Dear Minorities, Use Racism As Motivation For Achieving Financial Independence

Beach at Golden Gate BridgeWhen I was a kid, I used to be very combative when it came to fighting racism. Part of the reason had to do with attending international schools in Asia growing up. Kids from all over the world can get pretty nasty towards each other along racial lines. I took up martial arts and learned debilitating hits to cripple my opponents in a fight if necessary. It’s just in my personality to stick up for myself and others, even if it means going to the hospital.

It’s easy to dismiss racism as no big deal if you’re not a minority. Behind closed door comments from Clipper’s owner Don Sterling are always hurtful, but not a surprise. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Or perhaps Don was just saying things as any jealous man would to an attractive woman 50 years his junior. When a $1.8 million condo and $500,000 in automobile gifts isn’t enough, I guess some spiteful things start coming out. Whatever the case may be, we know people all over who act one way, but think another way in private.

If you are a minority, you are well aware of every slight, perceived or otherwise, that comes your way. It happens at work, or in the grocery store, or on an airplane, or when you’re standing in line minding your own business. Over time you become inured to the insults, but the pain really never goes away. It just gets buried.

Now that I’m an adult who has gone through the system to reach financial independence, I’m slightly less sensitive to perceived injustices because people stop pissing me off as much. I don’t have to kiss someone’s ass to get ahead, nor do I have to sacrifice any shred of dignity to make more money. I’ve really got nothing to complain about, so I don’t.

But my new life as a blogger has reawakened my combative side, especially when you hear extremely racist comments from very famous or powerful individuals. Can you imagine being one of the many black employees of the Clippers organization? I’d probably just get up and quit, because there’s no way I’d work for someone who feels that way about my race. Money be damned.

I do believe words have the power to affect positive change and raise awareness regarding issues. As a result, I feel it’s my duty to speak out against wrinkles in the system with my existing platform. Apathy be damned.

In this post I’d like to share some perspective as an Asian minority living in America. Racism was a big reason why I decided to save so much and aggressively work on my passive income streams to achieve financial independence. The desire to have absolute choice and be beholden to no one was and still is a huge motivating factor. Perhaps readers in the end will share their motivations as well.

EXAMPLES OF RACISM THAT PROVIDED MAX MOTIVATION

My first experience with racism started in the 4th grade at Taipei American School. We aways had an “Americans” vs. “Chinese” soccer game during recess. The problem was I was American, but of Asian ethnicity. “Americans” was really code word for white, which included my white European classmates. Such a travesty to cultivate a divide so early on.

Even though we were in Taiwan, Asians were called derogatory names on the pitch by non-Asians at Taipei American School all the time. There was a fight every single week. One time I was tripped by a white German kid who proceeded to then stand over me and taunt me with racial slurs. I swept his legs from underneath him, stomped my heel into his solarplex and he laughed no longer. We both had to face the wall during the next recess.

Another time in the 7th grade at the International School Of Kuala Lumpur, I was minding my own business shooting hoops during recess when a white kid proceeded to pick up my ball, punt it across the outdoor court for no reason and yell racist remarks. I furiously told him to get the ball, and when he refused I punched his eardrum with an open hand. He went to the nurse’s office because he lost his hearing due to a burst eardrum. He later apologized as did I.

I was able to fight back as a kid because all of us were more or less the same size. Starting in high school, it got much harder to fight back because I stopped growing but the bullies kept getting larger and larger. Some even brought knives to school. But even with a size differential, I still fought back and got suspended for a couple days after getting into a fight with this one fella three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.

When I was working my first craptastic job in high school at McDonald’s, my Latino colleagues and I were constantly berated by a white manager for speaking Spanish. I was in my fourth year of taking Spanish and would practice all I could with native speakers while I made those quarter pounders. “Go to the back where you belong and shut up!” he’d yell at us. Such verbal abuse for $4.25 an hour just wasn’t worth it.

During college in the south, I was having a midnight snack with my girlfriend at Denny’s, of all places, when four white offensive linemen came in mid-meal and sat in the booth next to us. They told us to “Get the f*ck out of here you #@$@#!” or else they’d beat me and my girlfriend up. My girlfriend was half white, half Asian and absolutely beautiful. She grew up in Abingdon, Virginia and told me she experienced racial hate as well when the KKK would incessantly send her family white supremacist propaganda. There was nothing my girlfriend and I could do that evening, so we left.

At work one time, I remember several of my colleagues make fun of a female managing director’s voice after a conference call because she was of Indian decent. They kept ripping on her accent and bobbing their heads side to side, laughing. None of them had ever been to India before and none of them were as senior in title. It was extremely frustrating to witness such disrespect to a colleague, especially since they acted all cordial towards her in person when she came to visit. But what was I supposed to do? Raise a fuss on a Wall Street trading floor and get targeted every time I’d walk into the office? I told one of the mockers to take his next trip to Asia to gain some perspective. He didn’t like that.

