The Ghetto Aesthetic
If you’ve been paying attention to celebrity news you would have heard that Cardi B and Nicki Minaj had a confrontation during a New York Fashion Week Party. Cardi B allegedly started the fight by throwing her shoe at Nick Minaj and kept trying to get close to her. Most news outlets refer to it as a fight, however, judging from the video, neither of them even touched the other. Both had bodyguards protecting them, particularly Nicki Minaj, who chose to stand behind her bodyguards.
If you’ve been reading my columns for a while you know that I’m not interested in the fight as much as I am the reaction of the public. Although Nicki Minaj calls herself “Queen”, she does not carry the same aesthetic of a traditional monarchy. The same goes for Cardi B, although she has never claimed to be anything other than her authentic self. Both women were raised in predominantly Black and Latina neighbourhoods, thus they carry inspiration from both.
Since the beginning of her career Cardi B has always portrayed herself as confrontational and aggressive, moreover, she curses a lot and dresses scantily. Nicki Minaj has a similar aesthetic where she dresses provocatively and raps about sex and drugs. However, as you can see, both women have what we call the “ghetto aesthetic”.
Ghetto is a word attached to Black people and by extension, Latinas, to describe the way they talk, dress and behave. There are many fashion trends that started with Latinos and Black people that were “adopted” by whites. Trends such as brightly coloured hair and large earrings have been historically labelled as “ghetto” and trashy. However, once these trends were adopted by whites they became “fresh”, “new” and “daring”. Moreover, the very act of being aggressive and loud is seen as ghetto when portrayed by a Black or Latina person (especially women), but passionate on a white person.
So many people described the fight between the two rappers as ghetto, as if white celebrities don’t fight each other at classy events all the time. Why are we so quick to degrade each other for trends that are unique to us and ignore white people for doing the same? Do not misunderstand me, fighting at any event is distasteful. However, why is it that when two women of colour fight it’s ghetto and when it’s white women they’re “passionate”? The double standard is confusing.
The same goes for “ghetto names”. Black Americans often give their children names that are reminiscent of African words. Whenever we see names such as “Sharquesha” we laugh, however, the joke is on us, as those names are one of the keepsakes of African culture black people have retained. We might not remember our ancestor’s language, but we remember the sounds and these sounds help form “Black” names. Yet, once again Black people are discriminated against because of their names and instead of educating each other and demanding acceptance we admonish each other. Could you imagine a world where “Brandon” was seen as a ghetto name? Why are we enabling the white man’s discrimination against us?
It is time for us to reclaim the word “ghetto”. We will no longer be ashamed of the Black aesthetic. Next time you use the word “ghetto”, ask yourself if you would have said the same of a white person.