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The word ratchet originated in Shreveport, Louisiana and was used to mean something subpar or unsophisticated, often described as ghetto. This term, like many others, is racially charged. Ratchet has become the umbrella term for all things associated with the linguistic, stylistic, and cultural practices, witnessed or otherwise, of poor people; specifically poor People of color, and more specifically poor women of color. This word is often used to describe black women and increases negative stereotypes and depictions of black women in the media.

The word should never be used to describe other people negatively, and should only be used in certain circumstances. Some usages of the word ratchet are acceptable depending on certain factors.

  • Who says it
  • How they say it
  • The context in which they say it
  • The intention
  • What they are describing

Similar to other pejorative words with racist connotations, the word ratchet has begun to be reclaimed to “de-pathologize” it and emphasize authenticity or realness. Some have refashioned the term to mean cool or sleak. Still the term should be avoided if one is not describing oneself, because the term ratchet is rooted in someone’s lived experience.


If it is not your lived experience the usage of the term is inappropriate because it is the appropriation of someone else’s exploitation.

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