Racism at the Races

Last night, as I was leaving Daytona Beach to get back to my motel, there was an incident that really disturbed me.

I was driving west on International Speedway Boulevard, right in front of the track. As I pulled up to a red light, there were a couple of guys sitting in the bed of a pickup truck next to me. They were laughing and shouting, it looked like they'd had a long, fun day at the track. I couldn't hear what they were yelling, but the woman in the pickup cab's passenger seat was smiling, rolling her eyes, and shouting something at me.

I rolled down the window to hear her say, "Don't pay any attention to them, they're drunk." She had a smile on her face. I smiled back, then heard what they were yelling, repeatedly: "Down with the N-Double-A-C-P." I thought: "Yeah, they're drunk all right." And then the shock of their statement hit me hard.

It probably shouldn't have. Stock car racing sprang from a fine Southern tradition, but pretty much from an exclusively white demographic. And while NASCAR's audience among minority groups is growing each year, you're still going to see mostly white faces at Daytona and other tracks, and some of the faces will belong to racists.

Most of us have been raised, as Dr. King said, to judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin. I know my Dad would never tolerate racism, and I aspire to that. At the same time, I'm not completely color blind. Yesterday I went out of my way to take a photo of an African American Tony Stewart fan, and inwardly felt very awkward about it. I didn't want to make him my "token" African American fan.

He and I got to talking, though, and his introduction to racing turned out to be a lot like mine. He didn't know - or even care - much about NASCAR. Just didn't get it. Until he came to the Daytona 500 in 2000 with a friend. Now, he's hooked. Hopefully, more and more NASCAR fans will be like him, and fewer and fewer will be like the guys in the truck.

It's like the signs say all over town: "Welcome race fans." Period. No asterisks.

By Mike Snyder |  February 17, 2006; 10:20 AM ET  | Category:  Fans
Previous: 'Title Pros' Go the Extra Mile for Charity | Next: Diggin' In at Daytona

Blogs That Reference This Entry

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cgi-bin/mt/mtb.cgi/4840

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



My african american son loves NASCAR and will be going to his first event this spring. We're anxious about how we will be treated. I hope we run into you and not the guys in the truck

Posted by: anonymous | February 17, 2006 05:24 PM

Native Texan here, so I've heard all the talk. NASCAR fans do trend toward being overwhelmingly white. I don't know about education levels and income levels and I don't want to generalize. But if I were Black, I would feel very uncomfortable walking into an environment where potential bigots had been drinking all day, unless I were part of a large group or if I could afford to sit in the premium seats.

Frankly, as a middle-aged white man, I also felt very uncomfortable when I had to stand by myself outside the Anacostia Metro station for an hour one evening while waiting for a delayed ride. Are these fears rational? I don't know, but those ol' boys riding in the bed of the pickup (illegal, by the way) might forget their "Southern hospitality" if faced with an object of their derision.

As a sidenote, sometimes I think that those very same people believe that they have an exclusive claim on patriotism and religion, and the rest of us are atheistic liberals. I get this impression from small-town radio talk shows and certain songs I've heard in country music.

Posted by: Scott | February 17, 2006 06:55 PM

scott pretty sums it up correctly.. the patriotism and religion says it all for the redneck nascar fans.. tell ya what... in the gentlemens game of golf.. we have at least one black that dominates the sport.. young tiger woods.. somewhere... outwhere .. there is a tiger driver.. the best of the best.. but...... who's looking for a black driver??me?? i'm white and 66 years old..served with the 506 airborne battle group..and we had a lot of blacks in my outfit..
patriotism?? i served with the blacks.. gud guys.. and.. they knew how to drive..
don't watch NASCAR.. but.. i wud if there was a black driver in there...till then.. just a bunch of rednecks driving..
... maybe in my lifetime...

Posted by: john iowa | February 17, 2006 07:09 PM

I'm a lot like the guy you met. I too am black and also didn't have much exposure to NASCAR before I stumbled upon it. I'm in it for the love of the race: the speed, the aesthetic of the cars and the weave they seem to form racing around the roadway. I just love it. However, I've never been to a live race event -- mainly, I can't afford it being in college, but also because I rarely ever see any black people there on television. Even if I could go, Daytona's seems unsafe for a guy like me. Was the guy you met with a group? Black or white? I've got white friends who are heavy into NASCAR that I'd go with, but I figure why put them in that kind of predicament? It's really kinda sad that in 2006 this is an isue.

Posted by: Ben | February 17, 2006 07:28 PM

I was certainly disturbed by the incident. But I will say that I think this is something of an aberration. I truly believe most fans aren't bigots. They're here for the love of the racing.

I can't speak to what goes on at other tracks so much, since mainly I shoot my racing wad here. But there certainly are some African American fans here at the track and I don't think there's anything to fear at all. For one thing, the police keep things pretty well locked down in and around the track, though there are some parts of the infield that are sketchy.

Thanks for the comments everyone. Maybe I'm a bit reactionary. I think there's room and good times for everyone here. But that just rubbed me the wrong way last night.

Posted by: Mike | February 17, 2006 07:37 PM

I'm offended... I think? I'm trying to be real about this though. I'm not a huge NASCAR fan, but I can watch and enjoy from time to time. I see what the audience and the drivers and the crew look like -- they are predominantly white. But "bunch of rednecks" offends me, and I'm not even white! If you approached a basketball AND1 tour and called them a bunch of (pick your own epithet), there would be hell to pay.

