You have to be pretty careful when you use the word ghetto, because it’s got a lot of history that isn’t pleasant. The word was originally used to describe the sections of a city where Jewish people were isolated in segregation. Even today, ghettos are inhabited by poor and under-privileged minorities. A ghetto’s inhabitants may not be held in place by physical gates, but make no mistake; there are plenty of social, economic, and legal barriers that perfectly drive home the fact that they are not free to leave.
The phrase ghetto workout refers to an exercise routine that emphasizes interacting with the environment instead of visiting a costly gym with fancy exercise equipment. The idea of the ghetto workout apparently originates from a series of YouTube videos (Warning: Mildly NSFW language) in which young black men demonstrate impressive exercises on playground equipment, streetlamps, and other items that would be found in and around an inner-city neighborhood. The idea is that even members of the under-privileged minority classes can still get ripped. While I understand the usage of the word ghetto in this sense, I do not believe that the man pictured in this meme is doing a “ghetto workout”. Although it’s hard to tell for sure, he appears to be using exercise equipment that was specifically designed for – you know – exercising. I do not believe the top part of this meme truly demonstrates the spirit of the ghetto workout. Now, one must ask oneself: why did the meme creator choose this particular image as an example of a ghetto workout when there are so many pictures freely available on the Internet that actually show people exercising in the streets of their own neighborhoods? I’ll leave it as an exercise for the astute reader to determine the answer to that question.
Now let’s talk about the bottom picture. Ah, here’s what many people think of when they hear the word ghetto: crime. I sort of give this memer credit for not depicting the alleged criminal as an obvious minority, but I’m afraid I have to take it away again. The bottom image serves to re-establish the ancient stereotype that ghetto inhabitants (and by extension, poor people) are criminals. While I know that crime does happen in a ghetto, this meme seems very unfair. There are many people who have fallen into economic hardship through no fault of their own, yet who never do anything that will ultimately result in their running from the police. In my opinion, the lack of relevance in the top image and the worn-out stereotype in the bottom image makes this meme entirely unnecessary, except to inspire a chuckle among people who have never had to experience what it’s like to be forced to live in a ghetto.