Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Let's Not Ghettoize the Word "Ghetto"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ward Room has been hearing some objections to its use of the word “ghetto” in Monday’s blog post “How Ghetto Is Your School?”

    The post was about a new public schools report card that includes a subjective “Safety Icon” for each institution. Selective enrollment schools, such as Northside College, receive “Very Strong” ratings, as high as 99, while South Side schools, such as Robeson and Fenger, are rated “Weak.”

    In 2009, shortly after Derrion Albert was beaten to death at Fenger, I sat down with a senior to get her thoughts on school violence for an essay which would appear on the website Salon.com. Here’s what she had to say about Fenger’s reputation:

    Derrion’s death has given Fenger a bad name. When I went to go fill out a job application at a restaurant, they looked at my application and they was like, “We’ll call you,” and when I went out the door, they threw it out. I heard them say, “Fenger’s ghetto.”

    My point was that the Chicago Public Schools now have a system to quantify that reputation. Assigning Fenger a Safety rating of 44 is simply a numerical way of saying what that restaurant manager told the high school senior: your school is ghetto. It’s a CPS-endorsed form of redlining that’s not going to help the inner-city schools it stigmatizes. That’s what readers should be upset about.

    Let’s not ghettoize the word “ghetto” on the list of politically incorrect words. It’s used every day in this city.

    Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!