What a NASCAR Noose Controversy Can Teach About Some White People's Obliviousness
As long as I can remember, I’ve been white. And during this stretch, I’ve regularly had fellow caucazoids regurgitate ludicrous-level obliviousness around how we perceive, process, and, ultimately, pontificate on the souls of Black folk.
To provide an early-in-life illustration, I was in the dining hall during my freshman year of college when a not-particularly-fly-for-a-white-guy says, “Did you ever notice how all the black students sit together?” I reply, “Well, what about us?” He goes, “What do you mean?” I reply, “The only way they can all sit together is if we all sit together.” (Blank stare and silence leading to epiphany).
I’m reminded of this phenomenon, on average, every single time there is a controversy involving somebody black and famous.
Being oblivious is great news for many of my Cloroxed peeps. It means you’re not aware when your double standards have triple standards, and since it’s not malicious, that spells a teachable moment.
Our obliviousness crashed home again as I watched rage plume over the past 48 hours around NASCAR’s sole black driver, Bubba Wallace, who catalyzed NASCAR’s confederate flag ban and subsequently found “a noose” in his garage.
See, What Had Happened Was…
(1) Someone on Bubba’s crew found what looked like a “noose”;
(2) NASCAR inspected the garage stalls of all 29 tracks it races on (1648, in total) and found only 11 garage doors with pulldown ropes with knots in them;
(3) ONE knot resembled “a noose” — the one connected to the garage assigned to Wallace at Talladega;
(4) NASCAR — not Wallace — sent out a press statement noting what was discovered;
(5) All of NASCAR — every driver and crew member— stood behind Bubba in a staggering, pride-inducing show of unity;
(6) the FBI investigated and learned the knot had existed for months before Wallace’s garage assignment was made, which refutes the idea it was intended specifically for Bubba as a hate symbol;
(7) Wallace told Don Lemon after the FBI investigation that (the rope) “was a straight-up noose,” and most importantly…
(8) for a tragic number of white people, Bubba Wallace became public enemy number 1, prompting actual Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav to yell, “Fight the power, boyeeeee!” while staring longingly at a grandfather clock.
Group-based generalizations are generally stupid and will, by definition, be wrong because NO group is a monolith. Also, the likelihood of inaccuracy increases when you generalize to a group subset, such as “white people who live South of the Mason-Dixon line” or “follow conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro.”
I follow Shapiro because I like to know how people who think nothing like me think, so the above headline plus the 18,000 likes snagged me. Benjamin said the story was “a fraud.” Since I’ve learned 95% of America’s debates are because we use different definitions, “fraud” means somebody is intentionally deceiving you. Not mistaken, not interpreting events differently…aware of falsity and spreading it anyway.
Well, this was intriguing.
I dove into the over 3000 comments, which were deflating and roundly echoed Shapiro’s central notion. I’ll put aside blatantly racist ones — calling Bubba a “diluted” black guy because he is bi-racial, saying he should go play basketball, or “Everything is an offense to these people. They weren’t the first slaves, and they won’t be the last”— and focus instead on the thousands that used the words “hoax” or #BubbaSmollett, a clever effort to equate Bubba to Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor who completely fabricated a story of a hate crime. (If you haven’t seen Dave Chappelle’s take on Smollett, do so now!)
Also, since a video circulated showing that the knot was forged from a garage door pull rope, many comments mocked Wallace through memes.
The Obvious Questions for the Oblivious
Before we dive in, it’s crucial to separate two pivotal questions in this palace intrigue: (1) was there a noose?; and (2) if so, was it tied intentionally as a hate symbol directed to Bubba?
Question 1. How can you say this ISN’T a noose?
Here’s the photo the FBI reviewed and NASCAR released.
Wikihow’s article “Tie a Noose in Ten Steps” has this photo of a completed noose. TADA!
Even the number of loops — seven — is identical. If, right now, you are saying, “Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t hang anybody with that pull rope in Bubba’s garage! That’s not a noose!” or any variant thereof…
2. Are Jews cool with you painting swastikas on your fingernails?
Has the ability of a hate symbol to unnerve ever been limited by its size? Or how functional it is? If a black family complained about a one-foot cross burning in their front yard, would you retort, “Frauds! What cross?!? You couldn’t crucify Peter Dinklage on that thing!” No? Then why won’t you accept the size of a hate symbol is irrelevant?
3. Are Jews cool with you taking toothpicks and gluing them into swastikas?
Items can be versatile! Imagine you have an eight-foot rope you use to tie up your bass boat. You know the guy who owns the boat next to you is black, and you're a racist douche. Could you, if you wanted, take that “bass boat rope” and make it into “a noose” he’d see walking by? Yes? Then why won’t you accept that a pull-down rope could also be a noose?
4. Why Do We Ignore Key Details to Single Out Bubba?
Bubba never said he was the victim of a hate crime. He said, “So, it wasn’t directed at me but somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying.” The FBI also called it a noose, three times in one paragraph, in fact. Why didn’t people attack the FBI for saying the exact same thing Wallace did?
Also, why did The Hill run a completely bogus headline saying “Bubba Wallace Dismisses FBI Findings.” He never did. He simply maintained it was a noose, which IT IS.
5. Why Engage in Hypocritical Character Attacks?
Wallace once poured water on Alex Bowman, and this clip is out in force on social media assailing “Wallace’s character.” Black people are pretty accustomed to having their lives dissected as a way to discredit them, but this one is SO juicy. Watch this clip of NASCAR drivers waxing poetically about how a FIST FIGHT “put NASCAR on the map” and it still gives them fond memories today. Or Google “NASCAR fights” and see how many marquee names have done SO much worse.
6. Why Can’t This Have Been a Mistake?
If law enforcement reported to the news it found a bomb or possible anthrax at a federal building, nobody loses their minds to learn it’s a false alarm. We feel relief. Not here. A crew member for the one black driver finds the one noose knot out of 1650 stalls, and Bubba becomes “a liar” who should be kicked out of the sport? Why are so few commenters willing to give benefit of the doubt to this young, black man that he was simply inaccurate or mistaken?
If you didn’t go six for six, it might be time for reflection. Maybe you’re too oblivious to see the handwriting on the meme….