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Photo: ‘Race: Bubba Wallace’
NASCAR is a sport that has very complicated and deep roots in the South and is in many ways proud and embracing of its Southern heritage. Chief among those roots is that the sport is nearly entirely made up of white men, with little room or opportunity available to minorities to rise up its ranks. Insert Bubba Wallace, the charismatic and outgoing Black driver who has made a strong name for himself on and off the race track.
Bubba Wallace – Leading by Example in the face of Adversity
To be completely honest, I have never considered myself to be a particularly big fan of NASCAR or car racing in general. Mainly for the reasons listed above, as it feels like something other to me as someone not from the South and as someone that did not grow up in the racing culture. As a Black man, Bubba Wallace did both of these things and found a way to break through the fray and into mainstream success as a driver, working his way all the way up from the very bottom of the ranks.
In ‘Race: Bubba Wallace’, we are presented with a very pensive and complicated protagonist in Bubba Wallace. The docuseries focuses on Bubba’s life and upbringing, following his rise to success on the race track while also diving into the other meaning of the word race. As the only full-time Black driver on the NASCAR circuit, Bubba expresses through interviews how he really never paid attention to the news or earlier social justice movements centered around the killings of Trayvon Martin or Eric Garner. He was so singularly focused on making it in his career as a driver that he had a (terrible pun) one ‘track’ mind when it came to his racing and his own personal victories.
However, as Bubba relays in the series this all changed in May of 2020 with the murder of George Floyd and the protests and movement that stemmed from Floyd’s killing. Wallace is moved to tears in archival footage and interviews discussing the matter while relaying a familiar sentiment we all felt after watching the video of Floyd being killed by police. Through this docu-series, Wallace is willing to bare all and is very raw in his confrontation of his prior apathy to the movement, to now being someone regarded as a hero for taking a stand and using his platform as a means for change. As is discussed in the series, Wallace was incredibly brave and put a massive target on his back by wearing an “I Can’t Breathe, Black Lives Matter” t-shirt prior to a race back in May 2020.
Having the strength to wear the shirt at an event where its fans are notorious for waving and wearing confederate flag memorabilia is incredibly impressive and important. Movements are built on people willing to stand tall in the face of adversity and risk being ostracized from their position or their industry. Bubba Wallace proves himself to be that person throughout the Doc, not afraid to stand up for what he believes in no matter how many dumb and ignorant people he pisses off along the way.
A Diverse Group Of Voices
One of the most important things that stood out to me about this series is the impressive group of diverse voices they incorporated along with Bubba to speak on his behalf. Making a documentary work that features a list that includes W. Kamau Bell, Jemele Hill, Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon, and Kyle Busch talking about the type of person and friend Bubba is, was truly special to see.
- Kamau Bell and Jemele Hill highlight through their interviews the context and isolation behind Bubba being the only Black driver in NASCAR and how his reaction in support of Black Lives Matter is so important for the movement. They are able to dive in and appreciate his resilience for his willingness to take a stand and speak out on the injustices felt by the Black community throughout this country. Wallace’s fellow drivers in Hamlin and Busch are able to recognize and appreciate him taking the risk of using the platform his talent and work ethic have afforded him to speak out.
Ty Dillon had a very moving part of the series, as he and Bubba Wallace shared an Instagram live together after George Floyd was murdered. Dillon and Wallace grew up together on the racing circuit and had known each other for years. After George Floyd’s murder, Dillon wanted to give Bubba a platform for them to speak and allow Bubba to relate to the rest of the world his own personal experiences with racism and prejudices he has felt as a Black man in NASCAR and how they are emblematic of the bigger issue of systematic racism that exists in this country.
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Driving as a Means for Change
Bubba is very clear throughout the series on relaying the fact that he has come to the movement more recently after the events of George Floyd being killed back in 2020. Bubba really comes across throughout the doc as someone that is now focused on using his platform and profile to enact actual meaningful change as it pertains to NASCAR, and this country. Instead of turning a blind eye or not paying attention to what is going on in this country, he has instead decided to bravely take a stand against systemic racism and prejudice.
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Bubba desires to use his success as a driver and his voice to hopefully draw more Black fans into NASCAR and help to break down a lot of the barriers that exist for other minority drivers to break in. Bubba himself, as is learned from the doc, came up through a special NASCAR diversity inclusion program, which helped him to get his foot in the door in racing. He now proudly drives his race car with “#BlackLivesMatter” emblazoned on its side for all to see. After learning more about him and his experiences from this series, Bubba Wallace has at least gained one more set of eyeballs who will be paying close attention to his career both on and off the race track. I hope he is successful in using his platform to draw more attention to these issues that persist throughout our country and change some less than open minds about what it truly means to be Black in America. All six episodes of ‘Race: Bubba Wallace’ are now streaming on Netflix, and I strongly encourage all to check them out.
By Mark Raymond
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Mark Raymond is a writer and screenwriter who believes himself to be the only person desiring to work in film who originated in New York and currently resides in Los Angeles. Mark was inspired to write from a young age and has always desired to connect and uplift others through his work, as those that motivated him did for him. Mark feels very strongly that the world could use a lot more positivity and optimism, and is therefore very aligned to the mission of The Hollywood Insider to not spread hate or gossip, but instead to build each other up and shine a positive light on anyone bold enough to put their heart and soul into a piece of art. In his writing, Mark aims to use his signature wit to highlight the severity of the more serious and pressing issues of our time, to shine a beacon of light through the darkness. A devoted ally to all, he seeks to inspire and use his platform to give a voice to the voiceless and let his readers know that while everything may not be great right now, one day it can and will be.