During a recent interview, I was bluntly and directly told that the phrase “hood rat,” is a derogatory term and that I should refrain from ever using it in any story or article I write. I was told that the unflattering term describes a “dirty, nasty and backstabbing female in the hood.”

I fired back and said that I always heard and was told that “hood rat” was a common phrase used to describe a partner, a pal, a homey, or a buddy. To back up my claim, I gathered info stretching back more than ten years ago. For example, in the below You Tube videos, a young boy described himself as a “hood rat,” who likes to “hang out with his ‘hood rat” friends.” He was arrested after taking his grandmother’s car for a joyride. The video and news reports have been viewed more than 12 million times.

The full story of ‘Hood Rat’ Latarian Milton 2008 – 2020| Part 1

In an additional effort to support my argument, I asked a friend who, let’s just say, when it comes to ‘hood lingo, and Ebonics, he is an expert and my go-to resource for a better understanding about certain words and phrases. He is also 25 years younger than me and knows a lot about language and life in the ‘hood. I asked him, Is hood rat a term of endearment? His response was, Yeah! It definitely was at one time when people first started saying it about 15 or 20 years ago,” he said. “Now, it’s usually used to describe a nasty, evil, and downright dirty female in the ‘hood.” He added, “Now, people say, Yeah, that’s my boy, or hangin’ out with my homeboy, or that’s my homegirl.” He said if a female is described as a ‘hood rat homegirl, she is the lowest of the low and has a bad reputation.”

I compared it to the use of the N-word. Most people in my generation, including me, do not think the word is a term of endearment or a compliment. I still cringe, smirk and roll my eyes in disgust whenever I hear the word uttered on the train, subway, or in a grocery store. However, I notice many people younger than me use the N-word regularly to describe relatives, friends, partners and enemies.

So, am I right or wrong to use the N-word, which I never do, or the phrase hood rat interchangeably as both an insult and a compliment? Maybe I’m just old school and need to be re-schooled in contemporary Black English. Alright? or Aiight!

Glenn Townes

I'm an award winning journalist based in Edison, NJ. My work has been featured in dozens of publications including, Black Enterprise magazine; ESSENCE magazine and Real Health magazine. I am also a featured...

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