Friday, June 13, 2008

Nascar and Racism

Most people that read this blog already read a lot of other sites, and I don't really report news here. I'll simply quote a headline and a few bits of the story that appeared on Jayski's site a few days ago. This is what Jayski quoted:

"Former official sues NASCAR over harassment claims UPDATE: A former racing official is suing NASCAR, alleging racial and sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination. Mauricia Grant worked as a technical inspector responsible for certifying cars in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series from January 2005 until she was fired last October. Grant, who is black, alleges she was referred to as "Nappy Headed Mo" and "Queen Sheba," by white co-workers. She also claims she often was told she worked on "colored people time," and was frightened by one official who routinely made references to the Ku Klux Klan. The lawsuit, which seeks $250 million, was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.( Press) and see a copy of the lawsuit at FoxSports (pdf format)(6-10-2008)
UPDATE: NASCAR chairman Brian France says a former official who's suing the organization never reported discrimination or harassment claims to her supervisors. Mauricia Grant filed a $225 million suit against NASCAR on Tuesday, alleging racial discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliatory termination. France said Wednesday the detailed filing was the first NASCAR learned of her claims. "The disappointing thing is she makes a lot of claims, none of them reported," he said.(Associated Press)(6-11-2008)"


I'm not going to comment on any particular details of the case, but if even one-tenth of Ms. Grant's claims are true, Nascar needs to fire a lot of people, and they need to take steps to make sure that anything like this never happens again. I'm not saying that any of this is true, but if any of it is, Nascar's got a serious problem.

Nascar began largely in the Southeast in the late 1940's Our part of the country has long been ridiculed, and sometimes for good reason, for being racist. Some of us remember the debacle that was George Wallace in the 1970's. Some of us remember David Duke and his fortunately unsuccessful run for public office. The South in general has a very large image problem when it comes to racism.

Some that is justified, even today. But I ask you, even if you live in New York, or Minnesota, or California, are there not racial problems there as well sometimes? The South, as a whole, has overcome many of our race problems over the last 50 years. We still have problems, but we have improved very much since the year 1950.

One of my best friends, indeed one of the best friends I've ever had, is a black man. I will use the term 'black' here, because that's what he calls himself, and I will defer to his wishes. My friend is a former collegiate athlete, and is now a law enforcement officer. He is also a loving husband and the father of 3 wonderful children. He is also a Nascar fan, and actually has attended about a handful of races, and 2 with his family. He has been to races at Darlington, Charlotte, and Atlanta. He tells me that neither he nor his family have ever had problems at any of these race tracks. He said the fellow fans were friendly, and no one ever bothered any of his family. I myself once sat next to a black family at Atlanta, and other than the fact that they cheered for a driver I didn't particularly care for, we got along just fine. I saw no one in the stands harass them because of the color of their skin.

My friend was born and grew up in South Carolina. Has he endured racist comments and harassment here in his home state? Of course he has. But when my friend got a scholarship to play football for a major university in the upper Mid West, things changed. He was one of about 7 black players on the team. The black players were ostracized and taunted by the white players and coaches. My friend endured 4 years of abject racism, and though he was cheered on the field, he was the subject of racist taunts and practical jokes in the locker room and in the dorms. My friend will tell you, frankly, that he was treated worse in the Northern part of this country because of his race than he ever was back here in South Carolina. I know that's not the norm, but in this case it's the truth.

Not that has much to do with Nascar's problem. I don't know the background of the Nascar officials that Ms. Grant accused, but I'm guessing these days that a lot of the officials are from all parts of the country. People involved in all areas of the sport are from all areas of the country. I guess the point I'm trying to get to is this: Don't blame Nacar's Southern roots and just assume that racism is common in the sport. I know for a fact it's not, at least among the teams and the fans. Sure, there are exceptions, but those are rare these days, at least the reported incidents are. In my own personal experience as a fan, I've never seen people of other races taunted at the track. One of my best e-mail friends is of Chinese decent, and she lives in Seattle, Washington. Every year, she and several of her friends go to the races in Sonoma and Fontana. They also try to make Phoenix once in a while, and last year they trekked to Kansas and Chicago. She tells me that she's never been taunted because of her race at the track. She's been taunted at work, and in restaurants, but never at a race track. I find that interesting.

Does Nascar itself have a problem? I don't know. To be honest with you, Nascar is somewhat like a castle, on top of a mountain, protected by a moat, and possibly by dragons too. Nobody outside of the corporation knows that much about the inner workings of the organization that governs the sport. Nascar has always ruled the sport with an iron fist, and has always had the mantra to the teams: "Do it our way, or just go away". Nascar basically has no oversight committee, as far as I know. What I'm saying is that if any of what Ms. Grant is accusing Nascar of doing is actually true, then Nascar needs to be taken down a notch or two. In the year 2008, co-workers don't get away with that kind of nonsense. If the courts judge Ms. Grant's claims to be true, she deserves her $225 million dollars. If Nascar officials indeed are guilty of these taunts, then Brian France, himself, needs to clean house and get rid of the offenders.

Nascar is a multi-billion dollar business, and is trying to become the USA's most watched sport. If indeed they have racial problems inside the company, they need to fix it now, or expect to be trashed in the media for years to come. I know that Nascar has tried to get more drivers and teams of different races involved in the sport, and I applaud that. I think the teams are trying to get the best people they can get, regardless of skin color or sex. The bottom line is this: If Nascar has problems within it's organization, they need to fix it, and they need to do it quickly. There is no room for discrimination because of either race or sex in today's America. If Ms. Grant's accusations prove to be false, then shame on her. If any of her claims turn out to be true, shame on Brian France and Nascar.

1 comment:

  1. Usually when I hear about wrongful termination, red flags go up. Most people that file wrongful termination claims actually should have been terminated and are just seeking revenge and money. I believe this case is different due to the nature of the organization. The sad fact is that most women who suffer from sexual harassment, are the ones that never report the offense. In my years as a human resource professional, I have witnessed this time and time again. Just as sad, is that a number of reported sexual harassment incidents are actually women trying to get back at a male boss that they do not like. I detail these situations and offer solutions in my book, Wingtips with Spurs: Lessons From the Ranch. In fact, I devote an entire chapter to these issues. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR Author of Wingtips with Spurs: Cowboy Wisdom for Today’s Business Leaders


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