I am as confused as confused can be. And for me, that’s saying something.
I was going to begin this noose’s tale with the tale of another noose.
I was all prepared to write this grandiose post about racism and my experiences with nooses in the South. I had intended to relay the story of the time I drove up the eastern coast of Florida to watch a little football. A former work colleague had landed some primo tickets to the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, although I don’t think we’re allowed to call it that any longer.
The annual October match-up between Florida and Georgia is one of college football’s oldest and dearest rivalries. This particular noose-trek took place in the late 1990s. At that time, the rivalry had become relatively one-sided with Florida running off a healthy string of wins against its rival to the north.
I had never been to this annual get-together so I decided to roll out, tickets in hand, and see what all the hullabaloo was about.
Considering I was making the most of this road trip, and knowing this rivalry was about as heated as college football gets (neutral site with fans divided into sections on either side of the stadium to avoid potentially unfriendly co-mingling), I felt a prop might be in order. I stopped off at a flea market along the way and found a stuffed toy, Georgia Bulldog mascot. Not thinking of any racial implications, I bought a thick piece of rope to go along with it.
The rabble-rouser in me thought a stuffed bulldog hanging from said rope would draw high fives from the Gator fans in the crowd and ire from the team that would eventually lose that game, the Bulldogs.
So, I bought the rope and the stuffed animal and stopped into a local Ale House about halfway in between Daytona and Jacksonville on my way to the game. There, at the bar, getting my pre-game on, I fumbled over my beer, trying to tie a noose around the stuffed animal’s neck to make it look real. But what the hell do I know about tying a knot? The only thing I’m good for on a boat is making cocktails, changing the radio station and trying my best not to get nauseous.
That’s when two gentlemen sitting to my right saw my feeble attempts to wrap the rope around the dog’s neck and whispered “Do you wanna tie a noose? I’ll show ya’ how to tie a noose.”
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t incredibly creepy. Within minutes, the man tied a noose that lasted around that stuffed animal’s neck the entire evening.
Which brings us to another noose story. Or not a noose story. Like you, I’m not sure what to believe these days.
Smack dab in the middle of these bizarre and fiery times comes a story that exemplifies to a sorded tee just what’s going on in this country. It’s a tale of race cars and racism, media and social media, togetherness and conflict, higher ups and the working man, all with a side of FBI tied a nice little bow as if to say “Welcome to America: We Don’t Know What the Fuck We’re Doing.”
As if we ever did.
To top it all off, from start to finish, this all happened within a 48-hour period. We live in a Kuerig society, people. Blink and you might miss something… and probably be happy that you did.
I could go ahead and confuse this story with facts but I’ll be the first you hear to openly admit… I don’t know what to believe, which is pretty much par for the course in America: The 2020 Edition.
Here’s what I think I know. A team member for NASCAR’s only African-American driver, Bubba Wallace, found what he called a noose in the garage where his team’s race car was parked. News of this potentially heinous, hate crime ultimately got back to the sport’s president, Steve Phelps, who contacted Wallace about the incident.
Understandably, thinking a hate crime had been committed, the league acted swiftly. Needless to say, when the news broke, we were all in an uproar, as we should have been if something like this had actually happened. Modern hate is bubbling to fairly historic levels with much of it fueled by our continued ignorance, misunderstanding and appreciation for the man who lives next door.
Thinking something was horribly amiss, the sport rallied around Wallace’s cause. And why wouldn’t it? Despite being an institution that derives much of its fan base from the South, it’s still probably unfair to call NASCAR inherently racist simply because of where its fans reside or because of the color of their skin. I have a newsflash for you all: there are racists, or ignorati, spread pretty evenly throughout our fifty states.
Authorities were immediately called in to investigate how the noose got there and to find the motherfucker who put it in this black man’s garage. My imagination fumbled for what they would do to this guy when they found him. Would justice quell the masses? Would shit pop off even further? Who would do such a thing and why? Whoever it was, their name would live in infamy as an emblem of what’s wrong with America.
The only problem is… the FBI found the noose was not a hate crime at all. According to their investigation, the noose was not directed at Wallace but had been in this garage all along.
So now we have yet another thing to divide us as a nation, not into two parts but into multiple. Add it to the list. We have the group of people who now think that Wallace’s camp made up the entire thing, calling his character into question. We also have those who side with Wallace and more than understand his plight. There are those who think NASCAR bungled the entire investigation (which is ongoing, by the way), those who think they handled it correctly and a bunch people who lay squarely in that gray area in between. We have those who think the entire thing was a cover-up, those who call it a hoax and those who think it actually was a noose. And with all that’s going on in this country, you have those who wonder why 15 FBI agents were called in to investigate this thing in the first place.
Hold on, my head is spinning. And I think we all need a time out.
I don’t know what exactly happened here but I can say this with relative certainly. If we boil this down to brass tacks, NASCAR’s president Steve Phelps, a white man, heard something, from someone, who felt what they saw was offensive, or at least that’s Bubba’s and Phelps’ story. It obviously wasn’t the president who went lurking around Bubba’s garage and found the noose but it ultimately got back to him, and then to Bubba, and then to us.
Aren’t we the lucky ones?
In an impressive display of brotherhood, the sport rallied round its young star, as it should in times like these. Solidarity is not a bad thing. How you judge NASCARs handling of all this I suppose depends upon how you view what a clusterfuck we’ve become in the first place. I’m guessing if you think NASCAR blew this whole thing out of proportion, then finding a noose in the garage of a black man probably wasn’t all that big of a deal to you. If you think NASCAR did their due diligence, then you probably think finding a noose in the garage of a black man is pretty fucking offensive. If a noose were found in the locker of any other professional athlete, you can bet it would be a big deal whether it was 2020 or any other year. The fact that NASCAR could at worst be described as a sport that doesn’t draw or appeal to much of an African-American fan base further fueled the fire of an already divided nation.
The irony here is that, much like NASCAR itself, we are going around in circles with plenty of fiery wrecks along the way that impede us from ever getting to the finish line. This story will ultimately blow over but no matter how you slice it, this entire episode perfectly exemplifies just how far apart we are from any sort of effective communication… and solution. Instead of just looking at what actually happened, we now have people pointing fingers and assigning blame. It’s why so many of us are still protesting in the streets and why so many others find those protests unwarranted. Somewhere within that big gray middle lay the truth. And as usual, we are forced to waft through a whole bunch of bullshit to find it, while trying not to let everyone else’s opinion distract us from the task at hand.
We are in the middle of a drastically changing time. In fact, it seems to me we’re smack dab in the midst of a revolution. Maybe it’s just me overreacting but it’s not every day that we behead statues or decide to rename stadiums, brand names and slogans, things that have been with us for ages that we’ve never given a second thought to.
To be very clear, I’m not here to tell you what to think, only to suggest that you do think. About all of it.
With the millions of opinions being puked into the universe, the message is bound to get misconstrued. However, if we somehow manage to get to the core of the argument, the very origin, and understand that something was found that could have been deemed offensive, if not hateful, threatening or worse, then maybe we can get back to some healthy conversation, which is why all this is happening in the first place.
That might be a good place to start although I’m afraid that may be asking a little too much.