My grandfather and father told me about the racism they endured while serving in the US military in World War II, Vietnam, and the US foreign service. What kind of crock of shit is that to get disrespected while serving your country due to race?  I’m sure it would have hurt them to hear how I got made fun of or bullied due to our race growing up. So instead, I fought back and kept quiet.

Experiencing racial discrimination is the worst because our ethnicity is what we are born with. We can’t work out to get stronger. We can’t train harder to get faster. We can’t study more to get smarter. We are proud of our heritage, but when somebody is pointing a gun to your face it’s best to back down and live to fight another day.

“WORK TWICE AS HARD TO GET HALF AS MUCH”

I remember one teacher tell me that racism is just the way things are. He said, “Get used to it. Work twice as hard to get half as much, and you’ll be fine.” I carried this spirit with me all throughout college, but some time around the age of 30 I forgot the saying because I was doing OK. The world had seemingly changed for the better, and living in a minority majority city like San Francisco made me believe that everybody could live in racial harmony. But then crap like Don Sterling happens, and every single incident gets relived again.

The main way my Asian peers and I knew how to compete was through academics. There was no Americans vs. Chinese in academics. There was no physical competition either, except for the ability to make your brain focus for extended periods of time. Academics was a level playing field where we strongly believed that if we tried our best, there would be a positive reward in the end. Academics was the main way towards eventual freedom.

Every time we felt like not studying, we’d remind each other of any and all racial putdowns in order to keep on going. We were keenly aware of the lack of Asian role models in the media, in politics, in sports, or in leadership positions at large corporations. We had to blaze our own trail because we couldn’t rely on anybody like us to hook us up. Things are slowly becoming more diverse, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Immigrants come to America for more opportunities. I firmly believe the reason why there are so many immigrant success stories is because they have so much perspective. They’ve seen great poverty, extreme nepotism, and dilapidated infrastructures that rob them of progress. As a result, they’re less likely to take their new opportunities for granted. I hope more people can travel internationally and learn to speak more languages.

Even though it might sound unfair that one must “work twice as hard to get half as much,” it’s a much better alternative than complaining or having no opportunities at all. Heck, let me work 4X as much to get an equal amount as others so that my kids can have a better chance. I’m just happy that I have a chance.

THERE IS NO SAFETY NET

There is a continuous level of anxiety in Asian cultures that we must amass wealth because we can’t count on anybody to take care of us — not the government, nor our employers. Only our family will be there to help us through the tough times.

The savings rate in China, India, and Japan are over 25% compared to the average savings rate in America of 5%. Such savings rates carry over to Asian American immigrants as well because money is our safety net. I personally saved over 50% of my after-tax income for 13 years after college partly because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to last in my finance job for the rest of my life.

I was a minority working for a minority product in a satellite office. My career was capped. Was it sad to think that being a Director (one level above VP and one level below MD) was as high as I could go? Sort of. But I got over it, like I get over so many realities in life. I could have tried to relocate to Hong Kong, New York, or London to battle for ascension, but I decided I had enough. Entrepreneurship is a better way to test your mettle.

If you’ve ever been discriminated against based on your race, sex, age, religion or the way you look, just know that you’re better than they think you are. Plenty of people get slapped around every day. You can either take the insults lying down, or you can get up and get motivated to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.

And here’s a message to all races: Aggressively save a good portion of your income every year. Continuously learn about retirement strategies and tell yourself that nobody is going to save you when you can no longer work. Sooner or later you will achieve financial freedom. And the next time somebody insults you, you can laugh it off and give them a $10 bill to buy a book on respect.

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Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. andy says

    Agreed, I never see asians broke.. they act broke but they have money. Middle east immigrants also have a great financial stability. Its their culture and religion to stay away from debts iguess nothing that pays interest.

    I am hispanic btw

  2. says

    I would like to think that it doesn’t take a generation to die off to change negative attitudes about Race/Gender/Religion. I think the more each person as an individual talks to and interacts with people outside of their own race/religion these attitudes in the individual will change. I’ve met extremely bigoted people from teenagers to senior citizens, so I think aside from a generational issue, it has to do with individual choices and behaviors. I like to think that we are all capable of changing the way we think and treat others on a personal level, even someone so ingrained in negativity as Sterling is, I think he is still capable of change.

    I hope that over time more westerners will adopt some staples of Asian culture. I would love to see the savings rate in our country as a whole increase to above 10%.

    • says

      I wonder though, if the US savings rate suddenly went to 10% from 5% whether our economy would CRASH given that would be a serious slowdown in spending. Perhaps if the savings rate was increased by 1% a year for 5 years or 10 years, that would work. But we’ve got to do it slowly.

