No Matter What Happened With Bubba Wallace, We Still Have a Problem
By now we have a pretty good idea about the facts surrounding the noose that rocked NASCAR, although there is still more to learn.
We know that it doesn’t appear to be a hate crime directed at Bubba Wallace. We know Wallace never saw it (unless at least one of a group including him, an anonymous team member, and NASCAR president, Steve Phelps are lying). We know, thanks to a pic shared by NASCAR that the rope was definitely tied into the form of a noose, and we know it’s been there since at least October of last year.
We don’t know why it was shaped like a noose, or why it’s apparently the only garage pull at Talladega to look that way, according to an investigation by NASCAR and the FBI. We also don’t know why that would be the case after a video shared from what appears to be NASCAR’s own YouTube channel a while ago appears to show several garage pulls that look like nooses. This article does remind us that garage access at Talladega was much less restricted in 2019. Fans even had some access. Likely we’ll never know who made the noose, or why.
While we wait for more facts to be sorted out, we need to keep one thing in mind. Even if there was no hate crime directed at Bubba Wallace, the sport’s only black driver at its top level, that doesn’t mean racism is no longer an issue. Even if there was nothing racial at all about this incident, that doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist, within NASCAR and in the wider world at large.
You may think I’m pointing out the obvious. But lost in the excitement over what a team member may or may not have found in the garage were two facts – that despite NASCAR finally enforcing a ban on the Confederate flag it enacted in 2015, fans still flew the flag outside of the grounds, and one of those people flew a plane over the track with a banner bearing the flag and the message “Defund NASCAR.”
While that last bit suggests some racists aren’t clear on facts and reasoning – how, exactly, a private company would be “defunded”, save for fans never watching a race or buying a ticker or merch is beyond me – the fact is, the flag still flew.
And Bubba Wallace still took a lot of crap on social media he didn’t deserve. Replies to his recent tweets are sickening.
He was blamed for the incident being a Jussie Smollet-style hoax, despite the fact it appears, to this point, that this is no hoax and Wallace did nothing wrong. Some folks almost seemed gleeful that the noose wasn’t a hate crime – and not because they were happy a hate crime didn’t take place, which is a reasonable reaction, but because they were invested in the idea there’s no such thing as racism in NASCAR, or at all.
(Ed. note — a couple of you in the comments pointed out that the final sentence of the preceding paragraph isn’t true, because the people I’m referring to actually do acknowledge racism, they just believe it’s overblown. I apologize for the clumsy wording, I had a bit of writer’s block and was trying to get the piece done on a deadline Thursday, since I would be out of the office for personal business on Friday, which is when the piece ran. I didn’t catch this clunky wording while reading the draft. The sentence would read better as follows: “and not because they were happy a hate crime didn’t take place, which is a reasonable reaction, but because they were invested in the idea that racism in NASCAR and in the wider world is a smaller problem than it is.”)
Which, we know, isn’t true.
The comments from some of you on this piece proved that. Even this piece, stating that we’d simply be taking a day off under corporate mandate to honor Juneteenth, had a comments section that devolved into a mess.
This isn’t to scold those of you who post racist comments – our moderators will do that. Rather, it’s to say that even if this incident is just a dumb misunderstanding, it bears remembering that racism still exists everywhere and it’s a real problem. People protested during a pandemic because of it.
It’s a problem in NASCAR. Why else did it take until 2015 for the Confederate flag to get banned? Why did it take five more years and outspoken activism from Wallace to get the ban enforced?
Racism is a problem in the world, which means it’s a problem in the car world.
That’s true whether or not the noose was a noose or a knot, and whether or not there was any racial motivation at play here. Wallace may be able to rest easier at night – especially after the show of solidarity from NASCAR and his competing drivers – but the problem isn’t solved.
The first step is acknowledgment. So don’t let what appears to be a possibly positive outcome here (pending further investigation) distract you.
Our world is full of racism, and it’s up to us to change that.
That’s more important than arguing over any one garage-pull knot.
[Image: Bubba Wallace/Twitter]
Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.
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