The news that NASCAR‘s only African American driver in any of its top races found a noose in his team’s garage stall was even more disturbing considering that it was reported amid a series of hanging deaths of Black people across the country.
Bubba Wallace Jr. called the noose “a despicable act of racism and hatred” after he and his team made the discovery on Sunday. That came two weeks after Wallace called out NASCAR for its flying of the Confederate Flag as the nation protested against racism, successfully getting the stock car-racing league to remove the racist symbol. That move rubbed at least one of Wallace’s racist fellow racers the wrong way, prompting him to quit in the days leading up to someone reportedly leaving the noose in Wallace’s team garage before a race in Talladega, Alabama.
NASCAR made the announcement late Sunday night and said it was “angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act.” Nowhere in NASCAR’s statement did it mention how something like this should have been expected considering how the racing company has at best celebrated and at worst encouraged anti-Black racism for decades by flying the Confederate Flag at its races.
The Associated Press reported that NASCAR has opened an investigation.
Shortly after NASCAR’s announcement, Watson issued his own comments decrying the noose and saying the apparent threat wouldn’t deter him from trying to rid racism from his chosen profession.
“Today’s despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism,” Wallace said in a brief statement released on social media “Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and team members in the garage. Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real change and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone. Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate. As my mother told me today, ‘They are just trying to scare you.’ This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.”
The noose incident followed the abrupt resignation of one NASCAR driver who didn’t like the Confederate Flag being removed from races. Ray Ciccarelli announced June 10 that he would leave NASCAR at the end of the season. He said on Facebook that it’s “been a fun ride and dream come true,” but if this is the direction NASCAR is headed, he will not partake in NASCAR races after the 2020 season is done. The Truck Series driver who has won exactly zero races ever said he doesn’t condone kneeling during the national anthem and he doesn’t believe in “taken people right [sic] to fly what ever [sic] flag they love.”
Racism and NASCAR seem to have an inseparable bond. It was only in April when Kyle Larson had to find out the hard way that saying the N-word has consequences after the now-former NASCAR driver couldn’t resist the urge to say it during an online video gaming session that was streaming live over the internet. “You can’t hear me? Hey, n-gger,” Larson said for seemingly no reason other than his own apparent implicit racism. The other players online told Larson they heard what he said, but, perhaps more tellingly, none of them condemned him for it.
For full context, NASCAR has a lengthy history of racist discrimination against Black people, including its historic $225 million settlement in 2008 with a former official who accused the car racing association of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Vibe documented just how white of a sport NASCAR racing actually is. “NASCAR has both the whitest viewership – an estimated 94 percent, to the 92 percent of the National Hockey League – and the whitest group of participants of any American sport by percentage,” Jay Scott Smith reported last year. He noted that NASCAR racing was significantly whiter than even the NHL, which had 25 Black players out of nearly 700 total.
Not for nothing, the latest NASCAR controversy was brewing as a series of suspected lynchings of Black and brown people have taken place in recent weeks.
On June 9, 27-year-old Dominique Alexander was found dead by a passerby near the Hudson River in Upper Manhattan. He was also hanging from a tree, according to New York Daily News. Authorities ruled his death a suicide.
On June 10, 20-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree near Palmdale City Hall in California. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Department said that Fuller’s death also appears to be a suicide. His case is still currently under investigation, however. His case caused the hashtag #JusticeForRobertFuller to trend on Twitter as folks called for further investigation into his death.
Also in California, another man was found hanging back in May. Malcolm Harsch was found about 50 miles away from where Fuller died. The 38-year-old was hanging from a tree near a homeless encampment on May 31.
The recent hangings have especially caused concerns considering the recent uprisings across the country in support of Black lives. People have protested and rallied in places like Minneapolis and Louisville over the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, respectively.
With such resistance against police violence and systematic racism, the backlash from white supremacist groups has already occurred thanks to the rise of white power and far-right protests. Considering demonstrations like these, suspicions of lynchings are not far off. Social media continues to demand further investigations into the latest hangings.
“These hangings are not suicides,” one social media user plainly repeated.
If that turns out to be true, then Wallace might want to step up his security team moving forward.
This is America.