In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, NASCAR has been unified in their message against racism. This movement has been led by drivers like Bubba Wallace, who recently started the dialogue about the antiquated Confederate flag. This past Wednesday NASCAR decided to ban the Confederate flag from all events and properties. Many praised the move, however it was also met by inevitable backlash. One Truck Series driver even threatened to quit as a result. This move may cost them some money but NASCAR’s flag ban is good for the sport and nation.
It isn’t about heritage
Many claim that the Confederate flag was carried into battle by their ancestors defending their way of life and that slavery had little to do with it. However, documents and accounts of the day do not support this. This notion and the confederate flag were actually popularized in the early 1900s by groups like the UDC. It does our nation a disservice to sugarcoat our history in such a way. The flag as we know it wasn’t even the national flag of the Confederacy, but the battle flag of the Army of North Virginia. This group was historically led by Robert E. Lee, who said when asked about confederate monuments,
“I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”
The flag is a symbol of exclusion
There are a lot of people who display the Confederate flag because they believe it has meaning beyond racism. I get it. The flag looks cool, expresses your individuality, says you’re proud of your home and was on top of the Dukes of Hazzard’s charger. While it does mean these things on the surface, the Confederate flag is also a symbol of exclusion. Subliminally it says that I too am an obedient cog in the system and should be left in peace. It also says that if you’re not loyal like me, I condone whatever fate you receive. There are many other examples in our society beyond the Confederate flag. Hence, I invite you to do some healthy re-examination. Do you have subliminal messages of exclusion in your yard or on your bumper?
The decision will grow the sport
It’s hard to be a NASCAR fan without having to defend it from your friends’ criticisms every once in a while. It is easy to explain away most criticisms because they’re based on ignorance of the sport. However, it was always hard to argue that NASCAR had a toxic fanbase when you see the sea of Confederate flags on the infield. The flag’s removal is a real sign of concrete change. It’s an invitation to drivers, owners, mechanics, engineers, sponsors and fans that would’ve felt uncomfortable in an environment where a symbol of hate was proudly displayed. NASCAR is fun and should be enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to the ban, Americans of all backgrounds will feel more welcome to participate. After all, a contact sport born out of moonshining with fast cars is the most American thing ever and should be more popular.
It’s a watershed moment for the country
After a news report on the Vietnam War Lyndon Johnson famously said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America”. I believe that if you lost NASCAR, you’ve lost the South. NASCAR is an institution in the southern states. NASCAR’s flag ban is good for the sport and nation because it is a sign that the South is ready to shed its bad reputation of racism. It’s also a sign that the nation has done some much-needed self-reflection. Don’t get me wrong, this was long overdue and the fight is long from over. The controversy is guaranteed to intensify once fans return to the stands. I’m sure there are plenty of misguided people that will display the Confederate flag because they’re proud of its racist meaning. However, if good people continue to take responsibility for their environment the sport and our nation will flourish.