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Unread 03-04-2011, 09:39 PM   #1
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Default "Don't get above your raisin'."

That expression has been on my mind. No, it doesn't have anything to do with a dried grape.

It's a Southern expression. What exactly does it mean? Am I taking it right? I hear: Don't be more successful than the people you grew up with. You have no right to improve your lot in life. If you're born poor, you'd better stay that way, or else. Cross-reference the Crab Mentality.

I grew up Southern myself, and I've seen people ostracized by their families for succeeding. A friend of mine had his father say to him, when he enrolled in college, "Well, if yer gonna go and git all uppity on us, ya don't need to come around here no more." And Papa wasn't joking. That man was no longer welcome in his childhood home, just because he went to college.

In my own family, I hear a lot of the phrase "too good." It is always said with disdain. For example, the woman who insisted on buying a new mattress instead of one from a Goodwill or a yard sale, and a family member commented in a tone dripping with sarcasm, "She's too good for a used mattress." My mother was criticized for owning a car that actually looked pretty and didn't have dings, dents, and rusted out holes all over it. It wasn't expensive, or even new, but it didn't scream "ready for the junk heap," so she was vilified for having it.

Am I right? Did Flatt and Scruggs actually write a song (sung by Ricky Skaggs) that promotes reverse snobbery? Is there really something morally wrong with having a better lifestyle than your parents had?

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Unread 03-04-2011, 10:42 PM   #2
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Default Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action...article=020755
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Unread 03-04-2011, 11:38 PM   #3
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Default Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

Excellent article.

The crab mentality, as I understand it, also occurs in people from the inner city. The ones who want to improve their situation by education and hard work are called "sellouts," etc. The message given is "Never do better than I do."

Tying together both the country music of the rural South and the racial tension of the inner city: Charley Pride, my personal favorite country music singer of all time, says his success brought him more criticism from fellow blacks than from whites. Initially there were some white men who thought, "Hey, that black man is up on that stage singing love songs to OUR women," and didn't like it when the women responded positively. But they are the exception. Most whites in the country music industry and audience accept and even love him, but blacks have accused him of being a traitor to his race, because he was successful. Especially since he became successful by singing "white" music to white audiences in a voice that is his own but "sounds white."

President Obama has commented on the "slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." I think it's the same principle as saying a person from the rural South is "gittin' all uppity" simply for not being poor and uneducated anymore.
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Unread 03-05-2011, 05:09 AM   #4
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Heart Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

I can understand a little why people say that. My father never said it, but I could always see it in his face. He came from the rural South too. After WWII, his job took him all over the country until he finally settled here. He bought what he considered his "dream home." Over the years, bigger homes were built around us. We were teased for living in a wooden shack, but my father maintained his pride and continued to call this a GOOD house. My parents did the very best they could to stay up-to-date, keep up with the Joneses, stay in fashion, or whatever it is people are expected to do for appearance sake. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to have any friends over because their homes were always much more fun than mine. My house had no real privacy, and the walls are thin.

When I bought the house after my father died, I had plans to really make this house a nice home. It never happened. Instead, the shack continued to deteriorate. My water pipes freeze in the winter, the insulation was eaten away by mice years ago, and the electrical circuitry is just as bad. We only have one bathroom, which doesn't always work.

When people come to visit me, they joke about "slumming." I don't appreciate having my home and neighborhood called a "slum." I don't appreciate it when people criticize my husband for not doing a better job a providing for me. It's not HIS fault, and it's not MY fault we are poor.

My son is in college now, and doing well. After his last visit with his biological father, he went on and on about the beautiful life in California. He can't wait to get out of here, so that he can live in a big beautiful house, have a big beautiful car, a big beautiful boat, and a big beautiful motorcycle.

Yes, that is very nice, he can do whatever he wants - but it hurts to see such hatred for our home and city. I don't like being poor, and I didn't raise him to be so materialistic. That's not what hurts though. He acts like he knows more about life than I do. He appears disgusted to be in my home, as if he's only biding his time until he can get away to live the "good life" with all his fancy toys. He believes people who own expensive items are somehow BETTER than people like me and my husband - why is that? Are we all Kings and Queens now - nothing but the best for us?

