I’m Ghetto? What Does That Mean?

Let me tell you how it all began: in one of these newly formed instant messaging applications, a supposedly “friend” of mine was departing the conversation, and after a seemingly long attempt of halting a simple instant messaging chat, I texted the words; ‘sure boss’ [note: this was written with isiZulu in mind]. Now this could have been a ghetto move except I did not know it. “You sound so ghetto sometimes dude” [should have read with an Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice impersonation] after this very instant reply I was flummoxed.

This was peculiar, befuddling and conventional at the same time. Could the way I text render my roots bare to a person out of sight?

It is not a matter of debate, however public speaking inclined individuals are welcome to reason otherwise. We have become a nation who will despise you if you apply the native language’s tone, voice and pitch in pronouncing and or speaking the queen’s language.

Our modernised activities of engagement serve as proof that our adopted Shakespearean nature propels dominance over our African indigenous constituents. Could we be heading for the one way journey which its destiny will see us right in the middle of confusion and illusion?

We prefer meeting the model C standards whenever we can more exceptionally in the vicinity of our highly educated compatriots who fully understand but refuse to associate with our indigenous languages which we absorbed before birth through our beloved mothers.

The above will of course apply to people of colour, whose hue falls on the dark to very darker side of the spectrum for I know their behavior when it comes to declining native components.

My ‘love to hate you’ relationship with English is not long running as I did not go to a model C school and up until the age of twelve I could not really get my way around the queen’s language.

I would like to think that I never struggled with English, however, after listening to me speak or perhaps reading the work I’ve written, you could appraise differently since it is evident that my English vocabulary is nowhere near first grade.

English is a tool that became somewhat important in trading as it was understood diversely, this widespread was the fruits of ascendancy and colonialism. Today we globally witness the embrace of English’s superiority over our own languages.

The dearth of the alembicated English vocabulary in me is due to the preference of defeating the daily struggles in my mother tongue, isiZulu, even through encounters where a native African man would recommend the sophistication of the English language.

I am of colour therefore never took bullying seriously until of course I got this pretty girl they call education under my sleeve. Now that I think about it, I’ve been bullied severely that my esteem was dented for a while, I just did not know it.

Henceforth, unlike most of my fellow countrymen, my life has always been like that of a mistress’s child caught up in a decaying marriage; strange. As a result, I was called many things from an early age, with my skin tone taking most of the credit. Remembering an incident that occurred when I was five, colourfulness a very strong almost navy brown hue then. Walking with my sister to the nearby tuck shop. Before the many constructions which saw us the luxury of tarred roads and the aches of e-toll tariffs, when walking, with the exception of a gravel main road, you walked one after the other for the ground on either side of this narrow street resembling path was buried by a grass so long it might as well have housed a green mamba and its offsprings.

As I walk behind my sister, who’s a few months younger and of lighter skin tone than me. A lady approaches us. When passing by my sister, she drops a compliment; “you’re beautiful”, this would of course bring butterflies in any lady’s (young or not) tummy. My sister with a smile makes way for her and to the lady’s surprise I appear, “hhay’ umubi wena” (you’re ugly!) she says, I make way for her and she passes. My heart sank, I turned every second to take a glimpse of her behind me but she disappeared into the sunset and never turned to take back a heart throbbing joke (or was it not), or tell me something else, something that will make me smile too, I was five and didn’t understand cruelty.

My dark skin colour has earned me more criticism than any magnitude advantaged growing little fellow so you’d share my sentiment; I’m used to being at the trough of compliments. As a result, I do not appreciate compliments (good, great or out of this world) regarding my body or a body feature [hint: keep them to yourself].

I’ve recently added another definition to the almost full basket of society views about everything one was created with or was taught. I was called by this now widely used word which seems to describe something that every body does not want to be associated with; ghetto. I did not know what this meant. I’ve seen, witnessed and heard its usage but I could never put my finger to its real meaning when used to describe an individual.

Google has directed me to many web pages that proved clarity about the word and its description, however, it lacked pages that could define for me the referral of this word to individuals.

So I took a pen and paper in hope to find answers to defining one as ghetto. Could it be the bad English I speak which is usually accompanied and worsen by the isiZulu influenced accent?

