The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t new. But now in the wake of the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery－both people and corporations are taking greater notice, even in the car industry. The NASCAR organization shocked many of us by announcing they are now banning the confederate flag at all of its properties and events. Let me tell you why this a big deal.
Background on what the confederate flag represents
I can’t speak for all black people, but I can tell you many of us still wince when we see the confederate flag displayed. And as someone who grew up in the South, running into the flag is an all too common occurrence. Many black families specifically have avoided going to NASCAR races because of the large display of confederate flags. It’s also no secret that the auto racing world has remained as one of the least diverse sports.
Some people say that the confederate flag isn’t about hate, it’s about displaying their southern heritage. But that flag represents the group of soldiers who went to war to keep black people as slaves back in 1861. That flag was also revived in the 1950s at anti-civil rights movement events. And speaking from personal experience, the flag is used to taunt, not to welcome people who look like me.
NASCAR’s dark past
Wendell Scott was one of NASCAR’s first black drivers. Scott is considered an unsung hero in the league’s history. He was actually the first black person to win a race in NASCAR’s Grand National Series, the league’s most competitive level. However, officials bumped him to second place because of racial prejudice.
Officials later went on to acknowledge that Scott actually won. They awarded him for his win in 1965, two years after the race. But Scott’s family didn’t get the trophy he won until 2010 and Scott had already died by then. NASCAR went on to induct Scott in their Hall of Fame in 2015.
NASCAR’s outright ban of the confederate flag
When NASCAR announced that it is banning the confederate flag completely, many fans expressed anger. But on the flip side, many of us see this as an exciting new era for NASCAR racing. A couple of days before NASCAR’s flag announcement, Bubba Wallace, the league’s only full-time driver expressed that he hoped that the league would take down those flags.
“My next step would be to get rid of all confederate flags,” Wallace said in an interview with CNN.“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.”
Wallace also acknowledged that some fans would be angry. But this announcement shows that NASCAR is serious about making their events more inclusive, especially for black people.
NASCAR’s pledge to be better
NASCAR addressed that the display of the confederate flag at its events contradicts its pledge to provide a welcoming space for all fans. The league’s pledge is already encouraging members of the black community to tune into auto racing. Plus, NASCAR’s move is already inspiring a new era of racers.