Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Black NASCAR fan? You can't be serious!!

I've been asked by a few people why I like NASCAR. The fan base is largely considered to be a bunch of in-bred, loud, ignorant, undereducated, redneck, fuck sticks. Now that description is true of at least some of the fans but not all of them. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina which is arguably home territory to a lot of NASCAR teams and drivers. As a kid I was changing the channels on the television and came across the Daytona 500. The cars were moving at a high rate of speed, the track looked interesting and I immediately became hooked. I was all of 5 years old at the time and I still watch the races, follow the developments with sponsors, drivers, tracks and feuds to this day. I've been to races at Charlotte Motor Speedway(formerly Lowes Motor Speedway), Atlanta Motor Speedway, Rockingham, and Talladega. You may be wondering about how I am received as a fan, both by non-NASCAR fans and by some NASCAR fans. I'll fill you in.

I haven't had any direct bad treatment from any fans to my face. No one has tried to have me removed or got in my face. I have received 'odd' looks from some people but I don't let that shit spoil the race for me. While I have not had any non-sense to my face or had direct comments made to me by fans in person, the same cannot be said about commentary offered online. I use to play a game called NASCAR 08, on Xbox Live. You could communicate via text and headset with other racers. Most of the players I encountered were White and a lot of them didn't have too many positive outlooks on Black people.....until they learned I was Black. One of my 'online friends/racers' did not know I entered a race upon which he started. The way it was set up though, he could see the names of each person who decided to join the event. I figured out that he was away from his television when he made his comments. He expressed his hatred for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and his love of the rebel flag(he lived in South Carolina) and opined that if Obama were elected, he'd be killed while in office. He also made some comments about Black people being lazy, ignorant and wanting Black folks to go back to Africa. None of his comments were new to my ears but I learned that when a person feels comfortable within the group she/he inhabits and does not think or know a member of the group he/she is about to blast is within ear shot, they reveal their true character. I ended up not participating in the online event, but not before I gave him what he deserved. The rest of the members were quiet but they knew the both of us. Afterward I received 12 messages from each driver indicating they did not agree with his views and that they should have said something instead of me. His attitude is very pervasive and I've seen similar comments made in NASCAR forums about Blacks and other races and especially hatred of Jews. Yes there are NASCAR fans that are racists but I do not let their nastiness keep me away from enjoying the sport. I've met and interacted with other people who were glad to have another NASCAR friend in the area or online. It's another way to bond with people.

The non-NASCAR fans are generally shocked. Black folks are not supposed to like NASCAR because NASCAR fans are racist rednecks. It's no secret NASCAR is largely a White sport, from drivers, track owners, team owners, and fans so the shock is partially understood by me. I receive equal levels of shock from both Blacks & Whites, Liberals(especially) and Conservatives. I think the shock is largely due to ignorance and the lack of interaction with NASCAR fans because the perception is 'they must be uneducated rednecks'. When they find out I'm a fan the immediate question is WHY mixed with 'you are too smart to like something so silly and inane'. I usually respond by delving into their favorite past times and make the argument, someone else probably thinks the exact same thing about something you like or do.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden: Last year, The White House and NASCAR teamed up for an event to raise money for veterans and FLOTUS and Jill Biden were invited to the final event in the NASCAR schedule, the Ford 400 in Homestead-Miami, Florida. FLOTUS and Jill Biden were booed when they were introduced as the grand marshals of the event. Grand marshals usually give the command for the drivers to start their engines. Yes, it's ceremonial but it's part of the show. Immediately, erroneous headlines emerged calling NASCAR fans racists for booing Michelle Obama while subsequently omitting Jill Biden's attendance. NASCAR fans in general are Republicans. They BOTH were booed for political reasons and yes those fans at the track that day made themselves look bad by being assholes when Michelle Obama AND Jill Biden were there for a great cause. There was absolutely no need to make calls of racism here. Many called for the sanctioning body, NASCAR, to issue an apology to Michelle Obama. It's not the sanctioning body's fault. They did nothing wrong. Here's the kicker. Other Black folks have been grand marshal's at events, waved the green flag, and driven the pace-car. Their political affiliations were not widely known nor announced prior to their involvement in race activities. The smear merchants would know that if they had seen other NASCAR events and were not so quick to jump on the bandwagon when an organization prints a misleading headline.

I enjoy the technology, the sounds of the cars, the pit stops, and the speed. You may say, what's so exciting about a bunch of cars turning left 500 times? I get it. It can be a bit monotonous. I say go to a race and to those who say 'it's easy' I say get your ass out there and try. Anybody can drive a car but can you do it at that level, perform well every week, and not tear the entire car up? I doubt it. I love cars in general and I treat my own car like a baby.  I've gotten a few of my friends to get into the sport and although they are not as hardcore as I am about it, it feels good to introduce them to something they probably would not have given a chance until they met me. I'm a fan of a lot of other motorsports too. Indycar, F1, NHRA, V8 Supercars, Speed World Challenge and ALMS. But NASCAR has the biggest presence here and it always captures my interest. It may capture yours too, if you just give it a fair chance.

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