Did America overreact to the Bubba Wallace garage door pull "noose"?
- In 2004, NASCAR began the Drive for Diversity program, which aims to “...expand the reach of historically underrepresented groups in the sport through a series of internships, pit-training programs, and driver courses through Rev Racing.”
- African-Americans make up only 8% of the NASCAR fan base.
- In early June, Bubba Wallace asked that confederate flags flying at race tracks across the country be removed.
- Since the social unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd, nooses have been displayed in public places in California, New York, and Maine, with six African-Americans found hanging from trees throughout the nation in the last month.
- The last team to occupy Bubba Wallace’s assigned garage was Wood Brothers Racing, who released a statement saying that one of their employees “remembered seeing a ‘tied handle’ on the garage door in October 2019.”
The Bubba Wallace situation has been the second time in the past few weeks where NASCAR has, surprisingly, attracted prime media interest. However, a pull-rope that warrants an FBI investigation is, by definition, quite an overreaction. The situation quickly escalated in a manner that seemed more publicity-driven rather than through thorough inquiry.
Now, of course, as new images show, the shape is definitely 'noose-esque.' But the fact of the matter is, this 'noose' is a misinterpretation thrust into the spotlight. In a nation riddled with cases of police brutality against black individuals, 'false' claims like this undermine any changes needed for this cause. Bubba Wallace's situation sparked politicians, media figures, athletes, and even corporations to side with him but through claiming this as a hate crime and having such publicity without proper information belittles other debates. Current arguments have arguably not been about the existence of police brutality, racism hate crimes, and other barriers for minority communities, but rather how to solve them and how deep these issues exist. Stories like this, however, similarly raise doubt as the Jussie Smollett incident. NASCAR's decision to carry out a lap of solace, and Wallace's decision to appear on multiple media outlets claiming those who don't support him are 'simple-minded' was more of an emotional response rather than a logical one, or any response based in fact. The desire to investigate the 'noose' claims is reasonable and justified, but the media attention was an overreaction and a true distraction from progress.
America's reaction to the Bubba Wallace situation is justified given the attention the FBI dedicated to the situation, which falls in line with the current administration's 'no tolerance for racism' stance since the murder of George Floyd. Though reports surfaced that the rope was present in the garage a year prior to Bubba Wallace's use of it doesn't mean the nation's reaction is unjustified. Coupled with the recent protests for the BLM movement, it can't be overstated that proponents of racial equality in predominantly white sports need to be heard.
What's even more troubling is a quote from the article stating the facts of the investigation: 'The NASCAR investigation also looked at 1684 garage stalls at tracks across the country and found only 11 with pull-ropes that had knots tied at the end, but the one in Wallace's garage was the only one that looked like a noose.' With that in mind, whether or not it was truly directed at Bubba Wallace because of his race, it is cause for concern.
The stance of support the other racers took with Bubba Wallace speaks volumes, as this is a sport comprised of racers who are 80% white, and considering how Wallace recently lead the push to ban the Confederate flag from NASCAR events, thus changing the racing world. It’s no logical leap that his success in banning the Southern flag would open the door to further attention over another perceived and serious issue. Wallace's story is just the first step in creating a more harmonious environment between racers of all stripes and strides.