Transitioning into the ‘hood from another lifestyle would be quite the culture shock. Not everyone is capable of swimming against the low-income current. The resources are limited and the quality of life is sub-par. You’d have to step up to a steep learning curve right away. And they don’t exactly teach “How to Stay Afloat Amidst Ghetto Ignorance and Poverty-fueled Crime” classes. So, I’ll illustrate a basic portrait of inner-city living for the unenlightened. Surprisingly, it’s not all bad, but you’ll need to bear with me.
First off, it’s over-populated. Pregnancy looks good to a lot of women since government-funded programs such as Child Support and Welfare provide income for qualifying families. More children means more money. So, children are simply a means to an end in a lot of circumstances. And it becomes a cycle of dependency as these children grow into misguided youths and exhibit lazy preventive measures in their sexual endeavors knowing the government will pick up the tab. Consequently, child birth rates soar.
As for the fathers, they are rare gems in the ‘hood. The typical household here is a mother and her children. The man’s role as a provider is extremely strenuous in low-income situations. A large portion of men crumble under the financial pressure. Others just grow apart from their women having had children before they were aware of who they were and what they really wanted. Unfortunately, these conditions make men recurring images instead of lasting influences in ghetto children’s lives.
Then, there’s the chaotic, fleeting social life. Slang is the first language and it varies depending on your location. Everybody has an attitude problem. Greeting someone wrong could potentially generate a gang fight. Staring at someone too long during a stroll through the neighborhood is more than enough reason for a vicious beat down. A visit to the corner store can land you in the middle of an armed robbery. So could a late-night train ride sporting the latest Smartphone or Jordan’s. Hit-and-runs are commonplace. Shootouts even more. One afternoon you’re discussing the weather with a stranger while waiting for the bus, then, the next day, there’s a memorial set up just outside their building. Candles, wreaths, flowers, and enlarged headshots adorn the front stoop.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “that’s horrible”, you’re right. It’s quite an edgy existence. Although these rappers might embellish their personas, they don’t lie about the overall ‘hood temperament. It’s all just a part of inner-city culture.
Still, amazingly, there are upsides to living in such impoverished circumstances: the mental toughness and ingenuity required for survival can be a potent tool for success. The reality is a large chunk of your friends and family will pass away or land behind bars chasing the American Dream. It’s practically a rite of passage suffering hardship and loss. But, it thickens the skin. You grow numb to situations that would normally cripple someone from privilege. In order to make it these days, you need to be strong in the face of adversity. Few places develop inner-strength and resilience like ‘the hood.
Then, there’s the craftiness of managing with little to no help, little to no income. Therefore, the person most skilled in maximizing a dollar reaches a taller rung on the success ladder. This is a basic survival tool for poverty-stricken families. But, you’d be surprised how many people fail to embrace the fundamentals. Instead of practicing frugality, fools spend their hard-earned money on short-lived moments in nightclubs and insignificant objects like jewelry. The Y.O.L.O. (You Only Live Once) mentality plays a big part in people’s negligence toward their own future. Since the surroundings breed such a violent and reckless tempo, most people feel they might not see the next morning. It doesn’t make sense to postpone living in that case. But, the responsible individual knows better than to waste a low income on junk. Rather, they discipline themselves into making investments that’ll pay off in the long run. It’s all about building towards the bigger picture, the greater goal.
And with nowhere to turn for a helping hand, you develop an independent and creative spirit. Your achievements rest solely on your shoulders. That can be a great thing once you embrace the notion. You’re free to think outside the box and execute the appropriate escape plan. It’s truly liberating.
Those who have persevered through the storm of financial struggle and personal tragedy have found themselves better off once the sun rose. Examples of people who pulled themselves from the quicksand of low-income living is extensive and inspiring.
50 Cent, Charlie Chaplin, Chris Gardner, Daniel Craig, Ella Fitzgerald, Eminem, Halle Berry, Harry Houdini, Howard Schultz, J.K. Rowling, Jay-Z, Jewel, Jim Carrey, Mariah Carey, Mark Wahlberg, and Oprah Winfrey each catapulted far from the crab barrel that is poverty. By effectively using the limited tools at their disposal, they molded themselves into super successful figures. And although their trades may differ greatly, they share the same character traits as so many others from similar walks of life – that tough skin and alchemist mentality of morphing a little bit into a whole lot.
Perhaps we’re better off than we even realize.