This past weekend I was in the grandstands here in the Chicagoland for a NASCAR race.
(Insert mocking here…)
I love NASCAR. It’s not all about turning left, though there is a lot of that. These men (and woman) are athletes, just not in the conventional sense. There’s bumping and passing. There’s strategy and maneuvering, like in chess. Racing is speed and the smell of burnt rubber and gas and sunburns and the permission to have a beer at 9am in the morning while tailgating.
And yes, there are stereotypes – rednecks and southerners. I’m not one of those country folks, FYI.
As race day approached, I thought, “I don’t know if I can stand for the National Anthem, mostly because I don’t know what that anthem means to me anymore. I don’t know if I can stand there and stomach the opening prayer, full of bad theology and blessings about our nation and those that died for it.” Oh, how my thoughts have changed since my first race.
I stood for the anthem, didn’t sing or anything. I didn’t care about the paratroopers dropping from the sky. In fact, I almost sat down. I’m spineless so I only thought about sitting down. My little defiance to the anthem was not paying attention. I kept the vomit in my mouth as the Midwestern preacher, who clearly thought he was in the south and faked the accent, gave the opening prayer. I mean really…You’re in Chicago, dude! Why the bleeping southern accent?
I decided to cheer for the new guy at the beginning of the race: Daniel Suarez. That’s right, Suarez. From Mexico. Racing in the predominantly southern, white NASCAR where there is like one other guy of color.
On the drive home and all this week I thought about the race. I thought about the lack of diversity in NASCAR, the lack of any real color beyond the different car decals. I thought about how women are barely visible in the sport, aside from Danica Patrick, who in my opinion isn’t even a good representative for us females (and she’s not all that hot). I thought about how patriotism has become God in this country and where church and state overlap in a very unhealthy sort of manner.
So many thoughts…So briefly…
Diversity in NASCAR sucks. At least at the top levels it sucks. There’s Suarez and Almirola. And Patrick, aka Danica. The rest are white. Mostly southern. Mostly conservative. All men. And that’s just the drivers. That’s not even including the pit crew or crew chiefs, who are mostly, you got it – white, conservative men. NASCAR claims to have a diversity program but breaking into the top levels is difficult even for a white driver. If you’re a woman or a person of color, forget about it.
Then there’s this patriotism thing. Always the flag, always recognizing our vets. Don’t misread me – I’m proud of those men and women who fight to keep me free, to have the freedom of speech and more. I had grandfathers who served, an uncle who served and a brother who serves. I am proud of what they did/are doing. However…
When did honoring our vets become like worshipping an idol at every sporting event? When did standing for the anthem become such a religious sort of moment? It’s a sporting event, not church. (I’m all for freedom of speech, so if you want to kneel or sit for the anthem, go for it. I’m with you, though at a NASCAR race when I’m outnumbered by a bunch of patriotiotic drunks, I’m going to stand and silently protest. See, spineless.)
Oh, and NASCAR originates in North Carolina – the state that banned anything to do with transgender people or gays or lesbians or blacks or anyone who isn’t white and conservative. Don’t even get me started.
I have so many underlying issues with this sport I love. That isn’t to say other sports don’t have the same issues. Hockey is predominantly white too, though mostly northerners. And their accent is more, well Canadian. This problem bleeds into everything that is American.
How is it that our world is still so backwards? As I write this, there is a state of emergency in North Carolina over the protests happening over yet another cop shooting. WTF?!? Is this what the 60’s were like? Will it end? Will police stop being so gun happy when approaching a person of color? Will fear ever end? How do I explain to my youth or my nieces and nephews any of this? And where are the protests over the white guys going free after raping someone? Ugh…
I don’t know if NASCAR will ever truly be integrated. I don’t know if my niece and nephew will ever attend a race in their lifetime that includes female drivers and other folks of color. I don’t know if there will ever be equality. I don’t know if this country will ever stop blending patriotism and religion and stop glorifying our vets. As I said, I get it but what’s so wonderful about war and death? How is they get lifted up and the men and women who came home in a coffin, who actually, literally gave their lives, don’t? I don’t know if a white boy will ever get more than a slap on the wrist for committing rape.
How is any of this possibly okay?
I’m sad over the “I don’t knows.” I’m tired…
How long, O God? How long…