Back in the 1980’s growing up, I was a big car fan thanks to my late uncle and a TV show called Dukes of Hazzard. The TV show we’ll get to a bit later. My uncle had two cars I remember vividly; a ’68 Pontiac Firebird and an ’85 Chevy Malibu. He was a drag racer and on the weekends he’d take me to the Joliet Speedway to watch the races. Seeing those one-of-a-kind vehicles dart down the road and smelling that burning rubber was fascinating to a 10-year-old kid.
The Dukes of Hazzard signature staple was an orange ‘69 Dodge Challenger with a confederate flag on the roof called General Lee; named after the confederate leader. I believe many people would say that car was a favorite to see in action. Little did many of us know as kids what the roof of that car meant.
Civil War Part 2 in NASCAR
It Only Takes One Voice
I’m going in a different direction with this article and delving into the world of NASCAR. No, not because of the races but for a recently banned item at the race tracks. The last few weeks in our nation have been a whirlwind of emotions since the death of George Floyd. From protests to rioting to the much-needed attention to the treatment of black Americans by law enforcement. We’ve seen a wave of changes and commitments to reform.
Many of these actions started in the sports arena with the NFL & NBA pledging their support for black lives, something most would expect since most of the players are black. Then a little over a week ago, NASCAR joined the race when Bubba Wallace made a stand indicating that the confederate flag should be removed from racing events. Wallace is the only black, full-time driver in the circuit by the way. 48 hours later, on June 10th, NASCAR honored his request and banned that flag from all sponsored events.
Long Overdue Change
The Civil War went on from 1861 to 1865 where the confederates of the southern United States fought northerners for the right to keep African Americans enslaved. The deadliest war in U.S. history, over 100,000 American soldiers killed. It’s kind of surreal when you think about it, a country going to war with itself to keep a particular group of citizens oppressed. At any rate, the confederate army lost but statues were erected and the confederate flag was a prominent fixture in the South and in NASCAR.
NASCAR has been around for 72 years, founded in 1948. Only 8% of the fan base is African-American and there have only been four drivers of this nationality since its inception. Wallace is one, the other three are Wendell Scott, Willy T Ribbs, and Bill Lester. 1865-2020. 155 years is long enough allowing a flag that represents the enslaving and mistreatment of American citizens to be displayed in public places. Especially when those very people are patronizing a business.
Time for a Complete Change
Hopefully, NASCAR’s ban will lead to other institutions and public places following in their footsteps. There has been one racer, Ray Ciccarelli, that doesn’t agree with the change. So he, in turn, stated he will be retiring at the end of the 2020 season. We’ll see moving forward how other drivers and fans react during the season. As Bubba Watson articulated, nobody should be uncomfortable coming to an event. See you at the races.