Woody: Handful Of Morons Keep Reviving NASCAR Stereotypes
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Nashville – I don’t know if a member of Rusty Wallace’s Nationwide Series team cast a “racist slur” toward a black driver following the June 7 race at Nashville Superspeedway or not.
But that’s what has been alleged, and we know that Wallace was furious over the incident and that the individual has been suspended by NASCAR.
It certainly looks suspicious and when it comes to NASCAR and racism, perception quickly becomes reality.
It’s a dark cloud that has hung over the sport for decades. Despite NASCAR’s best efforts to rehabilitate its reputation, stupid actions by stupid people keep the issue festering.
The ripples had barely subsided from the embarrassing lawsuit filed by a black female former NASCAR official over alleged racist and sexist behavior within the sport. NASCAR settled her multi-million-dollar suit out of court – a settlement that in some minds suggested that she was telling the truth.
Flip back the calendar and you’ll find the case of some dunderheads approaching a black fellow track worker with Klan-like hoods on their heads – their idea of a joke. How stupid can someone be, in this day and time? And how embarrassing – there’s that word again – for the sport.
Is NASCAR a racist sport? No, it’s not. I personally know many of the people involved in it. They may make some bone-headed decisions at times, but they’re not racist.
I’ve covered racing for 40 years, all the while also covering a wide range of other pro and college sports, and I’ve heard more racist innuendo in every one of those than I have in NASCAR.
Some claim NASCAR is racist because there are few black faces in the grandstands. Really? Then that makes Vanderbilt University football and basketball (one my beats for 10 years) racist too, because there are precious few blacks in those crowds.
What about the lack of black competitors in NASCAR? What about it? The National Hockey League has fewer black participants (and fans) than NASCAR, yet nobody calls it racist.
Bottom line: I don’t think racism is any more prevalent in NASCAR that in most other segments of society. But when it raises its ugly snout – as it allegedly did in Nashville a week ago – it gets more attention.
It’s not hard to understand why. Stock car racing was born in the rural South back in a shameful time when blacks couldn’t eat in public restaurants or drink from public water fountains. While the sport never had a Jim Crow policy banning blacks, they clearly wouldn’t have been welcome – or even safe – at many of the little boondocks bullrings.
Officially or not, stock car racing was as segregated as most other aspects of life in the South. (Just as was Southeastern Conference football and basketball.)
Gradually over the years, racing, like society, foot-dragged its way into an enlightened era. But tatters of its old reputation, like swatches of dead skin sticking to a shedding snake, still cling to it.
Today’s minuscule black participation in stock car racing is mostly a cultural matter – black kids’ dads, uncles, grandfathers and great-grandfathers didn’t/couldn’t race, so they didn’t grow up immersed in the sport as did so many white kids.
NASCAR is trying to change that by creating entry-level opportunities for blacks on and off the track. But for every step it takes forward, some idiot shoves it two steps backward.
It is fair? No, of course not. But its reality and everyone associated with NASCAR should be smart enough to understand it. Everything they do is viewed through a racial prism.
NASCAR can support all the diversity programs it wants, but all its good work and good intentions goes up in smoke with one ugly epithet hurled by one thoughtless person in a fit of anger.
It’s unfortunate and unfair, but in the minds of many he spoke for the entire sport.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments