Racism and Sexism in NASCAR

This one hurts because my son is a huge, and I mean huge, as in very large, know ye well that fan comes from fanatic NASCAR fan. This story bears watching for me, not only for reasons of justice, but with a major NASCAR speedway mere minutes away from my home in Texas and my son, well, shall we say more than slightly happy about that, how do you participate in and financially support something where something like this, and I technically still say may be going on? Although if the findings turn out that NASCAR is facing these issues to this degree, it has a profound clean-up job on its hands.

A 32-year old Black woman named Mauricia Grant who worked for NASCAR as a technical inspector, certifying the race cars in the race cars in the Nationwide Series (one step below the Sprint Cup) is suing NASCAR for $225 million for racial and gender discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination.

According to the June 11 Associated Press report posted on the NASCAR website Grant filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 10, citing

23 specific incidents of alleged sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of alleged racial and gender discrimination beginning when she was hired in January 2005 through her October 2007 firing.

NASCAR claims it has a zero tolerance policy. If so, Grant’s story is completely disturbing.

From the AP report:

Grant complained numerous time to her supervisor, Joe Balash, who told her that many of her coworkers were former military guys with a rough sense of humor and that she’s just have to get used to it. Yet Balash, Grant claims also participated in the harassment:

“Does your workout include an urban obstacle course with a flat-screen TV on your back?” she claimed Balash asked her during the week of July 28, 2007, while working in Indianapolis.

The AP report list the following alleged incidents:

• Grant was forced to work outside more often than the white male officials because her supervisors believed she couldn’t sunburn because she was black.

• While riding in the backseat of her car pool at Talladega Superspeedway, co-workers told her to duck as they passed race fans. “I don’t want to start a riot when these fans see a black woman in my car,” she claims one official said.

• When packing up a dark garage at Texas Motor Speedway an official told Grant: “Keep smiling and pop your eyes out ’cause we can’t see you.”

• When she ignored advances from co-workers, Grant was accused of being gay. She also claimed co-workers questioned the sexual orientation of two other female officials.

NASCAR claims Grant was fired for poor performance, but her job reviews were positives and she was never cited for poor performance.

A piece in this week’s Sports Illustrated describe’s Grant’s lawyer as “nasty”. Perhaps so. This piece claims the suit says coworkers called Grant “Nappy-headed Mo” and made references to the KKK around her, and that two NASCAR officials exposed themselves to her.

Grant’s lawyer Benedict Morelli called NASCAR

“an old-boys’ club” that “isn’t a sophisticated operation; this is a bunch of nudniks hanging around together.”

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said that Grant never formally complained and as a result he didn’t hear any of her allegations until the lawsuit was filed. Morelli’s response:

“Mr. France, if he is being truthful that he never heard about any complaints with reference to Mauricia—I think you’re not such a good CEO,” Morelli said. “You either have set up a culture where they know you don’t want to hear about it, or you’re not telling the truth and you did hear about it, or you’re not doing your job…. It could be any of those. But the problem with those choices for NASCAR is that they all suck.”

To NASCAR’S credit they have suspended the officials who exposed themselves and they did post the AP report on their website, but it seems like they have much more to do. Again, I’m going to be following this one. Teaching your children about racism and sexism is never fun, but it’s never as hard, nowhere near as hard as having to live through it.

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One thought on “Racism and Sexism in NASCAR

  1. Well…that’s a difficult one. Part of the issue could be that this is an example of true ignorant racism.

    Let me explain:
    I’m an African American male science fiction and RPG fan. Now I’m old enough to have been the only black science fiction reader at a convention, or visiting the scifi section of a bookstore. In that culture I had to put up with a lot of ignorant racism: nerds have zero social skills dealing with their own race to start, so a different race tended to make their heads spin. It got me ready for when I went to ASU and heard again and again “You’re the first black person I’ve met.”

    Hey I had a great one liner when I interracially dated :

    white Az Girl “I’ve never kissed a black man before”
    Me “Me neither and I don’t ever intend to! Or a white guy for that matter! You’re much more liberal than me!”

    Looking at it through that lens, NASCAR is generally a racially homogenous culture with southern and white rural roots. Therefore, a certain amount of ignorance can be expected.

    That does not in anyway condone the actions in the suit if true. This isn’t 1960 so they should know better.

    That said, we just got through a primary where older white women Hillary supporters went out of their way to insult black women feminists in their open racism against Obama. Aside from NPR, even the media rarely asked black women about their feminist perspective. Also, my white openly gay Rev had the gall to call Jefferson a UU saint, when we have a bust of Harriet Tubmen in the lobby to our sanctuary.

    If you or your son are going to enter that culture and you want to keep your conscious intact then you better be ready to do a little teaching. Whether I had gay friends at the time or not, or a Jewish friend of mine was within 2000 miles of me or not, I am quick to school anyone who thinks making nasty jokes against them is cool.

    Does that mean they change? Maybe not, but somebody has to step forward and demand dignity. Maybe not your son, but maybe you.

    What would that mean here? Well to a lot of blacks the Confederate flag is just as insulting as a Nazi flag would be to a Jew. A person bragging about their confederate ancestor the same as a german bragging about a lufwaffe or SS grandparent.

    I mention those because that’s been part of the culture. The image of a woman is generally a Blonde busty slim one, the stars and bars are considered a sign of freedom, even patriotism amongst the ignorant, and homophobic white male intolerance is lauded as acting normal: being a guy.

    Kids can be indoctrinated to swim through the rich positive river of that culture and avoid the rivules of filth, and leave a cleaner wake in their path. They just have to believe in themself, the dignity of others, and that at the end of the day, watching those cool cars race around the track and contribute to global warming is the real point of the whole thing.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 😉

    Oh and rent Richard Pryor’s “Wendell Scott” watch it and then, if appropriate, watch it with your son.

    You can read about him here
    http://www.legendsofnascar.com/Wendell_Scott.htm

    I think you can still let him go.

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