You ever look at someone and think, “It couldn’t be me?”
Ever since I’ve learned about Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR’s top-level Cup Series, all I can think about is the deluge of racism he must endure on a daily basis. The glares, the snide remarks, the racial epithets, the Trump signs and Confederate flags—there are probably days where going to work feels like one of the Greensboro sit-ins.
That said, Wallace has been unrepentant in recent weeks about addressing racial inequality and asserting that Black Lives Matter after the death of George Floyd, and in his efforts to create a less hostile work environment, the youngest driver to ever win at Franklin County Speedway is now attempting to conquer his biggest rival yet: the Confederate flag.
During an interview with Don Lemon on CNN, the 26-year-old revealed his intention to rid his sport of the only thing more divisive than Trump’s mouth.
“My next step would be to get rid of all Confederate flags,” Wallace said. “There should be no individual that is uncomfortable showing up to our events to have a good time with their family that feels some type of way about something they have seen, an object they have seen flying.”
“No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race. So it starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
Recently both the Navy and Marines have moved forward with plans to prohibit the Confederate flag, and while NASCAR has dissuaded fans from displaying it while attending races, it has yet to be explicitly banned.
“I wasn’t bothered by it, but I don’t speak for everybody else. I speak for myself,” Wallace said. “What I’m chasing is checkered flags. That was kind of my narrative, but diving more into it and educating myself, people feel uncomfortable with that. People talk about that. That’s the first thing they bring up.”
“There’s going to be a lot of angry people that carry those flags proudly, but it’s time for change. We have to change that.”
If NASCAR has any intention whatsoever to salvage its sagging popularity, ridding itself of an emblem that, by nature, is treasonous and symbolizes slavery and oppression of an entire race would be an excellent place to start. But where do Wallace’s peers stand on the issue?
“I recognize that that flag might mean something different to different people, but it doesn’t mean United States of America to me,” Team Penske driver Brad Keslowski told USA Today. “But I’m not gonna tell people they need to get rid of it. That’s not my right either. But I certainly don’t salute it or respect it or probably anyone else who feels the same way.”
Fellow Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney echoed those sentiments.
“Sometimes I feel like the people that wave them mean the negative when they wave them, and that’s not cool,” he said. “Yeah, I’d love to not see them at the race track, honestly, because it doesn’t make everyone comfortable.”
** BREAKING NEWS: Black folks ain’t trying to see that shit either. **
NASCAR has yet to comment on Wallace’s remarks, but word on the street is that it’s “actively considering” changing its Confederate flag policy. We’ll see what happens.
As for Wallace, despite his status as the only one in the room, don’t expect him to reverse course on his stance anytime soon.
“We ask nicely the first time. If they don’t agree, then you have a nice day and get on back on the road where you came from,” he told CNN. “It should not be allowed. We should not be able to have an argument over that. It is a thick line that we can not cross anymore.”
Updated: 6/10/20, 5:15 p.m. ET: The Associated Press reports that NASCAR has agreed to ban Confederate flags from all races and its properties.
NASCAR told AP on Wednesday the Confederate flag “runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”