Following the Black Lives Matter protests, NASCAR decided to ban display of the Confederate flag at its races. NASCAR’s statement read:
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special. The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”
African-American NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace had called on the organization to ban the flag. “No one should feel uncomfortable when they come to a NASCAR race,” he said. “It starts with Confederate flags. Get them out of here. They have no place for them.”
In my opinion, banning the Confederate flag is the wrong decision and actually makes NASCAR less inclusive. Just like the trend of tearing down statues that are objectionable to the politically-correct crowd, banning the Confederate flag shows complete disregard for people who like the flag and consider it an important symbol. A common justification given for banning Confederate flags, statues, and other imagery is that to many people, these things are symbols of racism. But the fact that many people think something does not make it true. The Confederate flag is a symbol of the Confederate States of America, a country that existed from 1861-1865. Yes, the Confederacy had slavery. But slavery is not the sole thing that the Confederacy stood for, nor the sole reason why it went to war in an attempt to gain independence. The Confederate flag does not stand for slavery or racism. It stands for the Southern culture, for the brave soldiers who fought for the South’s independence, for states’ rights, and most importantly of all, for resistance to government authority. That is why I, who have lived in Massachusetts my entire life and am distantly related to Ulysses Grant, love and cherish the Confederate flag. That is why my heart soars whenever I see its stars and bars flapping in the breeze. And that is why I’m devastated by the attempts to eradicate Confederate imagery from America’s culture.
Obviously, not everyone feels the way I do. Plenty of people don’t like the Confederate flag, and that’s fine. But the fact that you dislike and disagree with something does not give you the right to have it banned. Bubba Wallace recently began displaying a “Black Lives Matter” paint scheme on his car, which is awesome. I personally would not do so if I was a NASCAR driver, because I disagree with many of the things the Black Lives Matter movement and people associated with it have done recently. But I would never argue that displaying support for that movement should be banned. Just as NASCAR drivers and fans have every right to express their support for Black Lives Matter, drivers and fans should be able to express their admiration for the Confederacy as well.
By taking away the freedom of expression of one group of people in order to make another group of people more comfortable, NASCAR is essentially saying that some people’s feelings and opinions matter more than others. That is neither fair nor just, and it makes NASCAR less welcoming, inclusive, and diverse.