  3. tri says

    as an asian i experience racial the same discrimination like you do.
    on my last job with a public university, i work as a programmer/analyst. the boss who hire me retire so they transfer me to a new boss. he is american of mexican descent. every day he would come to work and talk to another american of mexican descent about things like:
    1. asian don’t know how to drive
    2. most of asian live on welfare & food stamps
    3. 20 of them will live in the same house
    i complain to the equal opportunity office one time and they choose to do nothing. so i retire from the university a few months ago at age 50 due to this kind of discrimimation.
    hawaii is the only us state where i can walk around and not being called names and so i always want to move to hawaii. the only problem is honolulu is just too expensive for me to live on a public servant’s retirement income.

  4. says

    It is hard to understand racism and discrimination if you’ve never been targeted before. I’ve experienced it several times both directed at myself and towards my friends I was with and it’s a terrible feeling. A lot of it comes from lack of perspective as you said (ex. lack of traveling), lack of sensitivity, and upbringing.

    I felt discriminated in my career when I was making less money than my male counterparts and got passed over on a promotion. It definitely gave me a lot of motivation to prove they were wrong and to speak out for what I deserved. It took patience and persistence, but I got to where I wanted and they felt really bad for how they treated me.

  5. says

    I think Amy Chua “tiger mom” mentioned this as one of the reasons why certain minority groups are successful. I’m sure your views are more rational though…she can be a little extreme. In any case, thanks for sharing your story. I’m can empathize my fellow Asian brother! haha. I haven’t really dealt with much of it at work since I work in government and there are generally more minorities there. My sister who works in the finance field in the city probably deals with it more from the meat heads who work there who question when her parents will arrange her marriage or when she came to this country (we’re ABCs) among other comments… Glad you went off and did your own thing. While working hard to prove those racists wrong will often help you succeed…too often, those glass ceilings and hostile environment makes it tough still.

    • says

      Interesting that there are more minorities in gov’t. Any idea why this is? You would think the government would hire people very representative of the US population, hence Asians would be the minority.

      • sab says

        If my own extended family is any indication, it has to do with the stability involved. Once you’re in, it’s hard to be ousted.

      • JayCeezy says

        Affirmative Action. Managers are evaluated in part on their demonstrated “commitment to diversity” by hiring protected minorities. There is a floor, but not a ceiling, on that percentage. So even if the goal is 20% of XX and 50% of the department is XX, there is still incentive to hire XX over an unprotected category of individual. Most common in the non-technical service government entities like USPS and DMV.

        Government entities don’t exist to make a profit or compete in a marketplace.

        • says

          I work for a company that does heavy highway road construction, mainly DOT jobs in various states. We’re required to report each month on our % of minority and female workers on each DOT job. The minority % varies by county, and I think is supposed to match the local population. Female % seems to always be set at 6.9%. We hire through the union halls, but we can’t request someone with experience running a mill, or grader, or breaker, but instead must always ask if they have any minority or female workers available. If they don’t, there’s paperwork that has to be filled out, proving we made the request. We’re always subcontractors on jobs; the higher our minority and female %, the better overall % the prime contractor has. If we consistently can’t meet the goals, and can’t prove we are attempting to do so, we won’t be able to get jobs.

          As a woman, the whole thing kind of offends me. There are very few women in unions to begin with, and even fewer working in heavy highway construction. To me, that’s understandable. Yes, it can pay well. But it’s hard, physically demanding, and inconsistent work. You may work 3 months one year, 9 months the next. Some years you make $20,000, some years $80,000+. You end up being on jobs not because you’re a valuable employee, or a good worker, but to fill a quota. We’ve only managed to find 2 women to work in the field for us. One is an excellent worker. The other I’m told is terrible, lazy, and everyone hates working with her. But we keep her, because we need to make a quota. She has a job for no other reason than that she’s female. As a woman, I find that insulting. Maybe I’m too proud, but I want to be valued equally for what I do, not valued only for being female.

          • says

            Fascinating insights on DOT jobs Cindy. Didn’t realize it was THAT specific on the percentage requirements for minorities and women. Affirmative action is a huge debate. On the one hand, if you don’t make restrictions, you can easily see an office become extremely homogenous as they hire everybody who looks, talks, walks, and learned like them. On the other hand, you get upset folks who think this is unfair.

            Everything is unfair b/c nobody starts with the same set of gifts. We just have to recognize this fact and do the best we can with what we have and what is allowed.

            • says

              It’s a tough issue, and I definitely don’t know how to solve it. I don’t want being a woman to hold me back in my career; I want to be considered equally with men of equal experience, skill sets, education, etc. But I also don’t want to be hired based solely on the fact that I’m a woman, regardless of my qualifications.

              I also find it weird that their only concern is with the people doing the actual labor out in the field. The more consistent, higher paying positions? All of the decision makers, estimators, supervisors, etc. at our company are all white males. And the “office staff”? All white females. It’s like an unspoken rule in the industry. I was talking to a co-worker once about applying for an open position, and was met with the comment “But you don’t even golf”. Mind you, the position had nothing to do with golfing. And I met the qualifications. So, I applied. Wasn’t even considered.

