Can We Stop Picking and Choosing Who Gets to be Ghetto?

It’s New York Fashion Week. It’s a week of slayage, high fashion, and trendsetting. Designers debut their new collections for upcoming seasons, some designers even made debuts of their own lines for the first time. The rich hang out, the socialites sip champagne, and the celebrities rub elbows…or in the case of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, they throw hands. On the night of September 7th, the two female rappers got into an altercation over alleged tweets Minaj has liked on twitter (tweets haven’t been confirmed yet). Videos surfaced and shocked everyone including both fan bases. Cardi left with a bump on her head and a picture of it became a social media frenzy.

The next morning, and for the rest of that weekend, the fight became a discussion on every major talk show and news outlet. Social media users took it upon themselves to pick sides; some praised Nicki for handling the situation in a mature manner, while Cardi received mixed backlash. Some praised the Bronx rapper for being “real” and other suggested that New York Fashion Week isn’t the place and time for interactions such as that. This is where discussions went sour and people start to show their colorism and blatant bias.

After social media users said Cardi B was acting “ghetto” and her fighting at fashion week wasn’t the time nor the place to fight someone (whether it be Nicki Minaj or not), many people took that opinion as a way to police black women and women of color. Now, black people, I love us, I love us for real, but if we’re going to make this Nicki/Cardi situation as a focal point for a bigger issue, can we talk about the selective protection and activism within the black community? Can we talk about how we pick and choose who we defend? Can we please stop giving a pass on who is and isn’t allowed to be ghetto?

After the situation between Nicki and Cardi surfaced, social media activists came out the woodwork defending Cardi; taking aim and shaming bourgeois African Americans who attend events like Grits and Biscuits and Trap Karaoke, listen and dance to twerk, trap, and drill songs, and watch “ratchet” television shows, while criticizing Cardi B’s actions. Many social media activists have used their platform to confront people on their consumption of “ghetto culture” but wanting to police and frown upon “ghetto” people. Social media commentary such as this is a necessary point to bring up but it doesn’t work for this argument. While we need to confront the elitist attitudes towards “ghetto” African Americans, we also need to confront the bias and colorism behind the term and culture behind “ghetto”, which just to warn you, is about the policing of black women.

First off, the way others socializes doesn’t discredit someone’s opinion about someone else’s actions. Yes, we go to Grits and Biscuits (I include myself in that statement because I’ve been twice and got my life), yes we go to Trap Karaoke, and yes we twerk in clubs to ratchet songs…because it’s a dance party, that's what your suppose to do. We wouldn’t do this at a networking event or an industry so why should we bend the rules now? Would you act that way in a room full of industry people who could possibly make or break your career? No, you wouldn’t because celebrate or not, you would lose your job.

If we’re going to come to the defense of a woman and her actions, we need to be consistent and including black women in this narrative; yes, black women, the women who you often forget about yet expect to fix everything in our community. It’s interesting to see people come to defensive for a female rapper who’s made comments that promote transphobia and anti-blackness, yet when Cardi B’s rival, Nicki Minaj, confront Miley Cyrus at the VMAs about an issue we’ve all been speaking about, she was “ghetto”. When Minaj confronts an issues (not even physical altercations) all of a sudden, the narrative is “she needs to act more professional”, “she needs doesn’t need to be this extra”, or my favorite yet ironic one “she’s too old to be acting like this” (mind you Nicki and Cardi are both over the age of 25). Nicki is often criticized in the media and by fans for her bold statements and actions, but in a time when we’re preaching and question society about the policing of black women, why are doing the same to Nicki? Is she acting out by societal standards or are you just basing this off your own bias judgments against her?

Nicki isn’t the only one who’s gets criticized for acting “ghetto” while white women and non-black women of color get to flaunt their blatant ignorant and obnoxious attitudes. This year we’ve seen Serena Williams get called a “sore loser” for calling out overt bias, racism, and discrimination during her Grand Slam tournament with Naomi Osaka, (even had a racist cartoon drawn of her and people dressed as her in blackface, yet no one wanted to speak on that). Since the release of the blockbuster comedy Girl’s Trip, Tiffany Haddish has been often criticized by mainstream media, black media outlets, and the black community for her loud voice and behavior at award shows and other public appearances. K. Michelle, Azealia Banks, Rihanna, Taraji P. Henson, are just a few black women who’ve been considered “ghetto”, “bullies”, “loud”, “less classy”, and “ignorant” for acting the same way their Latina, Asian, and White female counterparts do. Recently, Charmaine Johnise from Black Ink Crew: Chicago commented on how women on reality tv shows are often misjudged, and the comments following the article, were of people slut shaming her. It’s ironic to me because Cardi has openly talked about being judged as a stripper, and the public’s response was “let the past be the past”. “

For black Americans, for black millennials at that, it’s more than a Cardi/Nicki feud for us. We’re tired. We are tired of being silent. We are tired of being policed. We are tired of being what to do and how to do it from our own people, while no one White, Asian, or Latina woman deal with the consequences for their own actions. If we want to have discussions about the policing of women of color and the “ghetto” culture, let’s talk about it by all means, but let’s have an honest, equal conversation about this. We can’t promote this “angry black woman” narrative in our own community then praise and fetishize the “angry Latina” stereotype. We can’t negatively label the black women in our community as “ghetto” and “crazy” and excuse the actions of Cardi B, as well as other non-black women of color and white women, as “keeping it real”.