* And Tarantino, in suggesting that the category of film composition was a ghetto, was using a common dictionary definition: “something that resembles the restriction or isolation of a city ghetto.” But “ghetto” is also an idiomatic way of dismissing something as cheap or trashy. And the adjectival “ghetto” owes its salience to the fact that a modern American ghetto is not only poor but disproportionately African-American. Recent census data showed that 2.5 million whites live in high-poverty neighborhoods, compared with five million African-Americans. Earlier this year, Senator Bernie Sanders went further, saying, “When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto.”
What is a ghetto, really—and who lives there? In “Dark Ghetto,” a pioneering 1965 sociological study, Kenneth Clark depicted Harlem, a paradigmatic ghetto, as a “colony of New York City,” defined by both its economic dependence and its segregation.