Unexpected Benefits of More NASCAR Diversity
ED GORDON, host:
GORDON: Basketball star and entrepreneur Magic Johnson may not be the first person you associate with NASCAR. But for the last year and a half, he's been co-chair of NASCAR's Executive Steering Committee for Diversity. That group is working to expand auto racing's fan base.
Recently NASCAR announced it would partner with several historically black colleges and universities to train more blacks in engineering, marketing and other aspects of the auto racing business.
Commentator John McCann explains what might happen to NASCAR if the sport catches on with more black people.
JOHN MCCANN reporting: Black-on-black crime notwithstanding, we as people are rather conservative when it comes to fleeing harms way. I'm sure you've heard the jokes about white folks in scary movies always being the curious types and running into haunted houses, to see what's up with the ghouls and goblins, while as black folks watch these movies and marvel at how unconventional it would be to have brothers and sister girls in those roles because you know black folks are all about going where the monsters ain't.
See there's some stuff black folks just don't do, like NASCAR. I mean, when you think about auto racing you think about crazy white boys driving fast around a track. That's why you didn't have two black guys in the General Lee named Bo and Luke Duke.
So it will be interesting to see how this new relationship plays out between NASCAR and historical black colleges and universities, with respect to getting more of us in the auto racing business. And not just interesting for the sake of diversity, but interesting to see how many black folks will be looking for jobs actually on the track.
Oh, I'd take a gig working in NASCAR's administrative offices so I can sit in a cubicle all day and read the e-mails forwarded by Ray-Ray and Pookie and all of them. But there's not enough money in the world to get my butt down there on the track, not as a driver or even working on pit road.
Because I ain't trying to duck tires that come flying off these cars going 1,000 miles per hour. But however black people get involved in NASCAR, I can't wait to see how we as a racer are going to impact the sport. Because you know how we revolutionize everything we put our hands on.
Just think about music: whereas white folks sing, black folks rap. On the basketball court, white boys made lay-ups, the brothers, slam dunked. When our naturally tight b-b shots were fluffy enough, somebody discovered activator and invented the Jheri curl.
Or just in our daily coming and going, I mean, white folks walk, like say Tom Willis on The Jefferson's. But old George himself, black folks, man you know how we strut. So all I can think about on NASCAR vehicles with spoiler kits on them. Lots of tint on the windows, and yo, got to get them rims, playah. I'm talking about some spinners, son, sitting on some 20s, baby.
And can't you just hear this conversation between a black man NASCAR driver and his white pit crew chief. Uh, buddy, why you making a pit stop, your tanks full of gas, your tires ain't flat, feller what are you doing?
Nah bro, nah bros, it's all good, it's all good. It's just that one of them good old boys out there slung some rubber on my ride man, I thought I'd pull over and get a little car wash, throw a little Armor-All on the tires. Oh, and a grape soda to if you got one. 'Preciate that.
Hey diversity in NASCAR an absolutely beautiful thing.
(Soundbite of revving car)
Mr. MCCANN: After all the man who says Gentlemen start you engines, that flag he waves, it's checkered white and black.
(Soundbite of car peeling out)
GORDON: John McCann is a columnist for the Herald Sun in Durham, North Carolina.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.