Fryer and Levitt Go Ghetto

In academia, it is seen as an honor when someone wants to reprint one of your published papers in an edited volume of collected papers. It is really an honor if someone wants to take the time to translate it into another language.

Roland Fryer and I feel so honored.

Back in 2004, Roland and I published a piece in the journal Education Next describing our research on racial test-score gaps. That paper was recently translated into ghetto English. The new version is here. It is a must-read (although very, very NSFW). Usually something gets lost in the translation, but I would say in this case it is an improvement.



this is tantamount to blackface. i find this to be belittling and highly offensive. this wasn't done in jest. this is mocking a vernacular embraced by some black people and middle to lower class americans. you make think its in good fun but as someone who regularly reads your blog i'm am extremely disappointed.


"ghetto english", "black lil pimps"? Let's try not to reinforce negative stereotypes.

linus chan

Is this a joke? I don't understand, what is "ghetto english"? I am not a linguistics expert, but it is written as if it was the worse of the worse stereotyping of language, "fuck that shizzle yo?" Who actually speaks like this? Is this supposed to be a mocking piece? Or is this an actually a sincere attempt of translation. If it is the former, than this is terrible and just engaging in racial stereotyping, if it is the latter, than more explanation is necessary as the other "links" and who did the translation should be explained.

Linus chan

So after checking and seeing that this really is NOT a serious attempt at translation or anything else but the basest use of mocking stereotypes, i can't help but be flabbergasted that any respectable website/organization would link to this publicly. In what way is anyone going to take you guys seriously, if you actually think this is funny. Why not just publish a piece that uses "ching chong chin" and say it is a translation to "chinese" and have a hearty laugh. My view of freakonomic is forever changed by a stupid, asinine blog post. Perhaps it isn't fair, but hey, i am not the one who thinks that mocking either actual cultures or race to be funny.


False equivalence. Ebonics is a play on actual english whereas 'ching chong' is pure gibberish.


Finally, something my fellow hood rats can understand. I love Freakonomics, but one of the rubs for me has always been how are the people who really need this info ever going to understand it. This is a start.

DC Harris

"Go Ghetto." Wow.


Did you seriously just write "ghetto English?"


let these comments be a lesson to liberal professors everywhere. You are killing your student's sense of humor and replacing it with mock outrage. and that translation was horrible, yo.

Laura Benson

The fact that an educator who is supposedly concerned about the black white achievement gap thought it was alright to post this racist garbage says as much about the problem as your findings do.


You guys can't be serious? This is beyond offensive. I keep trying to find the joke, but nope, still can't find it. I'd love it if someone could explain the reasoning behind this. I've always found Freakonomics to be slightly stereotypical of minorities and with this "joke" you've proven my opinion to be correct. You guys are just a bunch privileged, pretentious white kids. Kudos!

Linus Chan

My guesses as to the response from the blog:
1) Nothing, they ignore the negative comments. They can do this unless a different popular blog finds it and posts about it. (Think Andrew Sullivan, TPM, etc)
2) They explain how this isn't really offensive or that the language isn't an example of racial stereotyping and that readers who found it such were either missing a crucial bit of explanation (still trying to figure what that could be), or are in fact humorless and need to "lighten up"
3) We get a non-apology apology. "Sorry if anyone was offended, it was not intended to xx, but if anyone was offended it was not our intent." The politician's apology, one that actually is a backhanded version of #2's you have no sense of humor.
4) An actual apology and some actual reflection from the author i.e. But, i doubt this will happen.



Linus, I'm sorry you're such an uptight square who thinks typing verbose scenarios would make you feel better. I certainly hope free speech reigns and bloggers wouldn't have to bow down to your hurt feelings.


This looks like a case of the "My black friend thought this was funny so I guess it's okay for me to pass it along" fallacy.

You should take this post down. It makes you look bad.


I am shocked, simply SHOCKED that Freakonomics would stoop so low as to use an internet tool like the “ghetto-izer” for a cheap laugh in 2012. This kind of technology has been obsolete and well played out at least since 1998. I’ll admit to spending many a free-period in high school ghetto-izing, redneck-izing, Boston-izing, hippie-izing, etc. etc. but those days are long past. It’s pretty obvious the code hasn’t become any more sophisticated since those dark days, the cycling of random phrases doesn’t even get two paragraphs in without repeating itself. Seriously, I expect much more up to date technology for you guys. What’s next? Embedded MIDI? Blink tags? In future, try and stick to the current decade.

brandon copley

Ya'll do realize that this is a simple find and replace racist system, this article was not really translated...


That's what makes it even worse. It's not even funny.

What is mildly funny is that the article's actual findings point to areas where the achievement gap is minimal, despite the economic disadvantage of some of the students. The point is, nobody really talks like this, and by posting it on a serious blog you give weight to those who throw around words like 'ghetto English' as a joke.

It's not racist, it's just bad humor.


Why would you let your article on racial test score gaps be translated into "ghetto english?" So many problems with it. If it were any other article, it would just be silly and obnoxious. This makes it actually somewhat malicious. But hey, at least you're meeting the target audience where they are.



I'm as liberal as the next guy but talk about some of these commenters making a mountain out of a molehill! God forbid someone should get offended *GASP*. By that logic, 90% of all comedy shows would get scrapped. I must be the only one who does not equate language slang with chauvinism, whoever automatically assumes this is a slippery slope back into segregation or apartheid, that's just you jumping to your own stupid conclusions, don't project your paranoia onto the general public's.

And just because you don't find it funny doesn't mean someone else wouldn't. I personally did not find it funny either, but only because it was lazy, not because it was offensive. I mean the text is little more than a quick search-and-replace. All this paranoia about "blackface" and whatnot is silly. And especially all these asinine demands for an apology, you'd think the writers of Freakonomics personally donned white pointy hoods or made a 47% speech, give me a break. And for the record, I am a minority and I'm not going to shout 'shut up and apologize' every time I hear something offensive. You can make disagree with rebuttals without silencing people, at least in open societies.


Not Impressed

Staggeringly ignorant post. Please visit your university's Department of Linguistics to avoid further embarrassment.

Until then, read some of Stanford Prof. John Rickford's writings on African American Vernacular English --> this is "Ebonics"