NASCAR has exactly one full-time African American driver, and his name is Bubba Wallace.
Earlier this week, a noose was found inside of Bubba’s garage. This racist gesture was committed by an anonymous person who is clearly against the recent efforts in this country for racial equality. This coward was perhaps inspired by the racing league’s recent decision to ban the confederate flag, per Bubba’s suggestion.
What was incredible to see in response was the unequivocal, relentless support among the people at NASCAR in support of Bubba Wallace. During their most recent event, NASCAR honored their fellow driver, with the pro racers and crew members from across the league walking in solidarity around Talladega Speedway. NASCAR legend Richard Petty also sent out an incredibly powerful statement condemning the act.
All of this it provides an important lesson on difference between diversity and equality.
NASCAR and the NFL
It is, let’s just say, a pleasant surprise to see NASCAR going to such great lengths for their one black athlete. But that’s also what makes their efforts all the more heartwarming.
NASCAR made an important point this week. There is a huge difference between (1) having diversity, (2) passively gesturing about the need for diversity, versus (3) demanding at the top of your lungs that you will not stand for injustice.
Speaking of injustice, let’s talk about the NFL.
Despite the fact that about 70% of NFL athletes are black, the NFL has consistently failed to treat black athletes as equals. Colin Kaepernick–once an all-star caliber quarterback who happened to be a black man–was ostracized for kneeling during the national anthem and was black-balled out of the league.
Drew Brees, an all-star caliber quarterback who happens to be a white man, recently came under scrutiny for trying the age old trick of accusing black lives matter activist like Kaepernick of “disrespecting the flag.” Drew Brees has since tried to apologize–but no matter what, Brees and his talents will stay in the NFL. Brees will continue to make tens of millions each year, no problem.
“If we stand up against racism, we want much more than inclusion. Inclusion is not enough. Diversity is not enough. And as a matter of fact, we do not wish to be included in a racist society.”
There is sometimes only a weak relationship between the diversity of an organization and its commitment against racism. Ice cream tycoons Ben & Jerry are two old white guys, and yet they are unapologetically serious about ending white supremacy.
It’s important that we call out, give credit to, and uplift allies who are fighting for racial justice in their own way. Even if they come from unexpected places.