City Desk

More on Why Words Matter: The Examiner Says D.C. Suburbs Are Becoming “Ghettos”


Since it's been established here, here, and here that terminology matters, it seems worth pointing out the screaming language on the front page of the Washington Examiner yesterday: "Suburban dreams turn into ghettoes." The headline inside the paper said: "Foreclosure crisis creating suburban slums."

The story by Bill Myers and David Sherfinski began:

Two years of economic collapse have pockmarked the D.C. region's affluent suburbs with blight, and experts are worried that the foundering cul-de-sacs and towns are on the verge of becoming the region's next ghettoes.

Here's another term – "ghetto" – that gets thrown around far too much, and too casually, in talking about urban (and, in this case, suburban) problems.

Greater Greater Washington looked at the use of the word and its social and racial implications a few months ago; City Desk followed up.

The Examiner story (the main online headline is "Bedroom community blues" instead) referenced dropping home values, falling tax revenues, the high foreclosure rate in some local jurisdictions, and the fact that some – many? it's unclear – former single-family homes are now being (gasp) rented out. It quoted the president of the Kettering Community Association in Upper Marlboro, Linda Crudup, describing the vandalism of some of those foreclosed properties, in the form of broken windows and doors kicked in. It vaguely spoke of "neighbors who just a few years ago worried about curb height or speed bumps" now finding themselves "fighting to keep drug dealers from setting up shop in boarded-up homes." The story also cited an increase in homelessness in Prince William and Loudon and noted one Fairfax County district is "littered with hundreds of boarded-up McMansions."

Those are real problems, to be sure. But they have nothing to do with the term "ghetto," or the actual thing.

Ideas? Comments? I’m at, and on Twitter.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Mike Hawke

    “fighting to keep drug dealers from setting up shop in boarded-up homes.”

    Riiiight. Because drug dealers "set up shop" as far away from their customers, in as inaccessable an area, as possible. Especially in VA, since the laws are soooo much more forgiving there.

    Please. The Examiner is nothing more than a ridiculous right-wing rag without the class of the Washington Times or Faux Noise.

  • downtown rez

    Successful drug dealers have cars. And the suburbs offer some privacy and, what are those flat things? Oh yeah, roads.
    But, for real, the 'burbs never lacked for drugs or dealers.

  • Anai Rhoads

    Let's begin by stating that the Examiner is composed of random people, often mediocre, wanna-be writers.

    For this "author" to suggest that DC is turning into a playground for drug dealers - is ridiculous. That's like saying the recession and foreclosures, across the country, is a breeding ground for drug activity.

    The spelling of "ghettos" as ghettoes is a dead give away that the person is clueless. Any way you spell it - it is derogative.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    The Examiner is putrid propaganda published by fanatic fascist freebooters. Communists forever! Be Red!

  • captain

    bill myers and the examiner hyping a story and the city paper criticizing a competitor? That's never happened before...

  • Cindy Lane

    Anai, what exactly is the definition of "random people" when referring to the staff of a newspaper? And it's hard to argue they're "wanna-be writers" when they are, um, writing for a newspaper. Why do you have "author" in quotes? Come to think of it, who refers to reporters as authors anyway? Also, ghettoes is a valid spelling to pluralize ghetto. Thanks for playing, doofus.