GHETTONATION: A JOURNEY INTO THE LAND OF BLING AND THE HOME OF THE SHAMELESS by Cora Daniels (Doubleday), 205 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
When did ghetto go mainstream? Cora Daniels, one of the first African- American journalists to tackle this cultural phenomenon, wonders how we got to the point where hiphop is a multi-billion-dollar industry, babymama is a household word and celebrities from Paris Hilton to Martha Stewart make ghetto references and sport ghetto accessories.
Ghetto culture was once isolated in the inner city, but now the whole world wants to get G'd up, and corporate America has been more than happy to oblige.
Kids who look up to Tupac and 50 Cent worry more about their thug gear than about their GPAs. The effect, Daniels argues, is devastating for black America.
Following the example of Bill Cosby's inflammatory - and now infamous - speech to the NAACP, Daniels asks her fellow black Americans why we now have a generation of youth who glorify sexism, violence and instant gratification over education, hard work and personal responsibility. She argues that rampant infidelity, the disintegration of the family and the glorification of criminality and violence implicit in the ghetto mentality are lowering the general tenor of our culture.
Part memoir, part cultural essay and part incendiary rant, Daniels's book is as much a meditation on her own origins as it is a survey of the contemporary African-American landscape. She wonders what motivated her to become a journalist while so many of her peers stayed behind. She veers between excuses (the poverty and low self-esteem) and tough sermonizing, all the while giving the uninitiated a crash course in the language and mores of the ghetto mentality.
She may not have answers, but the overview alone is enlightening.
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