Last night at the subway, I heard this dude yell “westsiiiiiiide.” I thought it was a little odd that some guy would be belting this out. But then I turned the corner and saw that he was a white hipster. The number of white people I run into who throw around hip-hop slang in a smug, ironic way has dramatically increased in the last few weeks. I’m not sure why. Later on last night, I was trying on some clothes in a changing room of a store and I overheard this white dude telling his black female coworker that he was on his way to a “ghetto” party. I can only imagine what she was thinking. What exactly is a ghetto party, she wanted to know. Seemingly clueless, he went on to describe how it was a weekly club night where everyone showed up dressed real ghetto. He was going to wear a G-Unit ensemble, he told her.
Then, on The Hour (sorry folks, very Canadian reference), George Stroumboulopoulos reported that at Tarleton State University in Texas, a bunch of white kids held a ghetto party on Martin Luther King day. Seriously. And then posted flicks on Facebook of frat dudes dressed as thugs, drinking malt liquor and eating fried chicken. You can see the photos over at Smoking Gun. The university is trying to decide whether the students should face disciplinary action. Um, yeah.
Here’s what I think should happen to the Tarleton students—and anyone else who wants to hold so-called Ghetto Fabulous parties. If they’re so fascinated with ghettos, then they should go to one.
I think that these kids should have to spend a year volunteering for various community organizations in inner-city neighborhoods. I’d like to see them on the front lines, confronting what inequality looks like up close and personal—serving meals in soup kitchens and food banks, tutoring the young kids that are overlooked by the school system, sitting in at the crisis lines that take calls from junior high students who have witnessed traumatic violence, babysitting so that overworked single mothers can have a couple hours to themselves, cleaning toilets in homeless shelters, listening to people who have been evicted from their apartments because their low-wage service jobs don’t pay the rent, and riding out with women and children on the In Arms Reach buses to the prisons to visit incarcerated family members. Maybe then they would have an inkling why their “ghetto” parties are so absurdly offensive. Poverty is no joke, dummies.