Monday, May 16, 2011

Dirty Ghetto Kids

I've fought for as long as I could. But it's over now. I have to accept the fact that I am comfortably couched in middle age where I feel the chasm between me and young people widening to the point that I have become one of the adults of my childhood who just didn't get the young folk of my day. A trip to the mall has me SMH and asking WTH is really going on in the world today.

The other day I was doing something out of character: walking through the mall. Contrary, to popular belief, I am not a woman who loves to shop, but I needed to pick up a couple of items and was in no hurry as I strolled through Chicago Ridge Mall when I happened upon a store called Zumez. In the window was a mannequin wearing a white, girl's t-shirt with red "Dirty Ghetto Kids" lettering. I stood there stuck in the moment as all-kinds-of-ways it was wrong smacked me all upside my head. I walked away. But I came back. I had to find out about the shirt.

A white young man in an over-sized red t-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap turned sideways explained to me that the shirt was part of DGK line. He enthusiastically shared with me his love for DGK and how many DGK shirts he owned. Discomfort must have registered on my face because he said, "You don't like DGK?" I shook my head. He said the girls didn't like the shirt either but he'd like to see all girls in DGK. I nodded not knowing what to say and I left.

DGK is a line of skate boards and apparel founded by Stevie Williams, an African-American professional skateboarder who pays "homage to his Philly days when he and his skate crew would be taunted at skate spots throughout the city. . ." An unsubstantiated online story is that when a skater did a trick on his board and lost it, the "dirty ghetto kids" would run off with the board. Even if the story isn't true,I can't embrace "dirty ghetto kids" as positive.

In my work as an educator I am bothered by the number of children who show up to school dirty every day--matted, uncombed, broken-off hair; shoes with no strings and no socks; clothes so dingy it's hard to tell what the original color was; lunch stains from Monday's lunch and it's Thursday. These children look bad, smell bad and become fodder for conversation among faculty and students.

These "dirty ghetto kids" remind me of our short coming as a nation; that we continue to fail certain segments of our population and write them off as worthless. So, now we have a black man exploiting a marginalized segment of the population for financial gain by hocking his wares to skateboarders, many of whom are white and think it's cool to wear DGK.

Is something wrong with this picture or am I old, out of touch and just a wee bit sensitive?


  1. Stephanie, I agree with you. I can see what he was trying to do, but I am concerned that this line of clothing will make it okay for everyone who wears it to promote stereotypes. Skating is now crossing cultural lines, but if I saw a kid wearing that shirt I would feel uncomfortable. We are getting old.

  2. The answer is simple. Whether or not we are getting old, there IS something wrong with that picture. There is also something wrong with our society/culture when a line of clothing that exploits an already marginalized segment of the population can make it to the shelves of the mainstream malls.

  3. I know that our culture has a bent of turning terms on their ears: "bad" becomes good. The skateboarder may be exploiting the talent in black American culture of irony: "dirty ghetto kids" advertise such and become the hot persona everyone cool wants to be. There are always those who don't get the true message, from racists who want to see DGK as a confirmation of terror, to our children who think of themselves as dirty and ghetto and act that way. I'm not buying, and I'm not buying IT. Count me as old.

  4. From reading your words, dirty ghetto kids in your mind is solely the domain of black children. Yeah you're extremely sensitive and out of touch, that happens as we age.

  5. These generations..yes age is a factor, have aquiesced to
    every form of verbal depracation imaginable..sadly, the trend
    continues. there are those that rise above oppression (mental
    and physical) and those that insist on wallowing in it...