This is a major statement in that sport
NASCAR drivers’ cars are usually covered bumper-to-bumper in ads for everything from motor oil to home insurance. But Bubba Wallace’s No. 43 Chevy will promote something very different during Wednesday night’s race at Martinsville.
Wallace, NASCAR’s only current Black driver, and his team, Richard Petty Motorsports, unveiled a special Black Lives Matter paint scheme for the race.
The car features “#BlackLivesMatter” over the rear wheel, while the hood and back bumper have the phrase, “Compassion, Love, Understanding.” The top of the hood has an illustration of Black and white hands interlocking (you may recognize the image from Drew Brees’s apology Instagram post).
“We knew that the Martinsville race was open—we did not sell a sponsorship for that—and it sparked an idea of, why not run a blackout car?” Wallace said in a video posted on RPM’s Twitter page. “Our team brought that idea to me and I jumped all over it. ... Why not dive in straight to the root and put #BlackLivesMatter on the car?”
What makes Wallace’s statement especially powerful is that it’s not the safe thing to do. It goes much further than RPM’s vague statement about “recent tragedies” released last week. NASCAR fans, according to a 2011 Scarborough Research poll, are 80% white and only 9% Black. Forty percent of them live in the south. Confederate flags are still flown by fans at racetracks, despite NASCAR’s 2015 request that they be left at home. (NASCAR refused to outright ban the pro-slavery banner at its tracks, but Wallace this week called for the organization to issue a true ban.)
If you want to kill a significant portion of your brain cells, click through to either of the tweets above (or this one from @NASCAR) and read the replies. Twitter isn’t the real world, but you can bet that the idiotic replies are reflective of at least a small part of the audience. There are some morons who will stop watching NASCAR because a driver dared to speak out in favor of equality. But there are surely also some people who had never heard of Wallace before, were impressed by his willingness to take a stand and will tune in to see how he does in the race.
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