  6. says

    I work with a largely Asian population who all have the same viewpoints in terms of work ethic and saving money. It’s inspiring to watch.

    As a woman in a male dominated office, I am constantly feeling the pull of sexism. I was asked to get coffee the other day and to pick out table linens for a party. And that certainly isn’t my job. Blatant sexism is definitely part of the reason why I am leaving my job in June. Work harder. Get a percentage of the pay. But keep working.

    • says

      Get coffee? Who does the person asking think she is? Perhaps you could take a bathroom break pitstop in between? :)

      If you’re leaving in June…. try to get laid off, not quit please!

  7. Y. Isabel says

    There are lots of Asians (my dad and sisters) who are interested in keeping up with appearances as well. Buying new cars when they cannot afford it and treating friends out when their mortgage is in trouble. It all depends on the person. On the other hand, cash gives me more choices and freedoms and I want to keep it that way.

    I’ve also been subjected to prejudice/racism. I was always the last one picked in gym class. Even the bigger girls who did nothing got picked before me. On the other hand, I was always picked first for those jeopardy games. I laugh about it now really. As a minority, of course there were some racial slurs being passed around as well. However, I rub it off now since “where are those people who were so downright nasty right now?” In the end, everything sorts itself out sooner or later and people usually reap what they sow.

    • says

      For sure there are examples of everything. And I certainly don’t speak for all Asians as there are plenty of different types of Asians. I’m just sharing my viewpoint and encouragement for anybody who has been slighted to get use the negativity as motivation.

  8. says

    I don’t think I’ve ever been discouraged by gender inequality but can say that women who run businesses generally have to work twice as hard. At least in my profession there is some element of the good ole boy network, but it seems to be lessening with time. If you’re tough, you’re a bitch and if your soft, your probably PMS’ing. It’s hard to find the right balance.

    I do see horrible attitudes toward the large Native American population in our area and many of them certainly use the excuse of “the man” always getting them down. I try to tell as many who will listen that the biggest FU you can give the man is to be successful.

    • says

      I don’t understand how anybody can be racist against Native Americans when we plundered their land and people. But, I’m sure there are case by case situations we don’t know of.

  9. Paul S. says

    In my Air Force Tech School class, I was one of two white guys, the rest were black. The other white guy was a staff seargent who was retraining so they weren’t going to mess with him. It was mostly good natured ribbing I got from my black classmates but even that made me feel isolated and it didn’t take much to extrapolate how I’d feel if it were mean spirited or hateful. I didn’t grow up racist so I’m not going to say that it changed me, but it was an experience that I think more white people could benefit from.

    • says

      Yes… that “good natured ribbing” is rooted in something deeper. And if it continues endlessly, then that’s when relationships get strained. It’s easy to be part of the big group and tease the small group. There is comfort and safety in numbers.

  10. Jay says

    Sam, where you are from originally?

    Racism existed when one race thinks they are more superior than other races, and stereotyping. Or the citizen of one country thinks they are better, because their country is ‘better’ than the others.

    Like you said, a lot of immigrants to this country use it as the motivation to gain financial independence.
    Dave Ramsey said on his radio show that immigrants are more likely to become millionaire in this country than local.

  11. B says

    I feel ashamed when I hear about other human beings experiencing racism. I often forget that people have these biases – they seem so irrelevant to our generation – but the Donald Sterling comments do trigger a lot of anger for a lot of people. I experienced a little bit of “racism” when I worked in Japan for a year – it is fairly xenophobic country. I think one key difference is the impact of America’s soft power – people all over the world want to attend our colleges and watch our movies, so I don’t think Caucasian Americans will ever really understand what it means to walk in another’s shoes. You make a good point about racism – I think people who experience challenges such as racism have two choices: to be overcome with discouragement or to be motivated by a sense of injustice and persevere.

    • says

      I always get interesting feedback from those who’ve worked in Japan. I used to live in Kobe for a couple years as a kid and LOVED it. I also went to Shigakogen for skiing in HS and also loved it. I donno… haven’t experienced any racism there yet. But, my mainland Chinese friend says he always gets discriminated against.

      Mainland China and Japan have tense relationship.

  12. G says

    I am truly a minority, being a Malaysian of Indian descent in the US. I don’t fit into the Indian Community (those from India) nor I fit the American culture since I am an immigrant. I am a single mother which further narrows my ‘social’ inklings. I bought a house and moved in to a neighbourhood filled with Asians (Non Indian) since I am used to living with other nationalities coming from Malaysia. Recently I felt the stub of racial slur from my neighbours – one of the mothers (Vietnamese) told her daughter not to play with my kids as the mother (me) is a bad influence. My heart just sank. I am a professional who have saved up enough to get my kids through college, have a home in bay area, have an au pair, living a comfortable decent life and she who is a nail artist in a salon calls me a bad influence. I felt it is ridiculous that she is trying to influence her daughters at this early age ( 8 years old) and I am confused. My au pair is also from Vietnam and she has her own opinions too. I just cannot believe things I hear in this day and age. You tell me Sam, should I confront her? Damm woman cant even speak a work of proper English and would not even understand me!