Posted by: Definitely Offended. | February 17, 2006 07:39 PM

For that matter, we're just now getting to the point where we have top female drivers coming into most areas of auto racing. Indy sensation Danica Patrick competed in this year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona as part of a three-driver team led by NASCAR great Rusty Wallace (two men and Danica). Unfortunately, a blown head gasket forced them to withdraw. But it proves that men at the highest levels of racing take Danica seriously, being willing to team with her.

Will we see a woman driver in NASCAR? The awesome female driver Shirley Muldowney dominated what is probably the even more "redneck" sport of top-gas and top-fuel drag racing for 30 years and is still racing at age 62. Perhaps the rising success of female drivers in all types of racing can help pave the way for drivers of color as well, if only because they attract a different demographic of fans to the races.

Posted by: Scott | February 17, 2006 07:44 PM

All of you are so sad that there are no blacks in NASCAR? Who cares?

How come nobody asks where the white guys are in the NBA or NFL?

Just more liberal crap.

Posted by: ACS | February 17, 2006 07:55 PM

Forget the audience. At the risk of stereotyping, some of the best mechanics I've ever encountered have been black and/or hispanic. It doesn't appear that ethnic minorites are represented in this sport at all.

Posted by: Just a thought. | February 17, 2006 07:56 PM

Full disclosure, I'm a good personal friend of Mike's.

I just wanted to say that I am proud of you Mike for writing about this. Unfortunately we are not yet a color blind society. Hopefully over time the sport will integrate itself more fully into all cultures, I think it's just a matter of time.

I think it helps when we can have dialog about the things we all feel and think. Yes, one day there will be a "Tiger Woods" driver. But NASCAR doesn't need that anymore than I as a white man need a white sprinter in the Olympics to enjoy the sport. Rascism is not a NASCAR thing, it's not a southern thing, it's not a sport thing. It's a life thing and all we can do is do exactly what we are doing here and talk about it, teach against it, speak out against it and live our lives in a way that helps eradicate it.

I have no doubt that these guys represent a small segment of NASCAR fans. In fact, I know it. How do I know that? Because the biggest NASCAR fan I know, the guy writing this blog, represents everything those guys don't. Kudo's to you my friend. Job well done.

Posted by: Bill | February 17, 2006 08:26 PM

So, you're willing to stereotype millions of fans for the behavior of a few?

You're willing to call them rednecks, but would have a fit if they used the word nigger?

And you're convicting them of racism because they chanted against an organization, the NCAAP, that itself may be the largest hate group in the country?

Just because you don't see the N-double hate-P as a race-based hate group, doesn't mean others don't.

I understand you work for a newspaper that, politically, gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "brown-nosing," but come on. Enough with the sucking up to black readers. Do you really think you'll lose your job if you don't?

Actually, you probably will, so, to keep your paycheck coming, keep attacking "rednecks." They don't have a lobby. There's no NAACP for "rednecks".

Posted by: John | February 17, 2006 09:30 PM

Mike is a good friend of mine also. Just so folks know.

I think you did a great job with the story Mike!! The statement of the guys in the truck made you feel uncomfortable. It should have. There is simply no place for that. I agree with Bill, it will just take time. To the lucky NASCAR fans at Daytona or at any other track, try to demonstrate kindness to your fellow fans. All your fellow fans. There are more women than ever and lots of kids. Hopefully, you'll look around and see lots of race fans. Lets make the only race that matters be at the drop of the green flag.

You go Mike, keep up the great work!

Cup rules!!

Posted by: Chris M | February 17, 2006 09:44 PM

I'm not into NASCAR, but neither am I into golf. Even though, i'm a Tiger Woods fan.

Same for tennis, and the lovely-extremely
talented Williams sisters. The fact that
that I appreciate/applaud/support
these atheletes(who happen to be of my
same ethnic background)mean that any opponent(is a foe, particularly if their
caucasion? The answer is no.

In sports their are rivals: Boston vs NY;
in baseball; Lakers vs Celtics in basketball, etc.

In many cases it wasn't BLACK VS WHITE but EAST vs WEST, or GREEN AND WHITE VS PURPLE & GOLD(aforementioned Celtics/Lakers))...there's racism in sports, which is reflective of our society
as a whole.

Posted by: cc | February 17, 2006 09:46 PM

John,

Make sure you address your comments to the right person. Mike didn't speak of "rednecks". While he may work for WashingtonPost.com, he is just giving his impressions from Daytona. He didn't call for African American teams or drivers or anything. He just pointed out that some folks said things that made him uncomfortable.
And yes I'm Mike's friend. And if you knew him, you probably find that he'd gladly buy you a beverage of your choice, tell you some funny stories (which I'm sure are true) and keep you laughing all night.

Posted by: Chris M | February 17, 2006 09:58 PM

Scott, Janet Guthrie ran a bunch of Cup races in the '76-'80 era and did pretty well IIRC, with some top 10 finishes and some good runs at the Daytona 500 and at Bristol in '77 or '78.

This in addtion to qualifying for the Indy 500 and running some IndyCar races in the same era with some top 10s as well. I guess I could add that she started in sports cars and won her class at the Sebring 12 hr, and had some decent runs at the Daytona 24.

She never had the funding to go with her talent, unforunately.

I see that Katherine Legge has a full time ride in Champ Car this year, Erica Enders has a full-time NHRA Pro Stock ride, Erin Crocker's left her sprint car roots behind and has a full time ride with Evernham's Dodge Trucks, and Milka Duno has some overall wins in Grand Am Prototypes over the past couple of years (co-driving with Andy Wallace in some of Max Crawford's cars, IIRC). There are ladies out there doing pretty well. I think it's just a matter of time before you see Crocker or another lady in Cup, and successfully, too. Patty Moise and Shawna Robinson took some shots most recently, but it didn't work out well.

