By Bill Matthews
New policies allowed Justin Timberlake to buy back his ghetto pass instead of earning it.
(BROWNSVILLE, NY) New restrictions on ghetto passes, which are no longer free, have forced many blacks to do the unthinkable: Buy one, or get out of their neighborhoods. But because of demand from foreign investors, celebrities and whites moving into the ghetto, most poor people are finding the passes to be well out of their price range.
“I didn’t even know I needed a ghetto pass,” Rhonda McClaren, an African-American mother of four in Brownsville told The Peoples News yesterday morning. “I always thought we were the ones who handed them out.”
Until recently, that’s just how ghetto passes worked. African Americans arbitrarily awarded them to whites like Eminem, Justin Timberlake and Bill Clinton, who were then freely accepted in black neighborhoods. Conversely, if a black person acted too far out of the ordinary—like, say, not knowing how to play Spades—they could have their pass temporarily revoked.
No more. Now, anyone with enough dollars can buy a pass—and in fact, in order to live in the ghetto, you must have a ghetto pass. Already, entire urban neighborhoods have emptied of their longtime, poorer residents, only to be replaced by wealthier folks.
New businesses are taking advantage. Timberlake had his pass revoked in 2004 for “acting like a bitch” in the aftermath of Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. But he got it back in September.
“He came in the other day and bought a lifetime pass for $175,000,” said Ahmad Turner, who owns the thriving Ghetto Passes R Us in Brownsville. “That hasn’t changed for white people: If they want to be down, they have to have a ghetto pass.”
The changes in distribution stem from a fateful decision blacks made in 2004. That’s when blacks sold the rights to ghetto passes to Bear Stearns for $275 million (every black person got a $7.23 credit toward an investment consultation). The company didn’t make any significant changes in how the passes operated, but after it went bankrupt earlier this year, Google snapped up the rights—and nothing has been the same.
Annual prices for ghetto passes start at $1,200, a steep price for many in today’s economy. Even whites looking to gentrify urban neighborhoods are having second thoughts.
“I was looking at buying a co-op in Crown Heights, but the price of the ghetto pass was so steep that I just thought, well, maybe not,” said Suzy Kopeckni, 27, a hippie.
These days many blacks are nostalgic for the old days—and wish they had never sold the rights, especially as whiter-than-mayonnaise celebrities like Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston have bought passes.
“I was the one who offered a pass to Eminem back in 1997. He was just a nice kid then, and was so proud to get one,” said Dionysus Babcock, an African-American who settled in Sterling Heights, Mich. after being forced from her Detroit home when her pass expired.
“But these white kids today, they don’t have to make the sacrifices that Eminem did,” Babcock continued. “They’ll think that all it takes to get to the ghetto is knowing the right people and having a lot of money. That’s just wrong.”