    • Mike Hunt says

      Hi G,

      Sorry to hear about your situation. The irony is that there are so many Vietnamese foreign workers in Malaysia, and a lot are looked down upon by your fellow countrymen.

      It’s probably just a misunderstanding on her part. If you want to investigate it further, as your Au pair to assist. If not just let it go. Everyone is facing their own demons and misunderstandings are common.

      -Mike

      • G says

        You are right Mike – Malaysia is no better and that is why I migrated here. Yes any foreigner there is treated badly (sadly!). I am letting this go as I understand it is a misunderstanding and I cannot change a person’s opinion. All I can do on my part is be patient. Thank you for listening :-)

    • says

      That’s a tough spot to be in. But, on the bright side, you have a family who loves you :)

      The other mother thing is a demonstration of her low class. I would speak to her directly and tell her how you feel. Don’t keep it bottled inside.

  13. Mike says

    Hi,

    I can so identify with your story. I was an only asian kid in a school in eastern Canada.
    Tough experience.

    Today even though I have a blue collar job, I am a millionaire on paper.

    I think some of those I went to school with did not do so well. They had more material wealth than my family did when I was young.

    The is racism everywhere in the world, ignorance is the bane of human existance.

  14. says

    People of all races need to find a way to realize that we’re all part of the same race…the human race. I appreciate your perspective and it’s interesting to see some of the things that have happened and how they shape you.

    One thing I’d like to point out is that racism occurs with all races. You didn’t put this out there, but I know many people seem to think that racism originates from white people only. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In Detroit, just miles from where I live, there was a situation a few weeks ago where a white person was driving his truck home from work. A kid, who happened to be black, ran out in front his truck. The truck hit the kid. Many witnesses agreed that there was nothing that he could have done, the kid ran out without looking.

    People ran out to see if the kid was OK (he turned out to be OK), and the man immediately got out of his truck to also check. A few black people from nearby homes came out, started calling him names associated with the fact that he was white, and started beating him up. They beat him and kicked him to unconsciousness, and it was only the courageousness of a woman who stepped in and made them stop that he survived. Several were charged with assult and the one that was the leader was even charged with a hate crime…because of racism. Was what they did any less awful than if a group of white men had beaten a black man?

    There are always going to be those that are seen as minorities, but what happens when they are no longer the minority? And what happens when, after becoming the ‘majority’ so to speak, they have the opportunity to either discriminate or not?

    Going back to Donald Sterling, he never took the time to open his eyes to a different way of thinking. His life is likely nearly at an end and he missed the opportunity to broaden his views just as he broadened his wealth. We all only get one chance at life to form our view of the world, and with his means, the options for him to see the world and everything that everybody had to offer was immense. And he blew it. What a waste that in the end, everything he worked for, will be meaningless. None of us can take anything material with us, so he will end up dying a very ‘poor’ man when he does. And all by his own choosing. How sad is that?

    • says

      You are very right about “reverse racism.” Sometimes I wonder whether it’s because one group is trying to get back at another group, and then the cycle NEVER ends.

      One of the best things to do is to play SPORTS. You realize very quickly that it’s all about team, and you love your teammates no matter who they are. You win and lose together, and that is what builds character and relationships.

  15. mysticaltyger says

    Great post, Sam. I would also add as a gay person, I was also motivated to save more because then I wouldn’t have to worry about being in the closet at work. I am a natural saver anyway, but my being gay added to the motivation. I was always shocked that other gay men don’t have the same mindset, but most don’t.

    • says

      Good perspective and I can completely see that situation unfold. Being in San Francisco is great due to the diversity. I’m working with a gay fella now who is a riot. But I think b/c he feels so free at work and open in SF, perhaps the sense of urgency is not that great. We’re in the marketing department. But if we were working in a different sector or department, perhaps the pressure would feel different.

      • mysticaltyger says

        I live in the SF Bay Area myself (not SF proper), so I get that this area is definitely more tolerant/accepting. But even if it wasn’t, I don’t think gays in more repressive areas save that much more, on the whole. Americans in general are just clueless about practicing good economic defense and gays are pretty much the same as American culture at large in that way. (And, for for better and worse, most other ways as well; which we’re always trying to point out to our more homophobic brethren)

  16. Nate says

    Great article!!! I have experienced racism of all kinds. I am hispanic, grew up in an Asian suburb, but look Italian. I am reasonably intelligent so people did not know what to think of me…being one of the only hispanics in college prep classes in hs. I was very confused growing up lol. I love the fact that you put a positive spin on this article. It seems as though a lot of racist mantra is cropping up these days and I like the fact that you address combating it through financial independence. Keep up the good work!

