Is it Wrong to Talk About Finances When Your Backyard is On Fire?

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It’s been difficult this week to write about personal finance because dishing out financial advice seemed inconsiderate given what’s going on in our country right now.

No matter whether you believe protesters are justified in looting, vandalizing, and even burning down the already struggling retail stores, I’m sure the horrific killing of George Floyd and the subsequent events that followed affected you in some way.

My skin color isn’t black, so I dare not claim to understand the injustice and all the intricacies of unfair treatment that the African American community has suffered throughout the history of America. But as an Asian immigrant moving to Canada as a child who now lives in the US, seeing the breathtaking video of the murder stirred plenty of emotions and brought out memories I didn’t even know I had inside me.

I remember being pushed on the ground as a child because I looked different, and having my school supplies repeatedly stolen. Perhaps more damaging were the lighthearted jokes of my ethnicity that continues to eat into my self worth to this day.

But before you feel sorry for me, I must let you know that I’ve been no saint either. I was born in Hong Kong, and people there have always tried to distance themselves from other Chinese people, especially those born in China.

I can understand somewhat. Some of my friends living in Hong Kong feel suffocated by the Chinese political system and its desire to integrate the city to be part of China. They’ve also been victims for years of having to fight for resources with foreigners from China who can easily travel to Hong Kong to buy up whatever seemed popular and needed. Remember the toilet paper shortage we’ve experienced? Imagine having shortages from baby formula to hospital capacity to housing to personal space.

What I don’t agree with many of them though, is that all people from China are bad. I know some people from that country, and they are kind and loving. Yes, there are plenty of bad people in China, but there are plenty of bad people in Hong Kong too. In fact, there are plenty of bad people close to where I live, and everywhere else in the world. That doesn’t mean everyone is bad.

Yet, I haven’t once tried to defend them in conversations with my friends despite feeling this way. By choosing to be silent, I’ve chosen to be selfish and not move the world toward a more understanding place.

We are Less Racist to People We Actually Know

I don’t want you to mistakenly believe my childhood was miserable. The events I outlined were just a small part of my upbringing. I remember a time in elementary school when the group of friends I hung out with consisted of black, brown, white, and dare I say, yellow people (me!)

Never once did we care about what color our skin was. It was just James, Mike, Michael, Marc, and myself every day of the week. While we lost touch through the years, I still fondly remember some of those Halloween trick or treat nights we’ve had, playing touch football almost daily, and trying to one-up each other on all the activities at athlete day.

Now that I think about it, we didn’t let our prejudices ruin our perception of each other because we actually took the initiative to know one another. Instead of that black dude in a hoodie who will probably hurt someone if he is given the chance, he is James, loves pizza, and can’t defend himself whenever we accuse him of having a crush on his classmate. Instead of that white guy who will never understand the privilege he’ll receive as a white male, he is Mike, who is good with video games but also an exceptional athlete. And instead of the yellow guy who’s probably so rich he can buy all kinds of houses for cash and ruin the housing market for the rest of us just because he is Chinese, he’s David, who is extremely smart and incredibly handsome (!!!)

Today, instead of condemning everything that’s happened. I want you to get to know George Floyd a bit. He was 46 years old, 6 feet 7 inches tall, and known to be a good person and a good athlete.

Growing up in Houston, he played football and basketball. Gloria, the wife of Floyd’s basketball coach in South Florida State College, remembered him as a very humble, and very soft-spoken kid.

Floyd is a father to two daughters and is a good father to them.

Before his death, Floyd was working as security at Conga Latin Bistro in Minneapolis, and would often help clean up after the bar closed. The owner considered him a friend and said he was good with customers and a very nice guy.

May he rest in peace.

So What Can We Do?

We all have prejudices. We might not bat an eye if a young white female in a suit walks by if we are alone walking in a dimly lit walkway at night, but plenty of us will feel differently if an African American male in a hoodie walks by instead.

When you get a chance today, reach out and get to know someone of a different ethnicity than you. Expand your circle of friends. These are trying times. See how you can help them in this time of need, and ask for his/her help.

Next time someone walks by, it’s not just going to be a person in a hoodie. It’ll be James. Instead of fearing for your life, you can say hi and tease him about his crush.

Let’s all do our part to move the world toward a more understanding place.

The music industry’s tagline describe how I feel right now best.


We’ll be back soon with our usual financial advice. But today we’ll pause, reflect, and vow to do better.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Ana Herrera says:

    I posted an excerpt on Facebook – Thank you…

  • Joe on the Move says:

    Thanks for taking a stand. The country really needs to take a breather and think deeply about what we’ve become.

    I hope one day we will have a president who will steer us to become more unifying instead of divisive.

    • Paul says:

      As a non American, I pray that time comes in November. US has had some pretty dodgy Presidents in its past, but the current one would have to be not only the dodgiest, but also the most divisive and arrogant. Tricky Dicky was a saint compared to the current incumbent.

  • Kia says:

    Thank you for your honesty and openness on bringing up this issue.

  • Kelly says:

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you for saying his name and reminding all of us to search our own hearts for prejudicious.

  • Frugal Rachel says:

    The video footage was frightening to watch. What’s surprising though is how much of a shock it is to everybody unless you are a person of color.

    We really ARE ignorant in this country.

    • J Chester says:

      Ain’t surprising to me. Haters gonna hate, and looters gonna loot.

      The world goes round and round like it always has.

  • Michelle says:

    What’s happening is so sad. I hope we get out of this as a better country soon.

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