"I had a lot of racism growing up where I grew up," Hamilton told Complex magazine. "Bullied at school. It definitely encouraged me. It’s like battle wounds - you come out the other side and it just makes you tougher.
"My dad always said, 'Do your talking on the track,' so from day one I always did my talking on the track. 'Let your results speak louder than anything you have to say. You don’t have to say anything to these people.'
Anthony and Lewis Hamilton (PA Sport)
Image credit: Eurosport
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"But you know, I had kids shouting stuff, teachers that told me, 'You’re never going to be a racing driver, you’ll never amount to nothing.” Just really just trying to pull you down.'"
Hamilton said that the hostile reaction hadn't let up once he started competing in karting events around the country.
"We arrived, the go-kart was stuffed in the back of the trunk, and all these people had tents and RVs and the best stuff, and we were just so amateur, you know?
It wasn’t like they stopped - but they all looked," he said. "All eyes are on us. 'What are they doing here?' We were the only black family. And it was just like that every weekend we arrived.
Hamilton said that he'd previously been warned not to speak out about racial issues for fear of upsetting sponsors and fans, but that he felt it was important to speak honestly about such important matters.
"I’ve been in this sport for a long time now and it’s kind of been like, 'Don’t get into that subject, don’t talk too much about it.' It has always been an issue and for sure people in the limelight are guarded about what they’ve built and created.
"I see the things that go on and I feel a certain way about it. But [for me it's about] making sure if you are saying something, if you’re doing something, it’s for the right reasons in the right way. It’s just hard to strike a balance, I think."
Hamilton explained that this was why he was able to shrug off current day criticism of his lifestyle.
"There was a point where I actually cared. And I guess just with age, I got to the point where I don’t need your validation. I know my heart. I know how hard I work. I know my values. I know the love for my family. I know who I am as a person. And I enjoy my life."
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