What does it mean to ask “Did you forget where you came from?”

Posted on October 18, 2014 by

In August of 2009  (a little over 5 years ago) I moved from my hometown ( Fall River, Massachusetts ) to Pullman, Washington to pursue a graduate degree in Philosophy. Every time I have returned I heard one person or other say something along these lines; “You didn’t forget where you came from, did you?”, or, “Don’t forget where you come from, brother”. So, very briefly, I’d like to think about this question and analyze it a bit to try to get a better understanding as to what people mean when they ask it and, maybe, why they ask it. I’m hoping to get some feedback from all of you to try to shed some light on this for me.

What does it mean to say; Did you forget where you came from? When someone makes this sort of comment I take it as a comment regarding my character. What they are really asking is whether or not I still enjoy the same sorts of things, and/or, if I can still enjoy the same sorts of company I did when I lived there. They couldn’t mean the question literally, could they? Obviously, I come from Fall River, Massachusetts, who could forget that? Maybe what is really being asked is “given that you have left this poverty-stricken and crime heavy environment do you think you are now too good to enjoy some time here?” (Fall River was recently ranked the 42nd most dangerous city in the US, see here). I’m sure different people mean different things by the question but I can’t help but wonder what the hell any one person may mean when they ask.

Any thoughts?