As black folks throughout the world can attest, being the only one in the room not only comes with adversity, but a tremendous sense of responsibility. As such, we can find ourselves coerced into speaking or acting for our entire community, and in turn, mistakenly causing more harm to our own in the process.
Earlier this week, you might’ve heard—or read—about a racist NASCAR driver named Kyle Larson. How do I know he’s racist? Because who else just casually blurts out “nigger”— completely unprovoked—while playing video games?
Larson would almost immediately find himself suspended, then fired, by his racing team for doing his best impression of Trump’s Twitter feed, and he lost lucrative endorsement deals with familiar names like McDonald’s, Credit One Bank and Chevrolet.
But with NASCAR about as popular as Smilez and Southstar, and white men possessing the innate ability to rebound from even the most controversial of circumstances—more on that later—does anybody really believe this dude’s career is even close to being over?
This is exactly why Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s stereotypical token negro—quite literally its only black driver—looks utterly ridiculous for coming to Larson’s defense. In a lengthy statement, Wallace admitted to feeling “attacked and hurt” before revealing that Mr. Hard-R hit him up and begged for his forgiveness almost immediately after spewing his favorite word.
Wallace then goes on to describe Larson’s emotions and pride as “shattered,” and that he believes his apology “was sincere.”
“We discussed why he chose to use that language and I shared my thoughts,” Wallace wrote. “I told him, it was too easy for him to use the word and that he has to do better and get it out of his vocabulary...I am not mad at him, and I believe that he, along with most people deserve second chances, and deserve space to improve. I do wish him and his family nothing but the best. And I am more than willing to work with him to address diversity and inclusion in our sport.”
As the only one in the room, I empathize with the impossible situation that Wallace is facing. If he remains silent, white folks with questionable perspectives on racial dynamics will speak up on his behalf. But if he speaks up, there’s always the likelihood that his foot will find its way into his mouth.
However, people like Kyle Larson don’t deserve our grace.
Not when Hulk Hogan gets reinstated by the WWE after making “the biggest mistake of his life”—which just so happens to involve calling black people “fucking niggers.” Or Mel Gibson goes on to resume his career undeterred—and continues to collect Academy Award nominations along the way—after being caught on tape telling his girlfriend, “If you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault.”
Hell nah. They’re gon’ be alright.
The onus doesn’t fall on the aggrieved to rectify the mistake. And the sooner people like Wallace accept that and leave their capes at home, the sooner idiots like Larson might finally bear the full brunt of their reprehensible actions.