It hurts me because I'm dying - but big homes, big cars, and fancy new things have become more important to my son than his own family. Society has taught him to look down upon his parents (my husband and I) and his home. I'm not jealous or envious. It just hurts to know all those fancy things have made him want to move so far away from home. If I'm still alive when he makes his move, I'll most likely never see him again.
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Unread 03-05-2011, 05:31 AM   #5
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Default Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

Well, Kathy, I would also be the first one to gripe about the word "worth," when used as "The tycoon is worth an estimated X million dollars." No. He *HAS* X million dollars. He is *WORTH* the same as any other human being, no more and no less.

I'm sorry your son is looking down on you. It is wrong for him to think himself "better" than someone else, because he is more financially well-off.

I am not rich. My husband and I live in a single-wide mobile home, and our car is a five-year-old Ford Taurus we bought used from our pastor. But do you know, there are some in my family who will accuse me of the same materialism your son is displaying, because their cars are beat-up thirty-year-old clunkers. My husband has had the same career for over 25 years, while most of my family hops from one minimum wage job to the next. So they *think* of him as rich, especially when he can provide something for me (like adequate medical care) that my parents never did. And when my husband and I honeymooned in Hawaii--I actually felt guilty about it, because nobody else in my family had ever been there.

One more thing--somehow my parents always had enough to buy their beer and cigarettes, but school clothes were a luxury they couldn't afford. My clothes were hand-me-downs from a great-aunt. Imagine wearing old-lady clothes to school when you're 12! I was a very unpopular kid. Similarly, we were only allowed to bathe once a week because my parents wanted to save money on soap, shampoo, and other grooming necessities. My father once criticized my brother for not being satisfied with this. "He doesn't like anything unless it's brand new, the latest style, and costs a bundle." No, he just didn't want to go to school looking like a dork, and have the other kids making fun of him, that's all. My father had grown up in dirt poverty and felt as a matter of principle that we should not have anything he himself didn't have growing up.

The mentality I am criticizing is that of, "If I can't have it, then neither should you." I don't see you criticizing your son for being financially better off--only for looking down on you, because you're not.
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Unread 03-05-2011, 05:52 AM   #6
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Default Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

Interesting topic, Lovebirds. My maternal relatives were not motivated people, with low goals for themselves and their family. But my paternal relatives are more educated and are more interesting people. My mother is the only person in her family who graduated (or even attended) college. In the past year I have attended two funerals of deaths of each side of the family. The way in which the people interacted was so different depending on which side of the family they were related to. It is sad really.
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Unread 03-05-2011, 06:03 AM   #7
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Default Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

Interesting topic, I think there is point to made here. I see nothing wrong with letting your talents take you as far in life as you want to go. At the same time it is a sin to try to forget where you came from and to look down upon your past.

I came from a poor family myself, but because of the values of hard work, persistance, and watching every dollar spent, I have become a successful individual. Not wealthy by any means, but I make a comfortable living. I still am proud of my folks though, and treat them with the uptmost respect even if they do not have my education or material success. I learned long ago, that just having "things" does not make one happy, but who you are on the inside that really counts.
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Unread 03-05-2011, 06:50 AM   #8
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Default Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

One thing that interests me is that my family seems to expect everyone to live as if they are very poor, even when they are not. I remarked to my hubby, while scrubbing the stove burners one day, that some of my relatives would [defecate] bricks if they saw me using a steel wool pad ONCE, and then throwing it away. Hubby, who comes from a middle-class family, looked puzzled. "That's what you're *supposed* to do." But no, in my family's house a used steel wool pad would be sitting behind the faucet on the kitchen sink, to be re-used as many times as possible until it crumbles in rust. Mop up a spill with a paper towel? The horror! Use a rag! I have relatives who boast about buying all of their clothes at thrift stores; it's almost like they're having a contest to see who is the most tight-fisted cheapskate. (The term "reverse snobbery" comes to mind.) If I buy something at even so "upscale" a place as Wal-Mart, I'm looked at askance. Why? Because I bought it (shudder) new! How wasteful of me!

