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According to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell, you might be a “ghetto parent” if you:

  • Curse around, and at, a child.
  • Brawl with your man or woman in front of your child.
  • Let your child roam the streets until somebody else’s mother has to tell the child to go home.
  • Put your child off on friends and relatives because you want to hang out in the street.
  • Get so hooked on substances that Family Services has to remove your children and place them with strangers.

An African-American herself, Mitchell coined the phrase a few weeks ago in her article “Ghetto Parenting Dooms Kids,” a heartbreaking and far too common story. In 1994, a young man from Chicago named Derrick Lemon witnessed his baby brother being thrown out of a 14th floor apartment building. Fast forward 16 years and Lemon has been found guilty of killing his aunt’s boyfriend. The details of Lemon’s life and the extremely bad parenting exhibited by his mother, Toni Morse, can be read in more detail here.

While Mitchell uses Lemon’s story as an example of how a “victim of ghetto parenting can turn out,” it’s the phrase “ghetto parenting” that everyone from the New York Times to Babble and My Brown Baby is talking about. Mitchell says she knew that people would be offended by her choice of words and followed up with “C’Mon, You Know Ghetto When You See It” in which she sites Britney Spears as the most high-profile example of a “ghetto parent.”

Some critics are saying that Mitchell is racializing bad parenting and making it a black thing. But Mitchell says that she never made “ghetto” apply to an ethnic group in the original column, and says you do not have to be poor or black or Hispanic or anything else to fit her description. I agree that bad parents come in every race, color, creed, gender, economic and religious background.

We use the word ghetto to describe outfits, personalities, habits, and now, parenting skills…is the term OK to use? How many times have you been a “ghetto parent” (according to Mitchell’s list) and cursed in front of your kids? Are people being too sensitive when it comes to “ghetto”?

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