Natalie's Rant: When Did "Urban" Start Meaning Black People?

4 Aug

My girl, Natalie, brought to my attention that “urban” is being used to refer to Black people, or people of color.  She said that she went to K & G (not sure if it was online or brick & mortar), and saw that Sean Jean, Baby Phat and other brands created and worn mostly by African Americans were classified as “urban.” 

Generally speaking, Black people tend to come to mind first when color is used.  Anyway, I looked up the word urban.  Merriam-Webster says urban is “of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city.”  The following definition was the first to appear when I did a Google search: what does urban mean?

  • relating to or concerned with a city or densely populated area; “urban sociology”; “urban development”
  • located in or characteristic of a city or city life; “urban property owners”; “urban affairs”; “urban manners”
  • So, what is my point?  In neither of these definitions does it say anything like ‘of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting Black people” or “relating to or concerned with a black populated area.”

    This leads me to my next topic.

    When I looked up urban gear, Akademics, Baby Phat, LRG, ECKO, Apple Bottom, Coogi, Sean Jean, Rocawear and Dereon were just some of the names that came up.  Most of these fashions are equated with Hip Hop. 

    So, has urban come to  mean Black people in general or only when it relates to consumerism? 

    Somebody talk to me.


    6 Responses to “Natalie's Rant: When Did "Urban" Start Meaning Black People?”

    1. Marcie Hill August 5, 2009 at 7:46 am #

      According to journalist Glenn Reedus via Facebook, “It’s been that way nearly 50 years Marcie. “Urban renewal” was not for white neighborhoods–and that is when the urban term began to be widely applied to us.”

    2. Marcie Hill August 5, 2009 at 4:41 pm #

      Martin Lindsey’s thoughts via Facebook: “Yeah, I always thought that’s what it meant. Similar to ‘inner city’ even though African Americans aren’t the only people who live in inner cities.”

    3. Mansy Pancy August 12, 2009 at 8:18 pm #




      • Marcie August 13, 2009 at 12:06 am #

        At least we now have an idea.

    4. Jamie2323 May 30, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

      Yeah, when I hear “urban”, the first thing that pops up in my mind is “nigger”.

      • Anonymous May 30, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

        Why do you think “nigger”?

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