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Origin of urban
historical usage of urban
In the early 20th century, factories in northern cities recruited large numbers of African Americans from southern states. This migration north transformed the historically rural Black American experience into an urban one.
In the 1950s, courts outlawed segregation and mandated the racial integration of schools, resulting in decades of white flight . Many white families abandoned inner-city neighborhoods, relocating themselves and their assets to suburban communities. Discrimination over the years kept suburbia largely white and wealthy, enjoying well-funded school districts and other amenities.
Meanwhile, urban life, especially in the inner city , became increasingly associated with poverty and decay. In response, the government built housing projects for low-income residents, but this further concentrated poverty in isolated neighborhoods (ghettos that became popularly known as 'hoods ).
By the end of the 20th century, inner-city urban life was associated with African Americans of low socioeconomic status. Similarly, in discussions about poverty, crime, and drugs, the terms inner-city and urban became convenient euphemisms for Black —a way to avoid implying causality between race and life circumstance.
The term urban can factually describe a particular living situation, for example, urban poverty versus rural poverty. However, as a euphemism for slums, crime, or race, the use of the term urban is inaccurate, outdated, and offensive.
Such use is inaccurate and outdated because city neighborhoods have been steadily changing. Urban renewal and gentrification have brought new residents and assets to city centers. Urban poverty still exists, but its current manifestation doesn’t match the stereotypes of decay, gang violence, and drug culture built around news stories and images from the 1970s and 1980s.
Even more offensive is the inaccurate substitution of urban to mean Black when not referring to city dwellers. If two cowboys get into a fist fight in a rural honky-tonk, and if one of them is white and one is Black, the reporting of that story should in no way refer to one of those men as urban .
Even accurate use of the word urban may raise troubling racial issues. If someone who authentically claims an urban identity creates a line of clothing and markets it to suburban consumers, is calling that clothing urban acceptable? Does the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album promote recognition of R & B fusion artists, or does it mean that there are two separate but equal Grammy Awards for Album of the Year?
It should be clear whether one is talking about race (Black civil rights leaders), poverty (educational opportunities for low socioeconomic status students), or geography (urban food insecurity and rural hunger).
While the terms urban or inner-city can evoke one specific minority experience in the United States, they should not be used interchangeably with racial identity words like Black or African American . Nor should suburban be used indiscriminately to reference white America. Each of these circumstances and identities is a mix of class and geography, albeit with strong racial associations. The terms urban and suburban should therefore be used mindfully and only when evoking all aspects of those specific American experiences.
OTHER WORDS FROM urbanan·ti·ur·ban, adjectivenon·ur·ban, adjectivesem·i·ur·ban, adjectiveun·ur·ban, adjective
Words nearby urban
Example sentences from the Web for urban
In the wee hours of Christmas morning, a flight deal was shared in an exclusive Facebook group for urban travelers.
Young, hip, urban millennials are using tools like Instagram to become one of the fastest growing travel markets.
His clothing line that his friend described as “upscale and urban” was a dud.
No surprise then that aside from wealthy coastal suburbs, the Democratic base has shrunk to the urban cores and college towns.
Urban economists, particularly those on the self-satisfied coasts, tend to envision utter hopelessness for the region.
She was greatly impressed by Carl's urban appearance, and in her excitement talked very loud and threw her head about.O Pioneers!|Willa Cather
Even if the urban standard be placed at a lower point, 5000, there is still an increase of 3.5 per cent.Problems of Poverty|John A. Hobson
Urban was flanked by six cardinals in broad-brimmed red hats and brilliant red robes.The Saracen: Land of the Infidel|Robert Shea
Many of the weaknesses that appear in urban society can be traced to this situation as a cause.Society|Henry Kalloch Rowe
One thing only was clear—rural England was, on the whole, likely to cleave to the king; urban England to oppose him.A History of England|Charles Oman