Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’

posted by v

As many of you know, my family resides in the 500 block of North Hamilton Avenue, on the near Eastside of Indianapolis. This is a high-crime area where seven people were murdered last year on the same block. What’s even more scary is that these folks were allegedly murdered by someone who was raised in the area (on the same block). It has been alleged that the murder was a botched burglary that was instigated by a rumor started by another neighborhood rat. (Allegedly, a white hood rat told a black hood rat (the murderer) that the Hispanic family had $40k in their home. The Hispanics are dead, the black guy’s in jail, and the white guy moved.)

So with this backdrop in my mind, my aunt has been house hunting. She has steady, blue-collar employment and about 15 years or so until retirement. She has enough money in the bank to make a 20% down payment on a $100,000 house. Does she do that? No. Instead she puts an offer on a property that’s one block over (MLS# 2675683). This is a property that she used to own, and then sold it to her brother, who lost it in foreclosure.

Beyond the sentimental stuff, here’s the logic – Why would I go and pay $80k for a house when I can buy the exact same house for $10k? We suffered through this same line of logic when we were buying a house. Why would we pay $90k for a house when we could buy my uncle’s house that was about to go into foreclosure (this same house)?

I’d be really perplexed by this logic if I didn’t keep into perspective the fact that my family is southern blue-collar. Not just blue collar, but southern blue-collar. Appalachian. It explains so much. You don’t want to get above your raisin’. For those of us who do take risks, we’re on our own. If I fail, I can always come back home because failure is expected.

This attitude permeates my whole family and explains so much about why we do the things we do. It worries me for my cousins. I see some of them struggling against this attitude. My family has been in Indianapolis since the 1960s, yet there’s still the fascination with all things “Kentucky”. It holds people back in a big way. There are many people in Central and Southern Indiana who can trace their roots to Kentucky and who have these same beliefs. It’s a structural problem. No amount of good news, good luck, or opportunities can move these people.

This song sums it up:

Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’ by Ricky Skaggs

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