Today I was called a racist by my English teacher.

Now, I appreciate all cultures. I don’t judge people based upon their ethnic background, color of their skin, or anything like that. I am completely un-racist.

Today in English class, we finished watching the movie “Freedom Writers”. It was a movie about kids from the ghetto, that come to English class and learn to be good, honest people.

It made me think about ghettos. As defined in the dictionary, a ghetto is a place where a group of people from the same race or ethnic background or culture come to live. In common media portrayals of the ghetto, there is a black ghetto, an Asian ghetto, and a Hispanic ghetto.

This is where the trouble began.

I began wondering about other types of ghettos. I said this exact phrase to my friend:

"I wonder if there is like a Portuguese ghetto."

My teacher then began telling me that what I said sounded racist. I was astonished. How can that phrase sound racist?

My teacher told me, incorrectly, that a ghetto is just another word for “slum”. I assured her that a ghetto is where a group of people with the same race or background lived, but she simply would not accept this as fact.

I did not judge the Portuguese people by saying this. I simply do not understand how in the hell this is a racist thing to say. Would it have been any different if I said:

"I wonder if there is a place in Canada where a group of Portuguese people live in high concentration?"

It made me really upset. I think I am a pretty morally and ethically correct guy. I try to be kind, and give respect to people of all cultures. In my sentence regarding a Portuguese ghetto, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t say anything negative about the culture. Therefore, I’m not being racist (there are positive forms of racism, such as “All Asians are good at math”, but I didn’t say anything positive about them, either).

The only way I could be interperated as racist is if someone doesn’t fully understand what a ghetto is. If I said, “I wonder if there are a bunch of poor Portuguese people living together”, that could be interperated as mean, and a little racist I guess, but that is not what I said.

Overall, I am just upset that I was called a racist. Maybe I worded things wrong, I personally don’t think I did, but I also think that my English teacher needs to do some learning on the definition of “ghetto”.

But, now that I think of it, ghetto does seem to have a negative meaning associated with it. Nonetheless, I'm pretty sure I wasn't being racist.

Thanks for reading,

Gavin C. Stewart

Uploaded 05/28/2008
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