By: Zach Draves
Even as the FBI purports that a noose was not found in the garage of Bubba Wallace, the only full-time black driver in NASCAR who has been leading the charge for racial justice on and off the track, the sport cannot sit idly by and get back to business as usual.
Regardless of what the investigators conclude, NASCAR needs to become more proactive in ushering in a new era of true equity and fairness.
The fact is racism and nativism are endemic among the hardcore fan base that has long been associated with the sport and that base has grown complacent in their bigotry.
If anything, NASCAR has created an atmosphere that normalizes this behavior to the extent where flying the confederate flag in the infield was seen as commonplace.
There is no way to get around that.
The unbelievable show of support toward Bubba Wallace this past weekend at Talladega combined with the original move of banning the confederate flag from the track are good starts, but not enough.
These symbolic gestures won’t mean anything until there is really systemic and cultural change.
That starts with the drivers becoming more actively involved in initiatives and programs aimed at not only diversity and inclusion for the sake of it, but equity and justice.
It is not enough to proclaim that you are diverse and inclusive if you don’t incentivize such principals in the form of policy and practice.
That includes working with racial justice organizations such as the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, RISE, Institute for Sports and Social Justice, Institute for the Study of Sport, Society, and Social Change, and Crossroads: Anti-Racism Organizing.
Those partnerships can lead to much needed and long overdue changes in car ownership, sponsorships, and hiring practices to name a few.
Potentially, these efforts can bring in a fan base that is truly reflective of modern-day America which is much younger, multiracial, and multicultural.
This generation goes to where their values are reflected and respected.
In other words, NASCAR has to look to the future.
One of the first things they can do in light of the Bubba Wallace incident is to not fall into the dangerous trap of the so-called “hate crime hoax”.
The idea that a hate crime never actually happened so therefore we need to look at reports of hate crimes with deep skepticism and doubt.
This is a toxic attempt to discredit the reality that hate crimes have been rising in the U.S. over the last several years.
Last year the FBI reported that hate-related violence increased dramatically https://www.npr.org/2019/11/12/778542614/fbi-reports-dip-in-hate-crimes-but-rise-in-violence
NASCAR can do itself a great service by rejecting these efforts to deny that hate crimes occur, usually perpetrated by those who claim to have a deep rapport with the NASCAR fan base.
All of this is going to take a lot of work.
But there is no turning back.
NASCAR has a choice to make.
Complacency or Commitment?