I grew up in Asia for 13 years and was taught to always respect my elders, no matter who they were or what position they held in an organization. I could be the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, but if an employee 20 years my senior who worked in the mailroom wanted to talk, I would gladly take him out to lunch and listen to his story.
When I came to the States as a 14 year old freshman in high school, I was shocked by the lack of respect many students had for their teachers and parents. I would have gotten a beating if I talked backed as vociferously or argued as stubbornly as some of my classmates. But being an independent thinker is what America is all about, except for when you end up living off your parents. Then it’s kind of a “have your cake and eat it too” moment going on.
If you spend time listening to people who have less than you, I think you’ll realize that not many want a hand out. They only want a chance at a level playing field to get ahead. There’s no desire for pity or free passes. Most people want to make it on their own.
There will always be a disconnect between races, sexes, and economic classes because we can’t fully understand what we don’t know. I’m not a woman, so I won’t ever fully understand how women feel in society. I’m not white, so I won’t know what it feels like to be a majority who might be unfairly criticized for just being a majority.
But I have been moderately poor and decently rich before, and the one thing I’ve noticed is that everybody wants respect. When you come down to someone else’s field and act disrespectful, conflict will occur no matter how much of a right you have to play.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
I want to highlight an excellent comment from an older reader, John, about class conflict. He is white, came from a poor family, served in the Marine Corps, and has grown his way out of poverty. He is sharing his own background and reaction to the video and commentary of a post I wrote, The Cause Of Conflict: Money, Entitlement, And Poor Etiquette.
I have a strong opinion on this topic because I was a kid who lived “on the other side of the tracks.” Due to school zoning in the city I lived in, I was required to attend the public school where the well to do kids went in elementary school. I probably got a better education overall as a result – but I got harassed and treated badly far too often by those pampered, entitled children.
These were the years 1970 to 1976. I’ve been around a while. I am Caucasian. The poor white neighborhood I grew up in bordered the poor black neighborhood. While I can never truly know what it feels like emotionally to be black in a predominately white community, I can empathize and know extremely well what it feels like to be the poor kid amongst the arrogance of wealth, privilege and entitlement.
I am impressed with these kids in San Francisco for the way they handled the situation without violence. By the time I reached fifth grade, I was fed up with the rich kids mouth running and I discovered the most effective way to end it was with a swift fist into the mouth of the abusers. I do not advocate violence – but if you push the wrong person too far – you might pay a heavy price, up to and including your life.
Too many people in the upper income echelons disrespect the hard working people in the blue collar working class and absolutely do not understand what life for them is like. This is clear reading the replies here as well as my firsthand life’s experiences. I have read many commenters here in this and other threads throw around the term “jealously” when describing the cause of conflict between the “haves” and the “have not’s.” That is seldom the true underlying issue. The real issue is the lack of respect between human beings. When these moneyed interests enter an old neighborhood and begin the gentrification process and heartlessly begin dislocating longtime residents, conflict and resentment is the natural result.
I escaped my childhood poverty by joining the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1982-1986. I traveled the world and learned life, trade and work skills that support me to this day. I witnessed poverty overseas that probably 99% of Americans have no comprehension of. Until you have put your boots on the ground, walked among the poor and smelled the poverty, you cannot fully understand. Sam mentioned how world travel is a very good thing and expands ones understanding – it is true. I will never forget where I came from and I will always empathize with the hard scrabbling working classes of the world.
These arrogant men in the video were out of line in the way they acted toward the residents of the neighborhood surrounding the park and apparently are clueless as to how lucky they are to have not been severely beaten down. There are far better ways to handle situations like that. Again, I am very proud of the way the locals took the high road. There is much we all can learn from this discussion.
Regarding the Mission Playground video, for those of you who think that the locals playing are in the wrong, I’d like you to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself how you’d react to getting booted off your long-time field by a bunch of rude strangers.
If the techies approached you with respect, surely you would be more amenable to making way. But if they disrespect your traditional ways, then I can’t imagine you’d be very happy about the situation.
THE WEALTH GAP WILL BE HARD TO BREAK
From reading the comments in the Mission Playground post, I’ve come to the conclusion that the wealth gap will be almost impossible to bridge because everybody is siding along racial and economic lines. We will always have a bias for taking care of people who are like us.
When you’re hammering at the glass ceiling at work wondering why the hell you can’t get through despite your excellent performance reviews, know that the reason why you can’t ascend is because you’re not the right age or gender or don’t have the appropriate educational pedigree. You’ll never know the real reason why you didn’t get paid and promoted. Just know that there’s way more to getting ahead than doing a great job.
People like to chide that my belief about seeing the world and that speaking different languages is a misguided endeavor. And you wonder why some countries hate the United States so much. We’re the only country with our amount of wealth who expect everything and everyone to conform to our standards. But if you go to Europe or Asia, they’ve got a tremendous fascination with expanding beyond their own cultures.
Dear Minorities, Use Racism As Motivation For Achieving Financial Independence
Never quit, get laid off instead and break free. Learn how to negotiate a great severance for yourself in How to Engineer Your Layoff! By getting laid off from a job you wanted to leave anyway, you can collect a severance, health care insurance, deferred compensation, unused vacation days, and be eligible for unemployment. The book provides helpful case studies and a framework for you to have a strategic conversation with your manager on how to profitably quit your job. Get more details and download the ebook instantly here.
Start a profitable website today. Want to make more money and be more free? Work on building your brand by creating your own website the easy way with a WordPress site like mine through Bluehost for super cheap. You can register your domain for under $20/year and get hosting for only $2.95/month. Whatever your interests are, focus on building your skills and developing your own unique niche.