Back to the original topic, a very good friend of mine and fellow race fan is African American, we used to watch the 500s (Daytona and Indy) on TV every year, and went to a bunch of races before he moved to another city to start a family. He did mention feeling uncomfortable a few times, particularly at Indy.

NASCAR's diversity programs haven't been as successful as they'd like with minority teams and drivers not quite making it at the upper levels for one reason or another. The Busch GN race in Mexico is an interesting outreach program, and having winning IndyCar/ChampCar racer Adrian Fernandez drive a Hendrick GN car from time to time has been proven popular if not as successful on track as they'd like.

Speaking of diversity programs, when Scott Speed takes the green at Bahrain next month, he will be the first American to race in Formula 1 since Mikey Andretti in '93. Having said that, he'll be in one of the Toro Rosso cars, a marketing exercise for Red Bull (get it?) to get more sponsorship out on the track consituted from what was left of the perennial backmarker team Minardi when they sold out last year.

Ooh, looks like more trouble at the Truck race.

bc

Posted by: bc | February 17, 2006 10:03 PM

Some people question why sports should reach out to minority groups, both as participants and as fans. In the first case, the answer is simple: to find the best talent, wherever it resides. Who can seriously argue that black athletes such as Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters haven't raised the level of competition in their sports, attracted whole new audiences of all races, especially in the coveted 18-49 demographic, and increased media coverage and advertising revenues? Tiger has even gotten sponsorship deals with Buick, for gosh sakes, "The Official Car of Old White People." That shows how well he has been accepted in most circles of society.

In the second case, like it or not, the percentage of America's population made up of minority groups is growing quickly, especially Hispanics. Sports which don't manage to move past their stereotypes as being for white people only will eventually find their audiences and their ad revenues dwindling, ten years down the road or so.

Besides being the right thing to do, encouraging diversity is just good business. And that's a lot of what sports are about!

Posted by: Scott | February 17, 2006 10:49 PM

"So, you're willing to stereotype millions of fans for the behavior of a few?"

You know, the behavior of a few can cause a lot of damage.

Also given how few people I've ever seen stand up for what they believe in in a crowd, especially if they think the crowd may not follow them makes me think those few could esily make someone's trip home very unpleasant.

That's crowd mentality IMO, and why people are treated so badly for dissenting in this country, even for their own religious freedom, which, last time I looked, was why this country was created in the first place.

Posted by: Devorah | February 17, 2006 10:57 PM

This is the Washington Post trying to drum up liberal "harumphs" by reinforcing a stereotype of whites. He's using an example of extremists to paint all white NASCAR fans as racists. As a white guy with lots of white friends, I don't hear any of this. And I bet others similarly have white friends totally unlike the ones Snyder writes about.
Also the more ignorant white folks know that if they single out blacks for derision, they'll face hate crime prosecution as well as media derision.
The only place I've recently experienced racism is when I went to a screening fo an African-American film and the racism was directed at me. Yet, I'm not stupid enough to judge an entire race by a few losers ... unlike Mike Snyder. This artiucle is an example of why newspaper subscriptions are plummeting.

Posted by: Dennis | February 17, 2006 10:58 PM

I appreciate the support of my friends. Thanks. As they've pointed out, I'm not calling anyone "rednecks" or any other epithet. I feel just as strongly about that, too. I detest labels. I pick and choose to support what I believe to be morally right as I'm sure you all do, too.

If you've got issues with the NAACP and/or affirmative action programs, I'd be glad to listen to your point of view. I understand why some people have strong feelings about these issues.

Personally, I feel that being born a white male in America is about as good of a head start as you could hope to have in the world. I also know that poverty is color blind and its not necessarily easy to find work.

I'm still very hopeful at how race relations have improved in my lifetime. And gender roles. Bring on the women drivers, and African Americans and Hispanics and Asians and Scandinavians as well.

All I'm saying is lets be respectful and treat each other with dignity. Some people say things that sometimes they regret, sometimes they don't regret what they've said. In America, they've got a 1st Amendment right to sound off. I certainly don't want to be labled as a person who would ever support supressing that right.

I can't speak for NASCAR or other race fans, but I'm not trying to label the sport, the sanctioning body or the fans as racist.

So I won't let a few bad apples spoil the barrel. I'd like to get back to racing, since that's why I'm here, along with all the other race fans.

And thanks to ALL of you for your comments. And I mean that sincerely.

Posted by: Mike | February 17, 2006 11:26 PM

"They don't have a lobby. There's no NAACP for "rednecks".

Guess he's never heard of the KKK.

Posted by: Michael | February 18, 2006 12:07 AM

I went to a NASCAR event with a black friend who loves the sport. (I am white) He has been to the track a lot in Delaware. We walked around and everyone was really nice. Every tailgate party we walked by, people invited us in and offered us burgers and beers. They wanted to talk about the pending race, who was running well going into it, the different cars and pit crews, pretty much everything but racism. We filled up on their food and never did I or my friend feel out of place. And he says he goes every chance he gets. We never talked about racism because it was a total non-issue. Perhaps there are more hateful people in Florida, or perhaps you happened to run into a bunch of stupid drunks of the type you can find anywhere and not just at the race track.

Posted by: John | February 18, 2006 12:10 AM

Can someone explain to me how the NAACP is a hate group?

I am angered, but not surprised by the fact that certain people are so threatened by the success of African Americans and by the people who work hard to help us achieve despite all the racism in policy in practice that exists in this country.

When people make statements like "howcome no one asks where all the white guys are in the NBA" it seems pretty clear that there are some NASCAR fans with provincial and possessive attitudes who view the presence of African Americans as a threat under any circumstances.

