Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slummies - Whats in a name.

This post is going to make a lot of people from my home town unhappy. For decades now, East London (Buffalo City) has had the rather unfortunate nickname of Slummies (a play on the word slums).

While East London has no real slums and we have an incredibly beautiful city... the term has kinda stuck around.

These days it is used by lots of East Londoners as a term of endearment. We know East London is not a slum and we think the name is funny. However,  it is a term of endearment for a tiny fraction of the population of South Africa.

To the other 49 million South Africans who know less about East London it creates the impression that East London is a city of slums. East London is only the 6th largest town in South Africa so many South Africans do not know much more about East London other than its name and that its nickname is Slummies.

Believe it or not, this term of endearment is very costly to East Londoners. East London needs highly skilled professionals. The more we have, the better our city will be, the stronger our local economy will be, the more people we can lift out of poverty. However, many of these out of town professionals decline from accepting positions in East London because of the "slum" perception they have of this town.

I can’t stress how much this negatively impacts our town. It means we lose out on lots of good professional health workers (like doctors, specialists, surgeons) . It means we lose investor money to help develop our communities. It means we lose skilled teachers to help teach our kids.

It is without a doubt the single and most expensive word to East London. The saddest bit is most East London people do not care. To them its still just a term of endearment. You try inform them of the serious consequences and costs of that term and they don't care.

To the East London people who read this, think of it like this. Imagine you have a female friend, a wife or a sister... and for fun you keep calling her a whore. Its just a personal joke that you and her share. Now imagine everyone else sees you calling her whore. They know nothing about her. They don’t know what type of person she is or where she comes from. What perception will those people have if everyone refers to her as "whore"?

Ironically, I like the term "Slummies". To me it is a nostalgic term of endearment as well. However, I won’t use it publicly. I love East London and its people more than I like using the term.

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