Recently, in my Mosaics class we had a discussion about borders. A question that came up was, where is the line drawn between Temple University and the rest of the community? Of course there are physical borders, such as buildings, streets, and signs, but there is also a border that isn’t tangible, and that is the divide between Temple University students and the community members.
Many of us use the term “locals,” when describing community members, and whether we realize it or not, it is ultimately derogatory, offensive, and racist to use the term.
Using the word implies that there is us and then there’s them.
“Locals” sounds like something you would say when on vacation. It’s similar when people say “foreigners,” which implies that we are the insiders, and for some reason, we still consider ourselves the insiders even in a situation when we clearly aren’t, like the one we are in now.
Even after years of living on campus or in the nearby apartments, many of us continue to use the term “locals” when referring to other people in the neighborhood, but never towards ourselves. Why is that?
Maybe it’s because subconsciously, we wish to not be associated with the very community in which we live in.
Since North Philly has a reputation of being a “bad” neighborhood, it seems that we have this constant urge to remind people we are not actually from here. By using the term "locals,” we are trying to say “we are just passing by, we’re not actually from here, and we do not want to be associated with this community.”
Again, suggesting the divide between us and them.
It is a privilege to attend college in a city such as Philadelphia, but attending college does not make us better than anyone.We are the outsiders in this situation, and ultimately, we cannot appropriate the community by calling it “Temple Town” or referring to its members as “locals.”