My response is "Where are all the Blacks in the Senate?"


I'm awaiting the racist rationalizations to come...

Posted by: Kiss my ASCAR | February 18, 2006 12:12 AM

I was disappointed in your article. You made it seem like this idiot group of drunks that you ran into were a bigger part of NASCAR fan base than I think they really are. What they were are drunks and last time I checked they can be found everywhere. Also racists are located through out this whole country. The South does not have an exclusive on that.

Posted by: Jen | February 18, 2006 12:29 AM

Just want to say to John, and everyone else, aside from the incident the other night, which bugged me enough so that I didn't feel like shrugging it off, I'm finding nothing less than a totally harmonious, groovy scene.

I'm not here to start a race riot. I only believe in one race, the human race. Unfortunately, it's not perfect.

Oh, and there is that one other race, the Daytona 500. I guess my strong stance is starting to be diluted by time and weariness.

And with that, I can tell I'm getting punchy. I'll sign off for a few hours of sleep.

Check back tomorrow, please, for new blog content. It's the weekend now, and we're getting down to it.

Thanks.

Posted by: Mike | February 18, 2006 12:38 AM

Sorry, one last post, since I didn't see Jen's comment.

I also don't want to make any racial thing about the south. There's history, which we could debate ad infinitum, but you're absolutely right that there's racism throughout the country, and the world, for that matter. Like I said in my last response, the human race is far from perfect -- or something to that effect.

But I surely wouldn't want the entire south to hate me. I love it here. Am I going to have to wear a disguise tomorrow? I surely hope not. It was an observation and a gut reaction. We all have them. I hope you'll read my earlier responses.

Thanks for your comments, Jen.

Posted by: Mike | February 18, 2006 12:44 AM

Racism at the Races ? Does that surprise you ?

Posted by: Francis Scalzi | February 18, 2006 01:33 AM

Folks like Mike Snyder restore my faith in the notion that the U.S. is more than just a country. Our all-color nation reflects the painfully slow but steady triumph of a mainstream diversity over our exclusionary KKK-sque extremists. From Emancipation to Integration to Voting Rights to NASCAR the common denominator has been the angry face of impotent hatred. As a young black man I frequently now sense (rather than observe) a subtle shift in white attitude towards me...an attitude that seems to say that I am not inherently more dangerous than any other stranger. You are a hero, Mr. Snyder.

Posted by: Patrick Amechy | February 18, 2006 03:51 AM

Mike...thanks for exposing bigotry, white or black. I can't imagine that those Truck-potatoe bigots will turn down an invitation from Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. I am black, and here, my color is relevant only because I'd like to say that discrimination isn't an exclusive white preserve. Blacks discriminate too and the frightening thing about "underdog bigotry" is the feeling, almost, that we are entitled to do so by the fact of all that we had suffered in the past. My view (and this is what I will teach my children)is that bigotry is wrong no matter the source. The "soft bigotry" of blacks who loudly complain about "white refusal to integrate" yet disparage any blackman who commits the "cultural crime" of marrying a white woman IS AS DISGUSTING as the "cherry bigotry" of whites who have no problem with interracial marriage per se, unless the participating female in that relation is Caucasian.

Posted by: PUtulu888@yahoo.com...Patryk Utulu | February 18, 2006 04:30 AM

I'm white. My wife is black. We moved from Maryland to Florida four years ago. There is racism in both places, but in a practical sense my wife says it is less bothersome here than in the DC area.

We have several young, white friends who are at Daytona right now but spend most weekends at Sebring, racing their own sports cars or acting as pit crew for other 'amateur' drivers. These guys are as redneck/cracker as you can get, right down to grumbling about affirmative action and the NAACP, but in a personal, one-on-one sense they are about as non-racist as a human can be. They certainly don't discriminate when choosing friends, and as far as we can tell they treat all the people they know personally the same, regardless of ethnic heritage.

Florida is a strange place, neither southern nor not-southern. (Gov. Jeb Bush describes it as "a purple state.") You may hear more *verbal* racism here than in the D.C. area, but my wife says security guards in Maryland stores often followed her around, but she says that doesn't happen here, and she patronizes a mixed-race hair salon the likes of which she had never seen growing up in Baltimore, where barber shops and beauty salons were some of the most segregated businesses in town.

Churches here, too, are less racially divided than in Maryland. A few blocks from our home in Bradenton (south of Tampa) there's a large, full-gospel church with a rock-em-out, mostly-black choir that dominates its services -- and a white minister and a congregation that is maybe half black, one quarter white, and one quarter hispanic.

Daytona is more racist than our part of Florida, plus it draws a lot of drunk frat pukes during race week and spring break. We looked at Daytona as a possible place to live and rejected it in part because of its firm racial divisions; it has very separate "black" and "white" neighborhoods, for example. But more than racism, we wanted to avoid the destructive partying we saw as part of the culture there. (We decided against Ft. Lauderdale for the same reason, even though it didn't seem -- to us -- to be a particularly racist town.)

As far as racism in NASCAR and other car racing organizations: perhaps they don't "reach out" to minorities, but even the reddest-necked race guys I know are happy to accept anyone *competent* as a driver or mechanic.

I suspect that a car-fascinated black teenager who showed up regularly at DeSoto Speedway, our local stock-car track, and offered to volunteer as pit crew/helper would soon find himself an integral part of a racing team. If he proved competent, reliable, and willing to learn, that could eventually take him to NASCAR as either driver or mechanic, assuming he had enough talent to make it into the "big leagues." And even if he never made it beyond the small-time racing circuit (which most white drivers and mechanics never do, either), he'd almost certainly find a good job as a mechanic through his racing connections, and could one day own his own business and -- just like most whites who go this route -- have his own race car to run on weekends that he'd write off as a "promotional expense" for his car repair shop.


