I knew that the NASCAR community and confederate flag loyalists wouldn’t like it when Bubba Wallace finally decided to not just blend in but stand tall by not only commenting on the death of George Floyd, but driving a Black Lives Matter car.
It was the most impactful statement that a Black driver has ever made in a sport that has always identified with Southern whites who embrace oppression of minorities as a longstanding part of their culture.
I’m sure Bubba’s car pissed them off, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when NASCAR — caught in the middle between a progressive executive branch and a racially inflexible audience — banned all confederate flags from raceways at his request.
I can hear the conversation now: “We can’t have some n*gger thinking he can run our sport.”
That was just too much to bare for people who take pride in their ancestors being slave owners, oppressors, and murderers of people of color.
So similar to the cops in Atlanta and Buffalo who walked off the job because they can’t kill, maim and falsely imprison Black people anymore without facing the consequences of their actions, it’s been reporters that someone in NASCAR — not sure if it was a driver, fan or member of someone’s racing team — placed a noose in the garage of Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 car today.
NASCAR made this statement:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) June 10, 2020
Wallace, who currently ranks 20th in the Cup Series and has exhibited nothing but class since breaking onto the scene as the greatest and most celebrated Black driver in NASCAR history, responded.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 22, 2020
Wallace rose to fame — and kind of crossed over — when he finished second driving the legendary No. 43 car for The King, Richard Petty’s RPM in his Debut Daytona 500 in 2018.
It marked the first time since 1971 that an African-American driver would compete full-time for a Cup Series team and became a watershed moment for NASCAR which has been slowly diversifying the sport’s audience, with the help of Wallace, NASCAR’s Diversity internship program and NASCARs lauded Drive for Diversity (D4D) program, a development system that began in 2004 as the legendary faces of the sport started nearing retirement and revenue began to decline.
The goal of the program is to make more money and attract a more diverse audience to the sport by including more people of color and women, such as former Norfolk State hoops star turned pioneering NASCAR back tire changer, Brehanna Daniels.
Wallace has never made his race an issue. And apparently as long as he stayed quiet and accepted NASCAR’s racist culture he would be allowed to rock out with the white boys.
He even gave Kyle Larson a pass on using the N-word back in April.
He’s also dealt with fans tweeting racial slurs at him prior to that. In all instances, he took the high road, but he’s learning that having class and showing forgiveness won’t get a Black man far in NASCAR.
Fortunately, we see now that incidents like these only make Wallace stronger and further alienates NASCAR — a sport desperately trying to expand its audience — from half of the known world.
No one should be shocked when these things happen. Black people are speaking out. White people, who usually stood silent when one of their own violated a person of color, are shouting “Black Lives Matter’ and protesting against police brutality and racial injustice.
It’s a lot to digest for a redneck from Mississippi who believes that Black people like Ahmaud Arbery should legally be hunted for sport like it’s 1950. Almost overnight, everything they know has been attacked as the bullsh+t it is.
In their minds, this is a race war, not a reckoning for America. Not a change for the better. If they can’t stop Wallace from racing, then they at least want their feelings about his presence to be known to the world.
People will act disgusted and the talking heads are sure to rip NASCAR a new one tomorrow, but that won’t change anything. It’s better for one’s enemy to openly express their hatred than to hide it.
The good news (if there is any) is that Wallace can no longer be blindsided by fake love. He will no longer hold his tongue just to fit in. This is the beginning of a seismic shift in NASCAR culture.
Promoting 17-year tour veteran Brandon Thompson to VP of Diversity and Inclusion was supposed to be a simple PR move by NASCAR in the midst of a racially sensitive time in our country.
17-year veteran Brandon Thompson was named @NASCAR Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion today. He becomes the first diversity intern graduate to join NASCAR’s executive ranks as an officer.@NASCARDiversity #nascardiversity https://t.co/xYUzfYBIyR
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) June 17, 2020
Instead,the poor guy hasn’t been on the job a full week and he already has to handle a racial catastrophe. Not sure how he feels right now. But what I do know is that attention like this is bad for business in these enlightened times — especially for NASCAR who needs to get with the program or fade away into oblivion on the wrong side of history.
It’s not like Bubba’s running. In fact, he’s more popular than ever and he’s introducing the sport to the new generation that NASCAR has been craving. There’s just still some folks who can’t embrace change. Won’t embrace change. And that’s OK, because the sport itself will be just fine without them.
So take that noose and stick it where the sun don’t shine.