From the Introduction: ghet-to n. (Merriam-Webster dictionary) Italian from Venetian dialect gheto island where Jews were forced to live; literally
In this cheeky, heartfelt and hip exploration of all things "ghetto," author and journalist Daniels (Black Power, Inc.) begins by mocking Paris Hilton's use of the term on reality TV and works her way into an empathetic, insightful consideration of what Americans mean-and what they should mean-when they call something "ghetto." She approaches the topic through interviews with people from all walks of life: "knuckleheads" on her corner in Brooklyn, friends and coworkers, academics, high-school students and anyone else willing to converse on this complex, potentially troublesome subject. The result is not an academic analysis; rather, nostalgia, outrage, humor and bewilderment stand front and center, along with personal investment (beginning in earnest with her prologue, "I am Ghetto"). The result is a work quite different from that of other race writers such as Cornell West or Michael Eric Dyson; Daniels' casual, extemporaneous tone keeps this sophisticated work accessible to a wide audience who might not be willing to engage a more academic offering. Despite Daniels's sometimes flip approach (playful "That's So Ghetto" lists end each chapter), those looking for more substantial analysis will not be disappointed, especially in her later chapters.
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Three Rivers Press
March 19, 2007
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Excerpt from Ghettonation by Cora Daniels
The thought police were at it again.
Around my way the thought police is the block party. Not the organized neighborhood celebration that makes appearances in Hollywood films attempting to depict an idealized New York. But par-tay over here, par-tay over there. The kind of unruliness that comes from alcohol and a boomin' system that can make any block a party.
A par-tay is never that hard to find because every ghetto vehicle has a system. If only one thing works in the ride it will be the radio, souped up and customized so that it no longer resembles a car radio but should be in a club, and thus has to appropriately be called "a system." I was tailgating a Mr. Softee truck one Friday night to remind my thirtysomething bones what it was like to go out again and shower myself in the music from its system. Welcome to my ghetto.
As the ice cream truck snaked its way through Brooklyn, Lil' Jon's trademark "Okaaaaaay" screamed from its speakers. You could almost see the entire block bounce. If that wasn't enough to put the sighting in the ghetto hall of fame, the truck had been turned into a booty billboard on wheels. Literally. Instead of pictures of Good Humor choices, the enterprising driver had sold his truck sides and turned the vehicle into one of those mobile advertisements. This Mr. Softee was a moving billboard for Apple Bottoms--Nelly's clothing line to celebrate the, uh, curves of a woman's body.
Nelly held a Miss Apple Bottoms contest on VH1 when he launched the clothing line a few years ago. The show attracted young women from across the country eager to appear on TV butt-first so that Nelly and his entourage could rate their booties. Most of the women didn't even get their faces on TV as the camera stayed at hip level. It gets worse. Here's how VH1 actually described the show in its official press release:
Multiplatinum artist Nelly is not alone in his love of a woman's curves. But few urban entrepreneurs have taken their affections to the next level quite the way St. Louis representer Cornell Haynes has. Following tightly on the heels of the runaway success of his men's line, Vokal, Nelly wanted to capitalize on the momentum and still kick it up another notch yet with his women's line, Applebottoms. So the idea of a Vegas blowout launch after a six-city tour culling six finalists with serious junk in their respective trunks from across the land of Oh Bootyful, for Spacious Thighs was born.
(Inside)Out: Nelly: The Search for Miss Applebottoms follows the minds and bulging eyes behind the coast-to-coast scouring for a regular girl with an irregular waist-to-ass ratio. Thousands of women came out to show him what they was working with but only one would win. VH1 followed Nelly and his Team Lunatics cohorts as they scoped every jiggle, bounce and strut that swings their way to find the new "booty" behind their new clothing line. From the Big Apple to the City of Angels and everywhere in between, from the show to the after-party to the hotel lobby, from bushels of apples to applesauce, it's all there. VH1 gives you an all-access pass for ass. Enjoy.
Except if that is how they are addressing journalists, can you imagine the level of pathology and disrespect that is slung when the network interacts with the young knuckleheads they are actually trying to get to watch these shows? Nothing exists in a vacuum, either. VH1 is owned by Viacom, one of the largest media companies in the nation. The corporate giant is large enough to own MTV, BET (they made Bob Johnson a billionaire), Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures. When you digest all that they are working with, then there really cannot ever be enough said about that all-access pass for ass, can there?
So the Mr. Softee, with the system, was covered in larger-than-life pictures of arched backs and booty as it greeted kids lined up for their soft serve.