Tuesday, June 23, 2020


Need a boost today, and who doesn't? Watch this video. 

NASCAR has returned car racing after the shut down. Last weekend there was a big event at the Talladega Super Speedway, at Talladega, Alabama, the daunting racetrack famous for its length and steep banks. It is a short distance from my house. There was a lot of nervous anticipation about this because just a few weeks earlier NASCAR had banned the Confederate flag from its venues. 

It was hard for a lot of people to grasp the significance of the ban. It was far more important than most people realized. After the Second World War when the great democratic revolution was sweeping America, white people in the south tended to flock to two cultural events as their own separate from other races, country music and car racing. One would find few to no faces of color at the Grand Ole Opry or the racetrack. Race events at tracks as Talladega and Darlington became more than just car races. They became week-long cultural events of white people, a sort of redneck Mardi Gras. At every race in the south, the Confederate flag became the universal symbol of this separatist culture. So, NASCAR's banning the Confederate flag is a stake in the heart of one of the last bastions of institutionalized white racism in our lives. One should not underestimate the significance of this.

The races at Talladega last weekend were a kind of trial to see how the change would work. There was heightened interest because a lone African American racer, Bubba Wallace, was to participate. The atmosphere was tense. On Saturday, there were no Confederate flags inside the track but an airplane circulated overhead with a giant Confederate flag and the words "DEFUND NASCAR" trailing behind. Outside the gates there were more Confederate flags than usual, as in-your-face protests. Then, Wallace found a noose hanging in his garage, a space that had been highly restricted. Everyone froze. Then everyone responded by rallying around him on the track in a remarkable display of support. This is what the video is about. This spontaneous outpouring of white support for the one black driver will warm your heart.

There is a sea change going on right now in race relations across America, including the heart of Dixie. Believe me, if Alabama can move away from its racist past, any state can. It was only a few miles from the present race track that, in 1961, Klansmen fire bombed a Greyhound bus full of Freedom Riders. 

We have not ended racism. I doubt that we ever will. What we have done is to make it culturally unacceptable for average citizens. That in itself is a monumental change for the better.

UPDATE. 5:00 p.m.   Federal law officers determined today that the noose was not intended for Wallace. It had been in this garage stall since late 2019. He had been assigned the stall by chance just recently.