First off, who is Bubba Wallace? Bubba Wallace is the only black driver in NASCAR's top-flight racing series. He has been especially important the past couple of weeks for his decision to take on racism in NASCAR. According to the New York Times, he wore a shirt reading "I Can't Breathe. Black Lives Matter," along with an American flag face mask before a race in Atlanta. Soon after that, Bubba and his team revealed a new paint scheme for the storied 43 car, all black, with a "Black Lives Matter" message on the side and a picture of white and black hands entwined on the hood. Wallace's urging got the organization to ban the Confederate flag at its events gaining much praise from his peers. In a sport whose owners, drivers, crews, and fans have historically been predominantly white, this is certainly a huge success.
Bubba Wallace's story doesn't end there. A couple of days ago, NASCAR informed his team and the FBI of a noose hanging in his assigned garage stall at a race in Alabama. This was only after two weeks of his activism efforts in getting the Confederate flag banned. The federal authorities were immediately involved and an FBI investigation was launched. Of course, we were all outraged, and so was NASCAR and the NASCAR community. Calls of support were also issued from the president of NASCAR, Steve Phelps, who also issued more security for Bubba. After completing their investigation, the FBI announced that Bubba Wallace is not the victim of a hate crime and no federal crime was committed. The noose was actually a garage door pull rope that has been around since October of 2019.
In a perfect society, we would all say "Yay!" and be done with it, but that is not the case here. The reaction of a lot of people on Twitter was nothing like happiness at all. The first reaction consisted of a few right-wing activists who insisted that Bubba Wallace was just another Jussie Smollett out to gain more fame and make the most of the limelight. These people took the confirmation that this was not a hate crime as proof that Bubba Wallace is indeed a fraud and took to Twitter to express their sentiments.
What annoyed me the most about all of this is that they did not pause to check the facts but rather ran to Twitter to inadvertently show us their racism. Bubba Wallace was not the one who found or reported the noose. NASCAR found it in his garage and informed him and the FBI. He just acted like a black person who was told there was a noose in their garage. THAT'S NORMAL.
What is not normal is to make it seem like one black man's story is every black man's story; one black person's mistake is every black person's mistake. Why are we still not treated as the individuals we are? Why, after so many decades and centuries, do we represent a whole race when we interact with the world? This situation and how it played out in the media proved to me how we have all felt at times.
In some spaces, I knew I was the first or the only black person to do something, so I had to do it right. The first black person to do something cannot do it wrong. This sentiment has been felt by all of us at some point even when we weren't the first or the only black person to do anything. We cannot fail because then we have all failed in the eyes who judge us.
While that noose was just a garage door pull rope, it uncovered a deeper commitment by the public to believe the worst of us instead of the best of us. Why is Jussie Smollet mentioned now every time a famous black person is associated with a hate crime? Bubba Wallace was not judged by his actions or his past; he was judged by the actions of past black men, not even all of them, but the one who admittedly fucked up. How is that fair or right or just? I hope people recognize the bias and the inherent racism within their reaction to this situation and start unraveling where it all came from.