I’m Not In the Dictionary, Don’t Try to Define Me

Excitedly, my co-worker Holly* tells me how her boyfriend got her tickets to the Kanye concert. Although I’m not the biggest fan of his music, I would love to go to a concert of his, because it seems like it would be wildly entertaining. Holly tells me she’s happy I’m excited, because I was in fact the only one and other co workers had mocked her for going, calling his show “ghetto.” Holly always loves to avoid awkward situations, so she went on to the next co worker Brody* who always has the best restaurants in mind for any occasion. Brody tells her to try some “ghetto” restaurant.

This baffled and hurt, because although people can call Kanye several different names, ghetto wasn’t one that came to mind. Eccentric? Yes. Outspoken? Yes. Reckless? Yes. But ghetto?

I looked up the definition and found this word pertains to a section of a city that is poor and usually occupied by minorities. Another definition, which seems to be the one that he’s referring to, is “pertaining to or characteristic of a life in a ghetto or the people who live there.” But Kanye isn’t displaying characteristics of a ghetto person, he’s displaying characteristics of someone who is strong-willed, free-spirited, and cares much less about public opinion than the average individual. I fail to see how any of these characteristics make him ghetto, and reducing him to slang that is offensive and meant to imply that someone is inferior is a poor way to say, “I just don’t like him or his music.”

Why must we bash other people for being different and being someone we don’t understand? A characteristic of an intelligent person is someone who continues to learn throughout their lives, but these two men seem uninterested in this moment to try to understand this man or someone who is a fan of his, thus leaving them ignorant. And this ignorance kills us. It’s essentially as if we all live on our own little islands and a bridge could be built, but we’re all too lazy to build them. And there are potatoes on island #35 and rosemary on island #67, but we’ll never get to experience rosemary potatoes, because we won’t try.

So next you or someone around you want to reduce someone or something to words or phrases, push for more. Push for dialogue and not text conversations aiming to sum something up, but only ending up with a gross generalization. You’ll come to see things are more complex and yet still much more simple than they ever seemed.

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