‘Ghetto’: The term is disrespectful to minority groups

Mike Brill – Columnist, Senior

I’m Mike Brill and I’m the president of the Student Government Association. I believe the term “ghetto” is inappropriate and disrespectful to the University of Dayton community.

I will begin by dispelling the myths that have arisen around this controversy. This issue is not about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech involves censorship. Nobody at the university is censoring you or taking away your freedom of speech by requesting you use the term “student neighborhood,” and it is ridiculous to say they are. Nor am I infringing upon your freedom of speech by writing this, only exercising my own.

This issue is also not about the definition of the word ghetto. If you look up the definition of the word in any dictionary, you will find a definition that is something like: “a part of a city occupied by a minority group.” When National Cash Register (NCR) employees lived in these houses, it could never have been considered as such. This dictionary definition could be applied to the current neighborhood if you consider college students to be a “minority group.” But while the denotation of the word may be able to accurately describe our neighborhood, its connotations certainly do not.
The word ghetto has clear negative undertones that imply extreme poverty, racial segregation and persecution. When one thinks of the word ghetto, they do not imagine a place they want to live. This can be illustrated easily through a google image search of the word. The search turns up images of run-down buildings and scenes from the Holocaust. It is difficult to deny that the word has strong associations with negative concepts, images and ideas.

Lastly, this issue is not about political correctness, although it is convenient to think that it is. Political correctness would imply that we should not use this term because it is offensive to certain groups on campus. And let me be clear – this word is offensive to certain groups on campus. But describing the issue as that of simple political correctness ignores the reality that this word defines our overall campus climate. It is not just that it is offensive to people. The term “ghetto” is representative of a climate that undervalues racial minorities.

That is what this issue is about: a long-standing problem in our community, a problem that has existed for quite some time. Our school’s culture is one that at times disrespects and devalues minority students. This is manifested and reinforced in different ways, such as through social media posts, our sheet signs and our everyday language. So while language is not the root cause of our culture, it is something that contributes to it every day.

That is not to say that anyone in particular is at fault here. Nobody should feel guilty and nobody should be any less proud of the overall community atmosphere we have here at UD. There is a reason our school was ranked sixth happiest in the nation. Our community here at the University of Dayton is great, but that does not mean it cannot be improved.

Usage of the word “ghetto” is only part of the problem, but it is a part that we can fix very easily. If we stop using this word, minority groups on and off campus will feel more welcome here. Our culture will become more friendly and accepting, and our community will grow stronger because of it, through a respect for our community as a whole.

I will not use the word “ghetto” to refer to the community in which I live, and I hope you join me in respecting our University of Dayton community.

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