That word

In light of the uproar over the "Ghetto Chopper" t-shirt, Amy Biancolli looks at why the word "ghetto" is so loaded and prompts such a strong reaction. [TU]


This article is worth reading. It is extremely well written, both in form and content.

Yes, after the last two weeks around here, I hope I never hear the word ghetto again.

The mistake that Amy makes (along with most people complaining about the t-shirt design) is to tie the Ghetto Chopper name to a specific store or even a socioeconomic strata.

The Price Chopper in Burlington, VT was referred to as Ghetto Chopper by students who had never visited the Delaware Ave store or even stepped foot in Albany. There have been numerous posts about people in Clifton Park or Saratoga using the same name for their local stores. It's not because of the clientele, or race or class or anything else easily-offended people want to make it out to be. It's because the stores' interior suffers/suffered from that 20-years-out-of-date look or was not as tidy or as big as the other local supermarkets. Plus in certain cases, the selection or quality of goods might have been worse than in other stores.

I'll continue to think of the Delaware Ave PC as Ghetto Chopper every time I shop at it's oh-so-convenient location (which is often!) - and we'll see if the Market32 updates slated for early next year do anything to rid the chain of the moniker.

Additionally: Amy points out, "When my oldest started at Albany High School, I was startled to hear kids using the word "ghetto" as a qualifier describing attitude or behavior, not race or class."

Great - then why write the article claiming that the use of the nickname somehow promotes segregation in our neighborhoods? This entire controversy reminds me of the Wandering Dago fiasco. A word's definition can evolve over decades. They may not be as offensive to the next generation as they were to yours, and they might take on an entirely different meaning.

Paul, I hear you, but I think you completely missed the point of the article. Try reading it again.

While I also don't use or approve of the term "ghetto chopper" because some people find it offensive, I think Amy misses the reality of the situation when she makes it seem like it is referred to that predominantly by people from outside the community.

Amy writes:

"These are real people in real neighborhoods, working jobs, raising families, nosing their shopping carts down the aisle."

I'm a real person in that community. I shop there occasionally but only as a last resort. Not because I don't like the people in the store (who are the people who live in the community I chose to live in) but because the store is not of the same quality as other grocery stores and has limited selection. It has earned its derogatory nick name. And the owners of Price Chopper should be embarrassed by that fact.

I have the luxury of time and transportation choices to not have to shop there. Many in the area don't and this is their only shopping choice which the Price Chopper execs are well aware of and thus they don't have to invest in this store as they know much of the store's customer base has no other option. Don't like the crappy store with high prices and limited selection? Too bad. Where else are you going to go? Judging by the lines at the check out when I do go there, the answer is nowhere else. I always wait in a longer line at the Delaware PC than I do at any of the higher end stores I frequent.

Amy writes:

"Enlightened and concerned city dwellers talk about "food deserts" and the need for supermarkets in inner-city neighborhoods — but when a grocery store actually serves that population, another population shrinks in fear, resorts to stereotype or turns to mockery as a way of distancing Us from Them."

I talk about food deserts and the need for inner-city supermarkets. And when I see that Price Chopper doesn't invest in the one inner city market they have in Albany it is clear that it is Price Chopper who is showing how they feel about "Us vs. Them." By clearly offering a different shopping experience to the inner city shoppers as compared to the suburban shoppers it is clear that Price Chopper views Us differently. Can you blame the greater "Them" for getting the message?

I'm not concerned about what people outside my community think about it. When I chose to move to downtown Albany (again I have the luxury of choice) I had plenty of acquaintances who live in the suburbs react with confusion and concern. They wanted to let me know downtown was not safe. Obviously I was ignorant of the dangers. Why would I be so foolish? People get killed in Washington Park! Where would I park?!!!!

I am concerned about what people who actually live in the community think. And I don't think anyone is that excited about the delaware price chopper.

Maybe if Price Chopper and other people with money and power started treating people who live in the city with respect and equal investment, these nicknames wouldn't exist.

Or I guess we can wait until Albany Med wipes out all of downtown albany and replaces it with a safe suburban approved environment and then we all can live happily ever after. The nice suburban people can feel safe eating in a Panera and Starbucks while waiting for their family member getting their triple bypasses and the new and improved city dwellers will perhaps finally get a modern clean well stocked grocery store. And when the suburban sick are healed in our city, they will return to their homes and remark, "Downtown Albany is really making a comeback."

And then there will be a new under served community somewhere else and I will bet the monthly Whole Foods shopping budget of the Times Union editorial board that it will be in an area referred to as the ghetto as the real issues in our inner city neighborhood won't be addressed, just pushed aside.

And the people in that new under served neighborhood will be told that they should appreciate their one crappy grocery store because at least they have that and at least the corporation who owns that store cares enough about them to keep it open. They could close and leave the 'hood just like everyone else. So be happy with what little you have. And stop using derogatory nicknames. Really. Cease and desist.

@JoeA: eh. The word "cat" doesn't scratch. I believe *intent* is important when you use words. Per their own admission, these two artists wanted to make a quick buck -- that was an *unfortunate* intent, not a malicious one.

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