Virginia's reputation has been bruised by the racism and sexual assault allegations that befell the Governor of Virginia, the Attorney General of Virginia, and the Lt. Governor of Virginia. Here are my thoughts about racism in Virginia by someone who has lived in Virginia.
Given the revelations at the senior levels of Virginia government, you know racism in Virginia wasn't unusual decades ago. Racism is part of Virginia culture given its history as the capital of the Confederacy.
Racism In Virginia
I grew up in Virginia in he mid-to-late 90s for high school and collge. Racism wasn't a constant ubiquity, but I did experience some type of racist encounter about every 10th time I went out of the house.
One of the more milder examples was while waiting in line to go to the bathroom at a gas station off I-95 heading south. A white guy behind me said, “Hey, don't you understand English? What are you waiting for? The bathroom is open!“
I turned around and said, “There's actually someone in there. They just didn't lock the door. Do you understand the English that's coming out of my mouth?”
He backed down with an “Oh, never mind.” But I was ready to rumble.
The amazing thing about all these racial experiences is that it's all I knew after coming to America for high school.
I thought it was normal to be on the receiving end of racial slurs or racial innuendos every so often. I just endured and fought back as hard as I could each time.
After I got a job in 1999 in New York City and again when I moved out to San Francisco in 2001, I realized that being a minority in America felt so much more comfortable in a diverse city.
My racial conflicts dropped from every 10th time I went outside to maybe every 25th time I went outside in Manhattan.
In San Francisco, I can't remember my last racial conflict because we are a minority majority city.
The Benefits Of Racism
Racism is terrible, but let's look at the positives.
- More motivation and energy to get ahead. I thank my past racial altercations for having given me the extra strength I needed to endure those long work hours in banking for so many years. Racism gave me tremendous motivation to prove that I could succeed in America.
- Boosts Self-Confidence. After getting promoted to Vice President at the age of 27 at my investment bank, I experienced extra self-confidence because of my stature as a minority. Getting the promotion was when I first realized the allure of meritocracy. It was also my first taste of power. When you need consensus from a committee to get promoted, you don't mess with your senior colleagues.
- More discipline even when everything is easy. There's a saying, “From rice paddy fields to rice paddy fields in three generations because each subsequent generation gets lazier and lazier. Despite being gone from the workforce since 2012, I still have the energy and motivation as I did when I was a teenager. Experiencing racism is like having Ironman's arc reactor, pulsating in my chest, driving me to keep going no matter what thanks to all the hate I experienced growing up.
- More resilience. I developed a “what's the worst that can happen attitude.” With such an attitude, I consistently took greater risks than the average person who is very risk adverse. Thanks to risk-taking, I made a lot of money by the time I was 34 and have been living an unbelievable life since I left work.
Racism Makes You Stronger
To survive in a less comfortable situation forces you to adapt. Learning things like self-defense, conflict resolution, self-deprecation, positive thinking and humor are all useful skills through our adult lives.
In general, I look back upon my eight years there with fondness. The good outweighed the bad. Virginia was my rite of passage into adulthood.
Racism has given me a better appreciation of the good times we now experience.
The Negatives Of Racism
Let's discover the negatives of racism according to my wife, who spent 20 years growing up in Charlottesville, Richmond, and Williamsburg, Virginia.
Hi everyone, it's Sydney, Sam's wife. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
1) Been there, done that. I grew up in Virginia and although I agree that it is a beautiful state with plenty to offer, I booked a one way ticket out of there after college graduation faster than Quicksilver in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Virginia: Been there, done that. I’ve never looked back.
2) Risk of ruining a child's self-confidence. During development, children are most vulnerable. To have racist experiences get seared into their minds at an early age is very dangerous. We all have childhood memories that still haunt us.
3) Wastes time and energy on losers. It's much better to be exposed to positive people who are accepting. The energy you spend defending yourself against racists is energy that could be better spent more productively.
Growing Up As A Minority In Virginia
Growing up as a multiracial kid, I was at the top of the minority list in school. I was literally the only one of my “kind” – Japanese mother, Caucasian father. I didn’t look Asian; nor did I look white. Our town was almost completely 50% white, 50% African American.
I looked “weird” as some girls said. “What ARE you?” was another question I’d often get. Fortunately, I had a few friends who looked past my appearance and the shock that I had an Asian mother.
I didn’t “belong” in Japan either. Everyone stared at me wherever I went in Japan. Some whispered look at the gaijin; this word for foreigner has a bit of a negative connotation.
Others said I was so lucky to be half because I had pale skin and big eyes. Thank you, I guess. But what are they saying about people who are tan with small eyes?
Fortunately, I didn’t experience frequent bulling or racist remarks, but I still had my share. That didn’t make me want to fight back like Sam though.
The hurtful comments made me want to leave. The rest were just annoying distractions. I knew they didn’t define who I was and that my racial background made me unique and wasn’t something anyone could take away.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t hurt. I felt sadness, isolation, and frustration especially growing up. But, I really don’t like to dwell on negativity. I have so many better things to do!
Finding Motivation From Within
The one thing I’m certain of is that we are all motivated by different things. I remember someone telling me that during management training at work and it’s totally true.
You might be motivated by adversities, or discrimination, the desire to be the best, money, family, power, financial freedom, a better lifestyle, countless other things and likely a whole combination of things.
Growing up, I was self motivated to get good grades. Perhaps it was my perfectionist personality or the desire to be like my smarter sister. Who knows. What I don’t remember though is my parents ever pushing or telling me I had to get straight A’s.
In middle school and high school, I was motivated to be the best violinist in school and to get the lead part in every theater production. I think a combination of wanting recognition and enjoying those activities were my main motivators.
In my career, I was definitely motivated by power, gaining autonomy, earning money, and recognition for my niche skills and efforts.
As a parent, I’m motivated by an immeasurable amount of love, and wanting to see our son happy, develop and succeed.
Ultimately, I believe motivation is very personal and has to come from within. I think it blossoms in supportive environments.
Avoid Racists If You Can
It's sad that many minorities still face racism today. But with each passing generation, society is getting more loving and more accepting.
I'm sure there's much less racism in Virginia than there was 20-40 years ago when all the disgraced Virginia politicians were growing up. I don't see them as evil people. I just see them as a product of their time.
The beauty of America is that it's one great big country. If you are a minority, there's no need to move towards racism. Instead, life is much better moving to a diverse environment that's accepting of more people.
That's not to say racism won't happen in places like New York or San Francisco. It's just that racism will happen less often and you'll be able to easily find your own people.
It's no coincidence why some of the wealthiest, fastest growing cities in America are also the most diverse. Diversity and acceptance brings out the best in people.
I believe diversity and acceptance will continue to spread across the country, which is why I've been actively identifying and investing in cities that could be the next San Francisco, Seattle, or New York through real estate crowdfunding.
It's a no-brainer in my mind that in 10-20 years, the next San Francisco will rise up in the heartland of America where cost of living is much cheaper. I plan to fully profit from the opening up of America.
In conclusion, what a blessing it is to grow up as a minority in Virginia. If all I experienced was love and acceptance, I'd probably still be working at my soul-sucking job wondering what else is there to life.
There would be no Financial Samurai and no financial freedom.
About the Author:
Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at two of the leading financial service firms in the world. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate.
In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $200,000 a year in passive income. He spends time playing tennis, hanging out with family, consulting for leading fintech companies and writing online to help others achieve financial freedom.