Maria Luisa Arroyo

Don'T Call Me Ghetto - Poem by Maria Luisa Arroyo

Don't call me ghetto
just because I choose to wear
gold earrings with my name,
clothes that hug me here and there,
and nails bright with colors and designs.
I dress to express and to impress - NOT you -
and I am who I am and not what you want me to be.

Don't call me ghetto
just because my mamma can only afford
a tiny apartment that some lazy landlord
forgets to maintain. You don't see how hard
my mamma works, cooks, and cleans
and takes care of me and our family.

Don't call where I live ghetto
whenever you drive by and only see
old red brick buildings huddled together
or clusters of decaying duplexes
with clothes flapping on the line.
Here is our home and we take care of our own
and comunidad is not about white picket fences.

Don't call us ghetto
just because you drive in from out of town
and you think you are on safari
as you shake your head and tsktsktsk
at the 'poor little brown Lat-teen-nose'
you think you help when you try to bribe us with candy,
or our parents with a $50 check and a free meal
for some university study that never benefits us.

Whenever you judge us for being poor,
you are ghetto.

Whenever you talk down to me
because I have a Spanish last name,
or because mami speaks English with a heavy accent,
you are ghetto.

Ghetto is your state of mind, not mine.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, September 2, 2012

Poem Edited: Sunday, September 2, 2012

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