Posted by: Robin 'Roblimo' Miller | February 18, 2006 06:15 AM

Patryk is absolutely right that discrimination is not just a white thing. Yet that fact should not affect how we view the incident that Mike described. We should stand up and condemn all acts of discrimination, ESPECIALLY because it is such a ubiquitous phenomenon. We shouldn't excuse the actions of the gentlemen Mike witnessed just because they weren't representative of all NASCAR fans.

Some have claimed that this anti-discrimination article is a bunch of liberal tripe, but it is striking how many people rapidly wrote in when they felt their respective groups were being discriminated against by Mike.

Sure, not all NASCAR fans are racist. But that doesn't mean we as a society should, for that reason, stand for racist comments from those who are. My first response to Mike's story was to feel sadness that black people must still endure such ignorance. I say this not from a white person's perspective, but from an American's perspective. It is not enough that "most" NASCAR fans aren't racist, as if this is a reason to quit worrying about the problem of race in America. And the fact that people can respond to that story by worrying first and foremost about their own feelings as part of the majority indicates to me that it is indeed still a problem.

Thank you for the article, Mike. Please don't get discouraged, but continue to think about this important issue.

Posted by: Elizabeth | February 18, 2006 06:28 AM

Gay bashing has also been eveident on the NASCAR circuit. But two gay friends of mine have found increasing acceptance at the track since becoming devoted fans a few years ago. They have an increasing circle of gay and straight friends that camp in the infield. They also publish gaytona.com, a site that brings honor and fun to the sport.

Posted by: Perry | February 18, 2006 07:53 AM

I came late to racing too, and have mostly stuck with Indy and Forumula events, mainly because NASCAR always seemed so redneck/white trash.

With NASCAR's growing reach into the North, I imagine that will eventually change, though.

Posted by: Mike, Chicago | February 18, 2006 08:29 AM

The Washington Post is known for having great sports writers, unfortunately Mike Snyder isn't one of them. He is a junior writer trying to make a name for himself. He is writing about the Nascar circuit and he ends up talking about "Nascar Princesses and Racism"? These articles could have been written my by six year old daughter. Mike goes to track and sees two drunk men who are racist. The entire Nascar fan base is racist? Write about the races Mike and let Mike Wilbon write about the racial issues.

Posted by: JB | February 18, 2006 09:14 AM

So how many starting runningbacks in the NFL are white?

As a white man (5'10") I don't think I would be all that welcome at a pick-up game at any inner city public basketball court. Maybe because I am white, but maybe because I stink at basketball.

It's not racism, its demographics. White rednecks and a few geeks (the Bush Bro's) grew up racing cars and now they get paid for it. Same deal with the inner city basketball.

Why does someone from DC give a crap about NASCAR anyhow?????

Posted by: REL | February 18, 2006 09:20 AM

Pointing out racism is the only way to stop it. Some people commit racism openly as those drunks in the back of the truck. Some do it behind closed doors or in small companies thinking they are not being heard. I own a retail business and spend about 5 hours a day 2-3 days a week at a supply company where I purchase my goods. 2 months ago I had enough of the whispering bigoted talk by his employees and met with the president of that company. I stated no longer would I do business with his company and have to listen to their awful jokes about them celebrating James Earl Day. He said it was all in fun that I should take it with a grain of salt and that they had a "RIGHT" to say what they wanted... I tried to make him understand that I had a RIGHT to do business wherever I wanted...

I found another supplier the same day. He's called me every day apologizing trying to win back my 1 million dollars in sales every year. Sorry... too late... I found another supplier where I don't have to do business listening to offensive racial jokes and possibly even hear them offend some of their fellow employees that are afraid to step up and complain due to they need their jobs to support their families. People in positions that can afford to make changes should set an example and might just be able to show business people how to create an safe environment for employees and customers alike. Kudos to you for pointing out in your article what you saw in the back of that pickup... That was plain hate and stupidity... I might however suggest you not classify all of those idiots as rednecks... I would like to point out that I am proud to be a southern REDNECK and only a small portion of people from the south fit into the category you hopefully mistakenly lumped us into.

Posted by: Brian | February 18, 2006 09:24 AM

"Stock car racing sprang from a fine Southern tradition" says the article but didn't it grow out of moonshiners running from revenue agents and the police? Drug dealers leading the authorities on wild high speed chases on public roads. Is this is a fine Southern tradition refered to or have I been misinformed about its origins?

Posted by: Frank | February 18, 2006 09:39 AM

Mike - You got any problem with your ideological soulmate Bryant Gumball's comment about the racial composition of the Winter Olympics? P.S. Has anyone ever seen Mike Snyder and Michael Moore together?

Posted by: Fred Hollingsworth | February 18, 2006 10:39 AM

First off, let me say that I'm a redneck hippie. Yep, I'm a liberal, sushi-loving tree-hugger, but also a huge Nascar fan who swills beer out of aluminum cans at cookouts and thinks Pottery Barn is pretentious cr*p, so pretty much everybody thinks I'm nuts. I've been to races and know Southern and Northern people of all walks of life and here's the deal:

1) Yes, there are racists at Nascar races. There are also racists on the Metro. But let's get real, there are MORE racists at the track. There are fewer and fewer nowadays though, because they're getting sick of the "young guns" and corporate BS and sanitized talk by the drivers, so like Mike said, there are fewer and fewer Confederate flags flying.