  17. JayCeezy says

    Racism exists. My question is, who does it hurt in the U.S. in 2014? Donald Sterling has ruined himself for the rest of his life. He didn’t pay anybody less, refuse to hire anybody, deny anybody anything based on race. He was having a fight with his girlfriend in what he thought was a private conversation, and what is not discussed about this crazy incident is that his girlfriend was also involved with Magic Johnson; Sterling’s “friends” would send him the girlfriend’s Instagram pictures and tease Sterling about sleeping with a woman who also sleeps with a guy who has AIDS. Those friends are mean, and Sterling is trying to stop their mean behavior; he can’t ask them to stop because it embarrasses him. He is a billionaire used to being in control, and here is was not in control of his relationship with his 50 year-younger girlfriend. He was trying to bully her, hurt her feelings and bring the situation back under his control. She certainly took action to bring the situation under her control, and she will get what she wants.

    Nobody has quit the Clippers organization in protest, and while the players and employees may have strong feelings, who would they be hurting by quitting? What would they do after quitting? They are making amazing money, and Sterling’s personality has nothing to do with their job on and off the court. Quite frankly, the person I feel sorriest for is Sterling’s wife of more than 60 years; she is the only one I would make a case for leaving, but I’m sure she has her reasons.

    Those experiences you, had in school, Sam, are mean behavior. The reason people do this kind of mean behavior is because they think they can get away with it. It may have some window-dressing with racial namecalling, but people pick on others they think won’t fight back. Whether they are smaller, or outnumbered, or culturally less inclined to violent response. The racism isn’t ignorance, especially in the U.S. in 2014. People know, just look at Sterling, Mel Gibson, Isaiah Washington, etc. They are just lashing out because they are narcissistic arrogant bullies, and the fastest way to call out a difference is in appearance (race, age, size, disability, gender, and all the way down to hairstyle, clothes, political party and socio-economic status). Even making fun of an accent is something that is universal; did you know that Eastern Asians make fun of the American accent? To them, it sounds like “arga barga bargggg” and that is the expression they use when joking about it when they are together and making fun of the “other.” There is a lot more to this kind of behavior, and people much smarter than me have written books on the subject, but mainly it is a social behavior marking “inclusion and identification” by excluding others. It happens in the animal kingdom, humans aren’t the only beings that can be mean.

    Personally, I think the football players threatened you because you were a tennis player. OK, that was a joke. But is it possible that you, Sam, got your Director promotion at such a young age because of your life experience in Asia, perhaps fluency in an Asian language, and are of Asian descent? Do you think if you went to the same school as your superior you would have made MD? What would your superior say to what you are implying? Do you feel you were racially discriminated against? Did you get paid half for doing twice the work? If so, why wouldn’t they hire everybody like you and quadruple the profit?

    Well, whatever motivation one uses to increase savings is their business. Like I said, racism does exist. But I do think a lot of what is described as “racism” is just plain meanness, and the real damage done in 2014 in the U.S. is to the racists, themselves.

    • says

      The experiences I shared were mean behaviors that were also racist due to the specific radials slurs that were directed my way.

      To answer your questions, everything is possible. Americans banks in America have more Americans ascend. European banks in America have more Europeans ascend. Asian banks in America have more Asians ascend. That’s just the way it is. Everybody has to deal with their own situations and decide what is best for them. If you don’t like your job, leave instead of complain, for example.

      • Josh says

        Complaining is fine as long as it’s followed through with action and leads to productive outcome. Workers rights via labor unions in early 20th century, civil rights movement all came about with enough people complaining against an unfair system.

  18. says

    I’ve never had to deal with racism (probably a bit of racism towards white people in South Africa) but I am a Bulgarian in Britain. Britain is a place where the locals manage to fit each other in neat ‘class’ boxes and than there is a large dark mass referrred to ‘foregners’. I am part of this dark mass.

    Never bothered me! I’ve used it – and continue to use it – all the time. I know the local cultural conventions very well (have been here decades and have English husband and sons). Still, I know that since no one expects me to know how to behave, I have incredible freedom to do what I want and achieve what I’m aiming at.

    Doesn’t get any better than that!

    • says

      I’ll be in London end of June and will report back any findings! I would have to imagine that London is as old school as it gets. But given the incredible diversity in London, like NYC, I would think there’s a lot of harmony. Glad you’ve never had to deal with racism!

  19. Michelle says

    A great article that I completely agree with.

    As a white female, I have really never encountered racism. I have encountered a great deal of sexism in my work place (IT for corporate, industrial and public offices), however. You and I both share the same spirit that motivates us to push against stereotypes and small minded people and show them that they are wrong and not just tell them.

    I’m 22 years old, and whenever I am assigned to a new contract, I take pride in slowly watching people (that are above, adjacent, and beneath my pay scale) change their attitude from “Oh, how cute! The little girl thinks she can IT” to “She’s a co-worker and a valued adviser”. In the last year I have gotten three promotions and went from working for $10/hr. to 22/hr., which is not at all bad for a 22 year old, living in the mid-west, and who only has an A.A.S. in business.

