Overheard on the university bus today:
1: Yeah, I mean, so many of these kids just don’t have the support they need.
2: How old are they?
1:They’re in like, 2nd grade. I mean, most of them are so ghetto. It’s like they get zero love from their parents.
2: Oh my gosh. That’s so pathetic, and like, sad.
For the record, I don’t like confronting people on the bus. It can almost never go well, regardless of how flippant, convincing, nice, angry, or confident you can be.
What’s remarkable is just how much privilege and bias these two exhibited in so few words. What was even remarkable was that I recognized one of the students as being in the same teaching class as me last semester. It’s like our cultural awareness discussions never happened. Let’s do a quick run-down
- You cannot label kids as ghetto. You cannot label anyone as ghetto. To do so shows first and foremost implicit racism, and it’s also making an enormous amount of assumptions about where they live, how they live, how they were raised. It’s a veritable ocean-load of cultural and lifestyle assumptions, and outside of that, you’re labeling that whole collection as definitively negative. To label a kid as ghetto is to label them as someone who probably won’t succeed. That is so egregious it should be a crime. It is effectively abuse by neglect. Our children deserve better than that.
- You cannot assume that because a kid might be “ghetto” (however you think that’s defined), that their parents are lazy and neglectful. Probably because you have no idea what the actual situation is. Parents die sometimes. Sometimes each parent works 2 jobs to feed their kids and keep them under a roof. Some kids are homeless. If you’re too busy working up an image of busy you won’t have time to give them your attention and love.
A full disclaimer: I am not an expert in muliculturalism. But I know enough to not make heinous assumptions about a student’s family and situation. If going to a school and volunteering is more about making yourself look charitable and humble, don’t do it. If you’re doing it because you want to pad your resume, don’t do it. Even if you have to do it for a grade, or for community service, when you enter a school, your only motive should be to help each and every kid in the best way possible.