2) I've been to races and have never heard or seen any race-related problems at all. Know why? It's too danged LOUD! As long as you stand for the National Anthem and the prayer and the green flags, nobody cares what color you are. They care more about who your driver is. And seriously, there are just too many people around for anyone to start any trouble with anybody.

3) When I say "racist", I mean someone who uses the "N" word. Ever. But *very* few of them think of ALL black people that way. Just the ones they don't like. They actually have black friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. that they like very much. They also have special words for white people they don't like (white trash) not to mention Hispanics, Asians, Arabs - you name it. These people may be kind of stupid, but they aren't going to cause any problems for black people at the track or call them any names. As for the real racists who don't want to see black people there? Well, then buy a ticket and tick them off so bad they won't come back!

4) You want to have a more diverse crowd at races? Then get your black and gay and hippie friends and GO! Regardless of Nascar's roots, it's an incredible sport and a spectacle like no other that you can't truly appreciate until you see it in person.

5) Even Dale Jr. himself, the Crown Prince of the sport, who grew up surrounded by race cars in Kannapolis, NC, has come out against using racial slurs. The South is changing and the sport is changing, so don't let a few bad apples spoil it for you.

Posted by: Denise C. | February 18, 2006 10:43 AM

Again, I haven't labeled anyone a "redneck." And I love the south. I love coming here to the races. I would live here if I could. Nothing but love.

Posted by: Mike | February 18, 2006 10:44 AM

I think the term "redneck" is like the term "liberal". It's only a dirty word if you don't like them.

Posted by: Denise C. | February 18, 2006 10:50 AM

I get so tired of some knuckle head such as yourself that sees this as deserving of coverage. Most of you are clueless about this sport and stereo type everyone associated with it. You are the racist, that seeks justification. No talk of NASCAR's diversity program huh. No talk of the legendary Wendell Scott (black driver) from va or the many others.One joker brings up golf. You have to be kidding me. That is the good ol boy network if there ever was one. They are equal opportunity racist. Tell me the African Americans history as it relates to golf prior to 1990. Who Jim Dent, that constantly complained of mistreatment. I won't even start on their equality history as it relates to women. In summary Mike, (and your buddy John) we don't need your out of place comments, nor do your friends have to justify your lack of scruples in reporting. In the future think before you report. What a waste. Anything for some fame huh, buddy.

Posted by: John Leizear | February 18, 2006 11:09 AM

Redneck, liberal, conservative, progressive, moderate, etc and etc. Who the heck knows what these terms mean anymore. As most of the comments to this article clearly shows, we are all simply individuals. Some more inclined to label others - some more inclined to pick up the predudisms of others. Personally, I was southern born and raised but somehow never learned to not like others based on their race. But I know I too have my predudisms because for years I did NOT like NASCAR because I somehow thought most of those who did were predudiced. Life is a laugh but as you grow older you somehow learn that labeling others often just reduces the number of potentially great friends you may make - and maybe even the number of great races you watch. I strongly advise simply looking for the good in everyone - its amazing how often you'll find it.

Posted by: Don Wilkins | February 18, 2006 11:11 AM

New England liberal here...haven't been to Daytona yet, but I do go to the Dover race every Sept., and you do see black fans in the stands. Not that many, but there are a few, and I'd hope they feel welcome -- even if they may not be thrilled to see Confederate battle flags flying in the camper lot.

As for Daytona--you get that many people packed into the track/campground complex for a week, you're bound to run into a few drunken chuckleheads.

Posted by: Dave | February 18, 2006 11:14 AM

I have spent time living as a white male in slums. I have been on occasion insulted, menaced, and threatened occasions by African Americans based on my racial background. I have seen drug deals, gangbangers, prostitution and theft and been approached by people holding guns and baseball bats. I don't think this represents the hidden deeper desires of these communities, just the unfortunate actions of a few. Do the comments or actions of the few have any valid meaning in totality? This certainly sounds like prejudice thinking to me. We are to be judging the obscured moral totality of NASCAR fans by a few dumb drunk idiots in a truck? I think engaging in this form of thinking about others motivations is stupid, just as stupid as the rednecks you claim to deplore. The goal of being open minded about race is to look past specific upsetting incidents and see the bigger picture which is certainly moving towards more tolerant behavior in general.

Posted by: Gordon | February 18, 2006 11:17 AM

So you think someone who disagrees with the NAACP is a racist? Have you read lately the tripe that's coming out of that once proud organization? You're obviously someone who's just not comfortable with attitudes only slightly different from your own.

Posted by: Mark | February 18, 2006 11:23 AM

Man. Mr. Leizear, did you even read what Mike wrote? He wrote about a specific incident where specific people said a specific thing that, you've got to admit, was a racist comment. That's not stereotyping anyone! The sport is changing, but that doesn't change where it came from, and if you can't see that, you're deluding yourself.

Posted by: | February 18, 2006 11:24 AM

The story was about his own personal feelings about being comfortable where he thought people from another race might not be so comfortable. He talked about his own personal introspection when he found himself looking for an African American to include in a photo. The incident (in which he never used the word redneck) was a catlyst for discussing something important. Is he not allowed to talk about his personal feelings, something that he pondred that he felt other people may have thought of as well? Holy smokes, you people are scaring me.

Posted by: Justin | February 18, 2006 11:38 AM

I'm black and I cannot stand the NAACP. It is a disgraceful organization. I say Down With It. Does that make me a racist too?

Posted by: Rasheed | February 18, 2006 11:43 AM

Rasheed:

The point I was making was that the two guys in the pickup truck were yelling what they did in a taunting way. I couldn't see who was riding in the car behind them. I only hope it was a black person or persons.