I unnecessarily have no problem with the word as I’m used to my fellow compatriots and their emotional anguish which is expressed verbally in conversations that could very well deprive an individual of their altitude. I just need only the word ghetto and its link in adjectively describing an individual who has never lived in a or a ghetto lifestyle. I’m only but a born and bred rural girl, what constituents could qualify me as ghetto?

I just need those who have a thorough understanding to share with me their knowledge. So that in my future, I completely understand when one refers to me as ghetto.

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6 thoughts on “I’m Ghetto? What Does That Mean?

  1. I love your name: Devynstella – I imagine it has a meaning like ‘divine star’ – in any case I just want to confirm to you that your English expression is wonderful! I would suggest that you continue to speak and write as your Heart commands, which I sense right now from you. So many people are very confused in life right now and so the only way for me to live is to listen to my Heart and ignore anyone who hasn’t yet learned to listen to theirs. Ngiyabonga! tomas ☼

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  2. this is just beautiful, when the core of an individual drives who they are, I love it. you are a beautiful person. by the way that is the exact meaning of my name. let love and beauty spread everywhere you are. #MuchLove

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  3. Let me just say that I too think that you have a beautiful name with a beautiful meaning to go with it and I am enthralled by your eloquent writing. As an American, I believe that I can shed some light on the meaning of ghetto as well as being ghetto. Ghetto is a term used all over the USA and has had different meanings over the span of several decades and refers to people who reside in low-income housing – namely Black people who struggled financially during and well after the civil rights movement. When used this way (as a noun), it describes the living conditions in poor neighborhoods and housing projects which were an unfortunate reality of the oppressed during that period. During the 1970s there were a lot of songs put out about that way of life where Blacks accepted their circumstance and tried to overcome it while making the best of what they had at the same time, – with pride and dignity. Donny Hathaway’s “The Ghetto” paints a precise picture of that era. At present when you hear this term,(used as an adjective), it can be meant as an insult or sometimes in a joking manner when describing individuals whose actions and lifestyle is sub-par to those who actually care about the manner in which they carry themselves – being financially stable and better off…either way – it is a put-down, but unfortunately it is sometimes appropriate because this lifestyle seems to have become somewhat of an epidemic. (You will find my explanation below.) You can go to YouTube and find hordes of videos displaying spoofs on ‘how to be ghetto’ or something similar, but I can’t help but wonder if many of these people know what an actual ghetto actually was such as the ghettos (noun) that were set up for Jewish people in Europe. While these living quarters were extremely impoverished and crowded; somewhat similar to but much worse than today’s ‘ghettos’ in the states, they were set up due to anti-semitic views in Europe before and at the onset of World War II. However, when one is called ‘ghetto’, it is usually in reference to people who receive government assistance but use it to enjoy themselves instead of using it wisely while not properly caring for their kids and have absolutely no interest in displaying any type of intelligence whatsoever. When people first began to use this term, it starting out with just Black people but has since spread to just about any race of people in the states who live this way. There is also a term called ‘ghetto fabulous’ that people like to use when describing drug dealers etc. in low income neighborhoods or other people who have new cars, big screen tvs, and wear expensive clothing all while living in housing projects in order to continue to live as cheaply as possible. I am sure that whoever it was that used this term in reference to you was completely ignorant of where or when ‘ghettos’ actually began and was simply not understanding that you were using your own language in your text. Sadly, you will run into much of this ignorance as you go along. While ‘being ghetto’ is simply a common slang term made up by people whose intent is to insult or make a joke, I still feel that people should follow the golden rule of thinking before they speak. Sorry for the long comment, but I hope that my explanation was sufficient. Keep on writing! 🙂

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    • Thank you Charlene. This is an enlightening explanation. I doubt it would mean the same thing to the person who was using it and many other South African’s. As people, I think we need to talk less, read more, research extensively so that we are knowledgeable. Thanks again

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      • You are quite welcome and I am glad that I was able to help. The word has become so commonplace that many of us (Americans) don’t even pay attention to it unless it is an obvious insult, but for many people from other countries, it is usually something that was simply picked up from the internet, etc. with no harm intended. With that being said, I am really enjoying your blog and thanks for following mine. 🙂

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