By Darius Goodman, Guest Columnist
There are times when people get too comfortable and NASCAR driver Kyle Larson did just that in an online race Sunday night. NASCAR Twitter was buzzing early today after NASCAR was made aware of the racial slur Larson used while playing a game online. Fans, who were watching, were shocked to hear Larson use the racial slur (the N-word) and after seeing the clip of the incident, I was too.
If he was attacking someone and used the term then most definitely take his career away, shut the ride down and throw him out of the sport. But there’s more here to discuss.
First of all, Kyle Larson (who is Japanese-American), you know better! The term ‘n—-r’ is a derogatory word that has been used to describe African-Americans for generations. Be it malicious or not, saying this word is disgusting and cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
Secondly, he said it, and we know this to be true from the video that has gone viral on Twitter. But Larson is a minority in the sport of NASCAR and came through NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program. Now let me take a moment to shake my head.
The Drive for Diversity programs has success stories to their credit and should not be dragged through the mud because of this incident involving Larson. Kyle is one of the huge success stories of the program and has been held to a higher standard that many can’t deny. We all need to pause and remember that racism is still alive, especially during this pandemic we are all experiencing today. The amount of respect he had throughout the garage from media and from fans has taken a hit. I, personally, will not be able to look at him the same way as I once did, and this is something he will have to face from fans or other people who look like me.
- “So, if he didn’t mean it in a bad way then what’s the matter with him saying it?” There is a huge problem with it.
- “There are so many ways that this would have gone had he used the “a” approach of the word versus the hard “r” approach of this racial slur. There is a huge difference in both ways of it being said and it all points back to one thing.”
- They’re both bad and still have demeaning roots originating from racism a long time ago.
- “But it’s in music and movies though.”
- Even so, music and movies use the “a” approach and not the “r” term. Honestly, the term needs to go away completely. It is unthinkable some people are still using a derivative of the term that led to so much racism and strife for generations of people today.
It’s not ok to say it. Yet, we expect it out of the hip-hop culture because we’re conditioned to accept it.
NASCAR has come a long way from its deep southern roots but is still very much southern. I’m proud to be a fan of NASCAR and to cover the sport as a member of the media. So, at the end of the day and I’m not going to stop being a fan of the sport just because of this incident.
The first step taken by Chip Ganassi to suspend Kyle Larson without pay was a good one. The second; taking Larson and suspending him indefinitely was good, as well. It shows that NASCAR has grown from its own past. And he will likely learn from a sensitivity course – we all could.
We need to look at this situation as a learning experience because it’s not ok to use the term, be it the “a” or hard “r” approach.
Should Larson lose his career because of this comfortable approach?
The journalist in me says, “No.” Yes, I’m black but let us all remember how NASCAR driver Jeremy Clements was given another chance after using the term back in 2013. Flashing back to the ESPN story that was put up back then, NASCAR was quick to act on the situation and just like now, was quick to take action once again.
Let Larson complete the sensitivity training and let the fans and sponsors determine how they feel about him after that. A relatively simple solution granted but equally as fair to how similar cases have been handled in the recent past.
The African-American in me believes that Larson should also still be given a chance to pursue his career. Though, it all depends on how the fans and sponsors feel. There is going to be a fallout from this whole situation no matter how it’s handled. He’s been suspended by Chevrolet and his sponsors have denounced him. It’s just the beginning of what will be a long road forward from this situation.
It’s a first offense situation and one that has drawn a lot of ire. Let’s just hope Larson really is sorry and will not use or say the word again.