I’m a comedian. I want to make you all laugh first and foremost. But pardon my candor and minor traipse into soap-boxing, would you, because I keep seeing Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) pilloried by über-PC, super-misguided liberals over his use of the word “ghetto” in the CNN Democratic Debate with Hillary Clinton last night.
Firstly, let’s get the direct quote from Sanders, so we can make sure we’re reacting to what he actually said, and not what some douchebag in the press or some hand-wringing concern troll is inferring, shall we?
“When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto,” Sanders concluded. “You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car. And I believe that as a nation in the year 2016, we must be firm in making it clear, we will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.” (source)
Look, I get it, that first sentence seems to imply that poor white people don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto, and that’s definitely problematic, because by the dictionary definition you could technically have anyone of any race living in a “ghetto.”
A part of a city in which members of a particular group or race live usually in poor conditions (source)
However, I genuinely don’t see how what Sanders said was even an insult to anyone. He didn’t say that all people of color live in squalor or the ghetto. He said that white people don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto, and I would say that is probably inarticulate and not quite accurate because there are certainly very poor, mostly white areas too. But let’s cut the shit, shall we?
The term “ghetto” has traditionally meant a predominantly non-white, extremely poor area. All Sanders was saying is that your average white person doesn’t ever get exposed to that unique situation. “Ghetto” isn’t even a fucking racial slur, either. That’s, to me, the most insulting part of the reaction to Sanders’ choice of words. It’s as if every human being forgot where the term “ghetto” originated from. It was where European Jews were forced to live in the 15th century and some dude with a shitty mustache brought that concept back in 1930’s Germany. Here, let me give you all a hint:
Can you make out that word there, on that sign? It says “getto.” Yes, that’s right, Jewish people were forced to live in abject squalor in “gettoes.” That wasn’t a typo either — they were forced by law to live in this shit hole neighborhoods in shit hole buildings.
Now, let’s just stop and think for a second here, where oh where would Bernie Sanders have been exposed to the word “ghetto” in his life? Did he have any Jewish relatives? Checking the ol’ Google machine, it looks like Senator Sanders’ family tree does in fact have several branches on the paternal side that were pruned by Hitler’s Holocaust.
While Bernie’s parents fled to America in the early 1920’s and escaped both the Final Solution and the ghetto, do we really have to stretch our imagination so far to divine that he might have still been told about them?
This primary fight is important, and there are a lot of interested parties that want Hillary to win it all. But you can’t go around accusing Sanders of being racist or out of touch on this one, sorry. Firstly, he didn’t really imply white people aren’t poor, he implied white people don’t generally live in racially segregated, supremely poor neighborhoods. He didn’t even imply that all people of color live in the ghetto. There is literally nothing offensive about what Sanders said, other than he used a word that make some unformfortable.
But he didn’t use the “N” word. He didn’t try to imply that black people are more violent or poor simply by their nature. He didn’t say black people just “need to get over it.” That’s what it looks like when racism is given cover in this country. When Bernie has been interrupted at speeches by Black Lives Matter protesters, he’s folded his hands, and ceded the podium. The man was fucking arrested for standing up to racism; how dare anyone latch onto his use of a completely valid, if not slightly taboo word as means to prove he doesn’t care about racial equality?
It’s this kind of shit that makes me wish I could be okay with Donald Trump winning. Because idiotic Democrats who would trash Sanders over this deserve to have their asses handed to them in an election. You can’t run off someone with over 50 years of “in the trenches” experience fighting for equality because he used one word you found offensive, when he didn’t mean in any offensive ways and is actually completely correct.
Go after the math in his proposals if you want. Make a rightful claim that his age should at least be a consideration in his VP pick. But don’t spit in the face of a man who was handcuffed and dragged by cops as he was chained to an African-American woman in protest of segregation by telling him a word that has deep impact to people of his faith is off-limits to him because you don’t like how it sounds.