NASCAR, the beloved motor-racing organization enormously popular across the South, has taken a surprising stand for tolerance and progress in America, asking their fans to not bring Confederate flags to their holiday weekend bonanza in Daytona Beach, Florida. “As our industry works collectively to ensure that all fans are welcome at our races, NASCAR will continue our long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate Flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity” announced the organization.
Two of NASCAR’s most iconic figures, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr, have also spoken out against the Confederate flag. “I think it’s offensive to an entire race,” Earnhardt said at Sonoma Raceway. “It belongs in the history books and that’s about it.” Gordon shared similar sentiments, telling the media that “It has no place on any of our team apparel or memorabilia or anything like that…I’m glad that it’s not out there. I support NASCAR. I’m so glad that they banned it. We’ve done the same thing at Hendrick Motorsports.”
It’s a hugely important gesture by an organization that has long been associated with Southern culture. They have set up stands where Confederate flags may be exchanged for American ones in celebration of Independence Day, but many fans are suspicious of the organization’s motives and are unsurprisingly obstinate on the issue. “You ain’t going to tell them boys they’re not going to fly their flags ‘cause they’re Alabama rednecks” says Debbie Dionne, 57, a cook from Pascagoula, Mississippi.
As America grapples with the issue of racial tension and forces the South to confront the real meaning of the Confederate flag- a heritage of treason and racism- support from organizations like NASCAR can have much more of an impact than pressure from the mainstream media or the government, both of whom are largely regarded with suspicion in rural areas.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.