I’ve been blogging since 2010 and it has allowed me to break free from the corporate grind to travel, work from home, consult for companies that I like, and do so many more things I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t. The income is relatively passive as posts I’ve written years ago are still being found through Google and generating income. What’s better than making passive income and creating a valuable asset you can one day sell for a multiple of annual income? There’s not a week that goes by where I’m not thankful for starting this site!
Updated for 2017 and beyond
I think that everyone should try to live and work abroad (at least for a very short period of time) and get to understand other countries’ cultures, learn their languages and live like them for a period of time.
I’ve just come back from doing that in France for two years and it was the most liberating and wonderful experience of my life. Whilst many would argue that the UK and France have similar cultures, I’ve come back having learned so much about myself and other people.
I’m now longing to go somewhere else and integrate with another country to further expand my own personal horizons.
I’ve also spent some time in China (where I went out of my way to visit the poorer areas of Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou whilst I was there) and a small amount of time in India. On these trips, you really start to understand what poverty is. The result for me was strange: I effectively became more frustrated with the “lazy-class” here in the UK.
It made me see this whole new class for the first time! We have upper and middle class, and we have a working class (who are exactly that – hard working (“blue-collar”) workers who strive in reasonably low paying jobs to provide for their families).
However, there is then an ever increasing class which often are self-described as “working-class”, but have no desire to do that. They muddle through their lives on benefits and pay-outs, and spend the majority of their life complaining about how unfair everything is. I assure them, it is not as “unfair” as the people living in poverty in China, India and a thousand other places I’ve yet to visit.
Incidentally, it was this class of people who were generally in the videos circulating yesterday which captured full-on fist fights over the #blackfriday deals. People complaining how unfairly they are treated by the government, bankers, xxxxxx (replace xxxxxx with whoever else is popular this week to focus on), but then behave like this to get a £30 discount on a £200 TV!
Financial Samurai says
It’s an interesting world out there isn’t it? The point is to get out there and see the world to see different perspectives. It’s no wonder so many companies are started by immigrants. There is this hunger to succeed b/c they really realize their chance having seen both sides.
That soccer field is available for reservation 4 hours per week (7pm-9pm, two nights a week), out of 94 hours that the park is open.
FS, that is a nice article. Let’s be fair, you learned another language and lived in other countries and cultures because your parents’ jobs required it. If you were born in the U.S., you would be just another English-only dude, who would not get the chance to work in International Finance with investment banks. Life is hard enough navigating the crummy public schools in CA no matter where you come from (did you know that less than 10% of its 670,000 enrollees are Caucasian?) And do you wonder, at all, about those teenagers playing soccer EVERY NIGHT instead of doing homework, having dinner with their families, or something other than recreation? When they are 30, where do you think they will be working and living? Those techies want to play for two hours, after working all day and tending to the rest of their lives. Yet the race/class/local card gets played on the techies as if they have done something wrong. Bad optics, but that was the intention of the guy filming, and the guy ‘arguing’ on behalf of the kids (who were completely ready for a ‘confrontation’ and far from respectful).
Financial Samurai says
Not sure if this was a race card played. It was more about new rich (techies) vs. the middle class who have been there and who are getting displaced. The irony is, most techies are not rich. It’s their bosses who are rich. Many techies struggle to buy their own places.
Very thought provoking article. I too have spend many years working and living in Latin American countries. That experience has greatly increased my empathy for the plight of those who must struggle to get by.
Financial Samurai says
Terry, I’m sure your time living in Latin American countries has also made you really appreciate the amazing culture and people. I can’t see you being ignorant and hating on Latin America given your experience. This is what I’d love for more Americans to do… travel for an extended period of time and experience other countries. There would be more peace and less ignorance.
Prairie Eco Thrifter says
I’m not American, but Canada has many of these issues (much smaller scale, but they do exist). I’m a woman but I work in a female dominated field. I’ve noticed some inequality and I work in Recruitment for the time being, and I definitely see some there, but I’ve never been treated differently when it comes to money.
Financial Samurai says
I’m glad to hear it! Getting treated differently b/c of something you were born with is a terrible feeling.
That was a terrible way to handle the situation, and would be a great case study to discuss in schools to help people learn about these things.
I’ve never really experienced anything like this in my life, other than some clashes between different ethnic groups at high-school. But I do get really uncomfortable when I hear people making stereotypical judgements of others based on race or economic class, and ‘looking down’ on them. It’s far too easy to do, but you never really know anything about that person for sure. I just hate people bad-mouthing others in general and not having respect, and often find myself sticking up for them.
David Cain at Raptitude also wrote a great post about how to treat strangers which had an impact on me –
Financial Samurai says
The stereotypical judgements are heard all the time, and if you are a minority you hear them more clearly and you get into more fights. It sucks, but it makes one tougher. I’ll check out that post by David. Thanks.
I was really shocked when I saw that Mission Playground video. I hope those techies realized how insensitive they were in that situation after the footage got out.
I totally agree that being exposed to other cultures, neighborhoods, age groups, people, and income levels makes such a difference in how we communicate and interact with each other.
Having respect all the way around is so important. We all have different skills, backgrounds, family and health situations, and income levels. And we should never think we deserve more respect than people in different situations.
Zambian Lady says
On the one hand, I would not count on the techies realizing that they came off as insensitive. To them their reasoning is “we reserved the playground and you should have done so, too.” On the other hand, maybe the techies will see that they are seen as insensitive and disrespectful only if they put themselves in the other group’s shoes, but I wonder if they would do that.