‘Ghetto’: Traditions can be offensive

Brett Slaughenhaupt – Sophomore, English

For quite some time in the United States it was tradition to hold slaves. Other traditions that this great nation has inflicted upon its society include: sexism – women being unable to vote until 1920, racism – whites and blacks were legally segregated until 1954, a general hatred and oppression of most, if not all, minority classes, etc. My point being that not all traditions are a good thing. This makes the argument of “Tradition!” or “That is how it has always been!” towards the continued usage of the word “ghetto” to describe our student neighborhood humorous at best and ignorant at worst. Just because it has been that way for an extended period of time does not make it a good thing.

Just because it has been that way for an extended period of time does not make it a good thing.

Too often we let our privilege cloud our vision of how the world truly is. It is not false that the university is largely white and largely affluent. However, when we expand our view from the University of Dayton to the city of Dayton, no longer is the makeup largely white or affluent. We continually ignore those around us. There are actual ghettos five minutes from the neighborhood that we have self-branded as “the Ghetto.” So while we are partying in our ghetto on the weekends, shot-gunning beers and socializing with our friends, families are suffering in their ghetto, without the means to escape to better lives.

Instead of whitesplaining our way out of this, we should look towards our black peers, who have had a distinct lack of voice in the so-called community at UD. Kwynn Townsend-Riley wrote a beautifully succinct piece, “Stop calling our neighborhood the Ghetto,” earlier this year that, quite frankly, should have brought about an end to all arguments for the use of the word Ghetto.

Erasing “the ghetto” from our university’s vernacular would not do away with the memories that have occurred there. The University of Dayton has a rich history full of love and happiness – in the neighborhood and on campus. This love and happiness would have – and still will – occur regardless of what the neighborhood is called. Much in the same way that the Vatican has recently evolved and been brought into the 21st century, so should the University of Dayton. No longer is it acceptable to be casually racist, as we are being with our appropriation of the word “ghetto.”

In the past, our usage of the word was based in ignorance. As a collective group, we were unaware of the harmful implications that the word brought about. But now that all of these issues are being called to light, our continued use of it at the University of Dayton is based in privilege and racism. At what point do we look to our fellow peers and realize our mistakes? At what point do we apologize for them?

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