There’s Good In The Ghetto: Why You Can’t Believe Everything You Hear About The Hood

September 30, 2013  |  

For the majority of my existence, I’ve lived in an inner city. There were moments in my life where I’ve resided in the suburbs and even the rural South, but most of my days have been spent developing in the metropolis of Newark, NJ. Newark is one of the most notorious cities in America, and like most other urban areas, it is plagued by poverty, violence, gangs, and almost every other social issue imaginable. I can’t front, Brick City has way more than just a few issues. With a track record so bad, it’s not hard to see why people focus on the negative aspects of Newark and areas like it. But outsiders are brainwashed with the misconception that everything about inner city life is bad and that the people living in the “hood” are all the same: dumb, lazy, drug-slinging, ignorant, gang-banging welfare junkies with numerous babies by different baby mommas and deadbeat daddies. This is what the media perpetuates, and people buy it.

I’d always known this. Traveling to different suburbs and conversing with close-minded suburbanites made that clear to me at an early age. Whenever I would mention my city’s name, I saw faces change, smiles turn to looks of disapproval, and heads reeled with questions, judgments, and insinuations. But it became even more evident of the negative perceptions people not accustomed to urban life had about those who are when I went away to college.

I remember an instance where I was in one of my favorite classes, surrounded by all of my white suburban-living peers. We were having a class discussion about the music scene in our respective towns, and when I referenced where I was from, my professor jolted in shock. His whole demeanor changed and as he nervously tapped his fingers on his lap and patted his feet, he looked at me and said, “Newark huh?… a lot of uh, problems over there ain’t it?” He completely ignored what I had to say about the subject matter, and instead focused all his attention on what was wrong with the city. That was nothing new to me, but rather, another instance of someone so wrapped up in the ugliness of ghetto life that they fail to realize that there’s beauty in it.
I will never forget a conversation I had with one of my roommates. She was a young girl from a small town in North Jersey who had never stepped foot in Newark or any ghetto. She told me that she knew there were a bunch of “Bloods” in my city, that there were always shootings and said everything she heard about the place revolved around gang activity. A piece of me wanted to laugh, but the greater part of me was fuming. I was not only angry at her condescending tone, or the media’s tradition of focusing on gang-violence and drive-bys only, but disturbed by the fact that the bad always overshadows the good.

No one talks about the countless community leaders who work ardently at creating better, safer environments for inner city residents. News channels don’t shine the spotlight on grassroots organizations promoting healthy living, positivity through art and music, or who toil every day to groom our future councilmen and women, mayors, governors and presidents. Nor do they highlight the thousands of teens graduating with top honors and GPAs that’ll blow the average suburban youth out the water. In my city alone, we have some of the top high schools and universities in the country—and the world—but newscasters aren’t flocking to Newark to cover blood drives, street cleanups or tutoring sessions organized by those same “hoodlums” that they’d quickly reel the footage for if they were shooting up a block over a bad drug deal.

I’m just one person and I can’t pry open every single close-minded being’s brain to see the truth or accept it. But I can use my voice to tell everyone reading this to never think that you are above a person just because they may live in an environment where the lawns aren’t trimmed with tulips and lilies, but are more prone to being littered with glass and cigarette butts. While it may seem that the majority of the people living in urban cities are violent criminals with belligerent tendencies, just remember that some of the world’s best artists, poets, actors, athletes, and musicians were cultivated in the same ghetto towns that the average American frowns upon. Just a thought.

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