Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver in the top series of racing in America, revealed he has faced racial discrimination throughout his racing career, including from officials.
The NASCAR driver says that he continues to be racially abused every day on social media by users who hide behind anonymity.
Wallace was one of the first NASCAR drivers to speak up in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests that have swept the US, following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25.
“I get stuff all the time – ‘[That] I’m only here because I’m black, that if it wasn’t for the diversity programme, I wouldn’t be here and it’s funny because before I joined the programme I signed on for [NASCAR team] JGR,” he said in a conversation with fellow racer Ty Dillon, which was broadcast on Instagram.
“I know why I’m here. I’m, competitive. It’s every day on my mentions that I am here because I’m black. Its at the point where I just laugh…I have no control over that stuff.
“Its the people who have the egg picture as their Avatar so you don’t know what they look like. It’s just keyboard warriors that run their mouth. It could be little kids, it could be grown people.”
Since Wallace first spoke out in support of the protests, many other drivers, including Dillon, have offered their support. The discussion between the pair came after talks in private between them about the ongoing situation.
Dillon introduced the Instagram live video as a way of beginning a dialogue in efforts to learn and educate on the issue of racial inequality and perceptions of it in motor sport and broader life.
“The first instance that kind of came about, I think it was Legend Cars, I got wrecked leading and I rode by to the team hauler,” Wallace said. “I got back to the hauler and we were sitting there talking and my group of people, they were like ‘well it just turned worse because such and such’s dad just called you an ‘n’ word. I was 13 at that point and kinda knew.”
“Fast forward to UARA days, we were racing Kyle Grisham. He didn’t have anything to do with it, it was actually an official.
“Kyle and I got together in Turn One or something. We come back and another official comes up to us and says ‘I’m really sorry to say this but I’d heard one of the officials say “that n***** wrecked you” to the Grisham team’.
“My Dad was like, ‘well all right, that’s our last race in this series. Either you fire him on the spot or you’ll never see us again. And about 30 minutes down the road they were like ‘all right, we fired him so hopefully we’ll see you guys at next week’s race.”
Wallace also talked through his experiences suffering racial discrimination in his personal life away from the race track. He listed several instances of being profiled by police.
“I got pulled over a year ago… Three cops get out guns drawn. Not pointed at me. [I was] sitting there driving a Lexus, nice car, He was like, ‘Is this your car?’ I said, ‘Yep’.
‘Can you afford this car?’ ‘I said yes sir I can’ – with an attitude.
“It’s the way people say things. And that’s what triggers African-American people because we’re all the same. We don’t need the underlying smug remarks.”
Wallace is not the only black driver in motor sport to speak out. Lewis Hamilton has said that he is “completely overcome with rage” at the disregard shown to “those of us who are black, brown or in between”. He has called on those within Formula 1 to make their voices heard and further spread the message against racism.
Since then, multiple F1 drivers and his Mercedes team have made statements in support of protests in the United States and around the world.
Wallace also pointed out that he believed that peaceful protesters had every right to make their voices heard, and called out those who have exploited the situation to loot stores and businesses.
“I don’t believe that the violent riots and looting are the way to go,” Wallace explained.