and real estate bastards, so I don’t mind being down here. It’s like being grounded in some sort of reality that makes going up to the ‘burbs difficult. I see through the bullshit, and I’ve never been one for putting up with fake, posturing bullshit.

So, I don’t really know if I live in the ghetto or not. I know there’s not a whole lot of crackers down here messing with me, and that’s a relief. I’ve met some really decent and real people down here, and I enjoy their company. None of them are driving a Mercedes around, though, and I never see them at Starbucks. But they’ve got a perspective on life that I understand. So I’m not going to call this the ghetto. I’m going to call it the place where I live, and as long as I’m here, I won’t have to deal with the rich boys in their sixty dollar jeans, the airheads who got in to a prep school, or the foul women who are just mad that their husbands won’t give them more money. I can think of worse places to live. Like trailer parks. There’s no country music down here in the hood, where we be keepin’ it real, fo’rizzle. You dig?

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Posted on November 11, 2011, in Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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