    Racism and sexism is just an excuse for people to place blame on others for not trying and the core problem with a blame game such as that is a lack of willpower, which is really the only reason people get/stay in debt, don’t achieve, and never see their dreams. The world we live in is one that tells us we can have everything now, and the cost doesn’t matter as long as you are happy now, like your happiness in years to come does not matter. Everything is now, now, now and free, free, free.

    I’m glad that there are like-minded people out there and thank you for sharing your wisdom as well as holding people accountable.

  20. Naz says

    Good for you approaching this topic. I am surprised that you addressed this topic since it can be a divisive issue alienating those not on the receiving end.

    • says

      I thought about whether this article would offend anybody before publishing. And I came to the conclusion that the only people this personal story would offend would be people who condone racism and discrimination, whom I wouldn’t want as readers anyway.

      • says

        That’s great, Sam. This brought back some not-so-nice memories for me, but you made it really inspiring. I enjoyed the read. I do think things are getting better, but sometimes I just think racism is less blatant. It’s still there, but it’s insidious, and that can be dangerous. Because where I come from, some people flat out don’t believe it’s still a problem.

  21. Sean F. says

    Amen.

    I’m the most ‘majority’ you can get – white male. Went to school where it was 85 percent African American. Not complaining and while there was discrimination, it was nothing compared to what any minority feels.

    I love this article. Most of my friends are of foreign decent and I’ve never understood hating people because of where they came.

    If you’re going to judge a person, do it based on their actions.

    Regardless I think everyone relates to this article because we’ve all been discriminated against for different reasons. (Reverse Agism (actually a thing here in Florida), size, race, accent, mental ability, etc.)

  22. says

    I grew up in a poor, mainly white, Irish-Catholic area. Little girls can be viscous; You couldn’t pay me enough to repeat grade school! They would search for anything that made you different, and then ruthlessly attack until they found a new target.

    I went to a Lutheran college out of state, which was definitely an interesting experience. Most everyone there was Christian, and I didn’t see a big difference with the Catholic church I was raised in (which was very Liberal, and not at all strict to the Catholic teachings). But I was definitely made aware that people weren’t fond of Catholics, and my Southern-Baptist friend often told me “If you’re going to tell people you’re Catholic, you should at least say you’re non-practicing”. Which I found odd, since she didn’t say she was “non-practicing Southern-Baptist”, nor did others identify as “non-practicing Lutheran”, regardless of whether or not they went to church.

    I’ve experienced a LOT of sexism in the workplace; It’s really hard to be a woman and be in a position of authority. It seems as a woman in management, I was always being accused of being a bitch, or too soft, or overly dramatic. I could fire an employee for a major violation, and still find myself having to defend against having a “personal problem” with the individual. My motivations were always in question, and I was always held to a different standard than my male peers. And yet, to this day, most of my ex-bosses still tell me what a wonderful manager I was, and how they’d love to have me back. Huh? I intentionally avoid any management type careers now, which is very limiting professionally.

    • says

      Very interesting feedback on religion. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t realize Christianity was so segregated.

      Sexism in the workplace is rampant. Imagine Wall St. culture.

      I added this portion into the post after the e-mail was sent and the post was published,

      “At work one time, I remember several of my colleagues make fun of a female managing director’s voice after a conference call because she was of Indian decent. They kept ripping on her accent and bobbing their heads side to side, laughing. None of them had ever been to India before and none of them were as senior in title. It was extremely frustrating to witness such disrespect to a colleague, especially since they acted all cordial towards her in person when she came to visit. But what was I supposed to do? Raise a fuss on a Wall Street trading floor and get targeted every time I’d walk into the office? I told one of the mockers to take his next trip to Asia to gain some perspective. He didn’t like that.”

  23. says

    I can’t say that I’ve ever experienced racism or sexism. However, I know for a fact that both exist. In my experience, there are a LOT of closet racists out there. I have had people say crazy racist things to me because I’m white and they think I’ll agree.

    I think it’s great when people can use racism as motivation to do better for themselves. That’s really all you can do other than continuing to fight for what is right. Unfortunately, ignorance often dies a slow death.

  24. Josh says

    It’s great that you were able to use your experience with racism as one of the motivating factors for your success. However an earlier commenter mentioned, I think many incidents were actually just soft form of bullying. Since one’s race is an obvious differentiating factor, it’s easy to pick it as a target. True racism exists in society everywhere, but I truly believe U.S. is by far the least racist country in the world.

    As for Sterling’s comments, I’m a bit perplexed why so many people are appalled by it. I’ve heard many people of all races, ages, and genders who’ve said similar or worse things and still hold those types of racists views. What troubles me more is that no one seems to be bothered by the fact that someone’s private conversation which was secretly recorded and “accidentally leaked” to the media by another private party(not law enforcement investigating a crime) can be used to legally punish someone by the NBA. I guess in the end, money talks, and NBA doesn’t want to lose $$ in terms of sponsorship. Finally, Sterling gf isn’t attractive. She looks cheap and one of Tiger’s mistress types.