You're free to your opinion. And thanks for sharing it, though I'll not comment on the NAACP as an organization.

Posted by: Mike | February 18, 2006 12:06 PM

What a typo. I meant to write that I only hope that the people in the car behind them were NOT African American. Please forgive error.

Posted by: Mike | February 18, 2006 12:08 PM

How typical of a member of the liberal nanny press to conflate the private behavior of a couple individuals into an issue of racism.

The men weren't harassing anyone, but were talking among themselves, merely in a boisterous fashion. Mike was invading their privacy and should mind his own business.

And as Rasheed correctly points out, criticism of the NAACP does not make one a Klan member.

Posted by: Brenda | February 18, 2006 12:15 PM

I think the fact that they were trashing the NAACP rather than saying something else, should be looked on as some kind of progress, seeing that they were drunk and the lady kindly rolled her eyes disparingly warning you that they were misbehaving. These same guys might get out and fix a African American ladies tire on the side of the highway a few miles down the road or have a African-American niece or nephew. Yes, race is that complicated in this country. I think that is why we don't need to jump to conclusions about what the broader meaning of this minor incident might be or why black people in this country don't go to NASCAR races in the same ratio numbers as whites. I suggest you go to some drag races if you haven't. They have a much broader following among racial groups in racers and audiences. The NBA has a majority African American Players Association, but it has often been mentioned that it has a suprisingly small seated African American fan base in most cities in America. Is that because the seated fan base is racist and makes people uncomfortable to attend the games? I have seen plenty of incidents from drunk crowds at races and other events. Yes, the fan base of Nascar does include Southern Whites and occasionally some say things others might take offense too. As someone who has gone to Indy and Nascar, racial feelings aside, they are polite and well behaved. I have seen Indy fans fight, push pregnant women, and gotton my share of kicks. I think the problem is mainly Budwieser not black and white.

Posted by: Gordon | February 18, 2006 12:43 PM

People sitting in the bed of a pickup outdoors in a traffic jam talking loudly enough to be heard in nearby cars aren't merely "talking among themselves." They're invading other people's privacy, just as surely as if your apartment neighbor turns up his stereo loud enough to shake your walls.

Mike could hardly have "minded his own business" if he had wanted to, other than perhaps rolling up his windows and turning up the radio to try to cover up their "boisterousness".

It seems to me that many of the poeple responding so defensively to Mike's comments must feel like they have something to hide themselves, or something they're ashamed of. We often react the most strongly when we're the most insecure abouty our own positions or beliefs.

Posted by: Scott | February 18, 2006 12:48 PM

Oh, for crying out loud! Why in the world would a couple of drunk guys pick Daytona Speedweeks in the back of a pickup as an appropriate time and place to stage a protest of the NAACP's policies? Mike posts a comment about an experience that reflects a real and serious issue that exists in America, maybe in the hope of starting an honest dialogue about it so we can ALL get past it and grow together as a country and you jump all over him with comments like "liberal nanny press"? And it doesn't matter how "private" the situation is or who it's about - racist or bigoted comments are wrong, mean, and ugly, and do nothing but drag down both those who express them and those who hear them.

Posted by: Denise C. | February 18, 2006 12:50 PM

Has anyone read Mike Snyder's bio/introduction (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/nascar/2006/02/lets_go_racing.html)? He's an editor, not a sports reporter -- certainly no Mike Wilbon, it's true, as one reader wrote -- but, he's a huge NASCAR fan. He makes it clear that he's writing this blog from the perspective of a fan about the fans. Mike, your journal so far has given me an inside glimpse of the race that I can't get on television. I appreciate your post about the sights and sounds: the weather, the Gibbs team, the "princesses", the sand sculptures, and the racist incident you observed. You've given me what you said you would. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Thanks | February 18, 2006 01:09 PM

Scott, Brilliant, all that disagree with you must have a hidden agenda, you might want to join Senator Macarthy in a witch hunt on Capital hill. The fact is that I doubt that a person going to a Nascar race would have anymore chance of having something racially motivated happen to them than at any other event with a similiar amount of Alchohol consumed on the premises. The only reason this is therefore an issue is because the crowd is percieved as white and therefore must be presumed to be primarily racist. That is the only way that you can come to Mikes conclusion.

What if I based my conclusions about African Americans in general based on specific bad events which I have experienced? Especially when they are not the general experience. Did most of the other drunk idiots in pickups join in a chorus of approval at the sounds of these two buffoons? No, then this is a bigoted conclusion. I had a black couple sit behind me at the Indy 500 for 20 years. They had a nice time and were treated well by all.

I think fans seeing a large white crowd as overwhelmingly hostile and unpolite without approaching them to find out that they are no different from a football crowd or any other sport are missing the larger picture of progress.

Posted by: Gordon | February 18, 2006 01:13 PM

As someone who knows Mike I can't tell you how funny it is that people are accusing him of being a liberal. LOL. No offense Mike, you're a great guy, but this notion that he is some elitist liberal apologist has got to be the funniest thing I have read in months. We're splitting a gut over here.

get real people.

Posted by: Donald | February 18, 2006 05:50 PM

The NCAAP is a political organization, and as such, we should be free to criticize it without suffering oppression (and labeling someone a racist is as politically oppressive as you can get in this country).

If someone disagrees with Bush, if someone chants "Down with the Republican Party", even though they may be labeled anti-American, is that a fair label? I don't think so.

And the real problem NASCAR has with black fans is BLACK racism. They won't give the sport a chance because blacks don't dominate it. Period.