There was no virtue in making myself a winter coat from scratch, stitching it by hand because it was too thick for a machine. The materials cost me a good $50, and I could have bought a coat at the Salvation Army for half that. Never mind that thrift stores don't usually carry much in the way of plus sizes. I should settle for something that *almost* fits; just squeeze into it. And so what if my socks don't match? They keep my feet warm, and that's what socks are for. (Again, I was a very unpopular kid at school, looking like that. )

Much of this kind of thinking came from my grandmother, who raised me for part of my childhood. She was a product of the Great Depression, which instills a whole new dimension of thrift. She has canned goods sitting in her kitchen that are rusted and years old, but she won't throw them away because "I might get snowed in." She lives in suburban Louisville, Kentucky, where that isn't going to happen long enough for her to have to live on her rusted canned goods, but she had grown up in rural Appalachia, where being cut off from the world for an entire winter had been a real possibility. So she's trained to think that way.

And once, when my umbrella blew apart in the wind, I threw it in the garbage. The next day I found it back in my room, patched together with black electrical tape, like I was really going to carry that thing to school. An umbrella cost maybe $5 at the dollar store, but no.... why spend money when you don't have to?
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Unread 03-05-2011, 06:51 AM   #9
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Default Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

The tone of this thread has gotten quite intense. I have learned some things.

My parents expected a lot of me and my siblings. Use your god-given talents, we were told. We also were taught a work ethic that helped us later on (My Dad often reminded me even as an adult I had never worked a day in my life.). Working to better ourselves was encouraged.

I saw how hard my parents worked. I certainly have not looked down on them for being honest, hardworking people. In fact, I was proud of them in that regard.

Kathy, have you talked to your son about what you have told us? If not, I hope you do. You raised him to show respect, empathy and compassion, I expect. He simply may need to be told how his talk is bothering you?

It is not up to me to tell others how to live, even if I do not understand the logic.
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Unread 03-05-2011, 06:53 AM   #10
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Heart Re: "Don't get above your raisin'."

Quote:
Originally Posted by LovebirdsFlying View Post
I'm sorry your son is looking down on you. It is wrong for him to think himself "better" than someone else, because he is more financially well-off.


My son doesn't feel he is better than me or my husband, I just hear him repeating the same old rhetoric about Chicago and the South Side. He's bought into the idea that this is supposedly a horrible place to live - a city of gangsters and trash. He doesn't realize there are hustlers and schemers everywhere. He doesn't realize a fancy new car, home or fat wallet will NOT guarantee happiness.

When I say "look down," I'm referring to the lectures he feels entitled to give me. He'll take a class on nutrition and talk to a few experts, then tell ME what I'm supposed to eat - based on the class he took. That's fine - but don't tell ME what to put in my stomach because his professor does NOT know ME or my stomach. I may not have a degree in nutrition, but I have over 50 years of experience with food - and I come from a long line of eaters and cooks, lol. I've seen many trends/diets/nutritional advice come and go. I've never had a problem with weight or poor nutrition - thanks to me and the nutrition I provided him, neither has he. STILL, because I have no college degree or other official form of credentials, I'm never taken seriously by anyone.

What I don't understand is all the jealously, like you are experiencing. When my son comes home with a fancy new phone or gadget with all the bells and whistles, I secretly roll my eyes. I do so because all I see are all the things that will probably go wrong. The more complicated the item, the harder it is to fix. Once a person becomes accustomed to having only the best of something, it only makes it that much harder to do without.

A dear friend of mine just bought his big beautiful luxurious dream home. I'm blown away by the photos and his description of the home - it sounds like paradise. It is something he has talked about and dreamed about for as long as I've known him. Am I jealous of him? HELL NO!!! I'm thrilled for him!

Just think of how much better friends and family members would get along if we weren't so jealous of each other. It would be nice if we viewed and valued each others "ladders to success" in a more equal and respectful way. Maybe then we wouldn't all be fighting to climb the same ladder.
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