    • says

      If you call someone a racial slur, where I come from, that is racist. Where do you come from and what ethnicity are you?

      Also, I wouldn’t be so dismissing of Sterling’s comments if you talk to your black friends about the subject, unless you no longer want to have your friends. His comments were EXTREMELY offensive and dispiriting.

      • Josh says

        I’m Asian, Korean to be exact, and have lived in U.S since 15. Everyone’s experience with racism is different and perhaps it’s because I lived as a non minority in a very homogeneous society for most of my adolescence, I’m less offended by non institutional forms of it compared to someone who grew up as a minority for all or most of their lives. In my experience in America, I’ve found most people of all ethnicity at one point have said very racists things or have made broad generalizations in private conversations. As for Sterling, it’s very true that black people would find his comments very offensive, but most blacks at the same time have said racist things about other people too, especially towards many Asians. I know Chinese people who grew up in Oakland who were constantly harassed by blacks, including being called racist names and dislike certain blacks(hip hop looking types) as a result, but still believe that’s mostly form of bullying(which isn’t any better). As one commenter mentioned, bully’s pick on those whom they perceive as easy targets.

  25. says

    Wow! Thanks for sharing your experiences, Sam. It was a captivating read. As despicable as the racism you experienced was, it has probably helped you get where you are today. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

    I have experienced gender bias, but I’ve fought for my compensation until I thought it was fair, although we never really know, do we?

    I just experienced ignorance on a comment made on my blog this weekend, which I had to respond to in defense of my family member. I tried to not let it inflame me but had to respond in a meaningful manner and not let it go. “Keep calm and carry on.”

  26. says

    Often, racism is generational, but Sterling is just acting stupid! There are all forms of discrimination which goes on in very subtle ways. The best revenge is success! It some ways it is like martial arts, you use leverage to overpower bigger, stronger opponents.

  27. Ace says

    Sam,

    I kind of figured you preferred San Francisco because of the heavy Asian population.

    I was actually out in Manhatten yesterday (Chelsea and Midtown). Haven’t been to Manhatten in many years. So, what do I think?

    Well…. I saw the same level of diversity there as I have seen in most other large American cities.

    I’m not quite sure I understand the media’s obsession with Donald Sperling. He’s a very old white guy. He grew up in a far different era, and it was a private conversation. That doesn’t make it right…… I’m just pointing out that Mr. Sperling is part of a rapidly dying demographic. I guess society advances one funeral at a time.

    I’m very optimistic about the younger generations! The millenials are so much more open and comfortable with ethnic/religion/family differences.

  28. Naz says

    For the most part, racism that is experienced in the work place is subtle and hard to prove. Reasons can bet attributed to a million little things that people can nitpick apart. Racism can be as simple as people not as likely to want to go out of their way to network with you, which may not actually be attributed directly to your race, but your race is a compounding factor along with other factors. Since most jobs are filled through networking the results can be pretty dramatic.

  29. says

    Experienced racism: Absolutely, by seeing it first hand through some family members (decades ago, but they’ve since changed their attitude about it), not to mention one time watching a meeting of the KKK at a local Burger King – fast food joint – where as I left, I walked over to them and told them how limited their views were.
    Experienced “reverse” racism: Yes on this one too. A long-time friend of 25+ years, who is African-American is the one that actually pointed it out to me because he was hired for a job that both of us were going for and he stated to me that he knew we were both well qualified for the job, but due to his skin color and the lack thereof in the environment we were interviewing for, he believed that was the final factor in their choice to hire him.

    • says

      The KKK is actually very, VERY intimidating for many minorities. Where you can go up to them and tell them how you feel, many minorities would walk the other way in fear of being beat up, robbed, or killed. So sadly, the KKK with their fires and hoods have done a good job in scaring the crap out of many people.

  30. Supsu says

    One difficulty that minorities can face is finding a community that we can fit in. I found good jobs on the East Coast (MA) and love the work, but find myself marginalized by the community here, and racism by the native population is palpable. So my life is all work now – that helps greatly on the financial side, but I’ve become a social hermit as a consequence and don’t expect to have friends by the end of my career. Pretty sad, actually, :) But I’d like to think I’m laying a solid financial foundation for my descendants. That’s my excuse.

    As an Asian minority I’d like to move back to California where I feel more comfortable blending in, but the cost of living is just as high and opportunity for well-paying position is much lower than here. Maybe inland cities like Sacramento may be “close enough”, but it’s not exactly a nice place either. I’m well off, but not crazy Bay Area rich like Mr. Samurai.

    A white guy would probably not feel as constrained in the places to retire, as there are a lot of choices in the more rural regions (like CO) and be able to stretch his dollar and feel comfortable living there.

    I’m thinking about traveling the country to find what could be a sweet spot for an Asian family to retire in – any clues about cities to visit?

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