Posted by: John | February 18, 2006 07:30 PM

Hi JB(dang shame that you shamefully hid your real name):
I was sorry to note that you would rather that Mike Snyder NOT write about racism and NASCAR princess. Sorry to disappoint you pal. Racism exist and yes, there are emerging NASCAR PRINCESSES in our Nascar family...and yes, it is not a crime for Mike Snyder to try "to make his own name"
and contratulations to U, if indeed, your little daughter writes "better" than Mike. Mike Snyder represents the very best of America...his action reflects our ability to critically self-exam. And JB, please do yourself a favor and grow up...because your small-mindedness will soon force that little bio-daughter of yours to seek out a true American hero like Mike Snyder for a surrogate father-figure. Greeeeeeeeetings.

Posted by: Peter Kingsley Hennesy of Durham NC | February 18, 2006 09:17 PM

"And the real problem NASCAR has with black fans is BLACK racism. They won't give the sport a chance because blacks don't dominate it. Period."

Wrong-o John. I have black friends who are fans. They're just nervous about going to a race because of things they might hear like WHAT MIKE WROTE ABOUT.

Boy, you knee-jerk "liberal" bashers are dee-luded about reality.

Posted by: Denise C. | February 18, 2006 09:27 PM

HI AMERICAN CONFEDERACISTS!
ITS nice TO SEE that MORE than a 100 years AFTER the so-called EMANCIPATION, you are still SCREAMING at the top of your "CHAT-ROOM LUNGS" in brazen attempts to SILENCE those who DARED point to your CONTINUING romance with RACISM. Well, keep polishing those Jeff Davis/David Duke/Gen. E. Lee family momentos. I'm sure that Hitler will soon send back those losers to accompany you all to a special part of hell.

Posted by: Nigerian-American | February 18, 2006 11:54 PM

Although clearly there are many in this forum who wish to deny that racism is still a problem for America, we do not get to congratulate ourselves if racism exists only in the minds of private individuals. Sure, we may not see as many public displays of racism as in times past in this country, but that is no reason to pat ourselves on the back and forget about the problem. Racism is actually all the more insidious when it festers in the minds of private individuals who will then be subtly influenced by it in their daily lives. The knee-jerk reactions of those who protested the mere MENTION of a racist event at NASCAR are all too much proof of this latent racism.

Mike was very clearly talking about an particular event that involved particular individuals. He never once called anyone a redneck. He never insinuated that all NASCAR fans are racist. Yet many people on this forum did not read his words carefully, merely noted the subject matter, and came to snap judgments about Mike (absurdly referring to him as part of the Liberal nanny press and the like)--what is this but prejudice? An uncritical immediate judgment about someone's character based on an isolated incident? Mike's critics are doing the very thing they wrongly accuse him of.

There are always many opinions about any one issue, but please people, let's try to at least debate about what Mike actually said.

Posted by: Elizabeth | February 19, 2006 01:49 AM

How many times have I pulled up to a traffic light and had to put up with "Death to Whitey" blaring and thumping from a car next to me? How is that different from "Down with the NAACP"?

I don't feel sorry for blacks who are afraid to go to a NASCAR event. Hell, I sure wouldn't feel comfortable going to a "50 Cent" concert.

I recently got caught in a throng of movie goers leaving whatever was the latest Hollywood glorification of Hip Hop violence - and I could easily feel the hostility towards me.

Yeah, there's racism in America, but it sure ain't the private domain of white NASCAR fans.

Posted by: ACS | February 19, 2006 09:50 AM

I agree with ACS. White men need to band together and fight the power structure in this country. Look around you. Who is in a position of power? Yes, we have a good run on president and vice president, yes, 80% of ceo's, congress, the judiciary are all white. Yes, white men make on average more than anyone else, yes white men are the least jailed, submit the fewest discrimination complaints and own over 74% of the privately held land in this country. These are all besides the point. We are woefully discriminated against and I for one am tired of being held back simply for being a white male. We are so misunderstood.

Posted by: Sully | February 20, 2006 03:31 PM

Good Statistics, Scully...
All those bountiful per-centages and you still feel discrinated against? Hmmmm. According to your statistics, whitemen who have produced 100% of U.S. Presidents/V. Presidents, 80% of CEOs, own 74% of all privately owned lands in America are the underdogs. Hmmmmmmmmmm. I wonder why women and blacks are complaining about their 2% fortunes?

Posted by: Burk Dleany | February 26, 2006 03:26 AM

yeah I agree with you sully white people as a whole are screwed over now a days. I mean come on the people here who are saying that those nascar fans are racist are most likly rich whity that live in the suburbs that have no ideal how people in the hood live, expecially the white people in the hood. Just about everybody has a little racist in them cuase of the unfair treatment in the past and present, for the past get over what happened 100 years ago gees. Its hard for low white income family childern to go to college not many scholarships out there, yeah sure there is the 100 dollar ones but they dont pay for nothing. Everywhere I go and everything I here or see is anti-white do to the mistakes of the pass the ideal that all white people are not cool and being black is great kinda sucks for ol'whity over here. And as for why the poor people dont like mexicans is cause of how are goverment gives them all kinds of breaks and grants. They didnt give the indians or blacks that special treatment. As for the person that didnt feel right in indianapolis kiss off i live in indianapolis haughvill to be exact. They hole year on the westside close to the track is unsafe. Drugs, robberys, murder and the rest of the crime world plagues the streets then when the race comes by all those criminals hide in there houses then all the good people can come out freely. As for trying to get more minoritys into racing hey if they dont like it dont bother changing it to make them feel better. As for all the NAACP ass kisser get the facts straight and pull your head out of your ass and talk to people who know they are racist.

Posted by: jabre | March 11, 2006 05:10 PM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




 
 

© 2006 The Washington Post Company