Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dan Weztel, the Confederate Flag, and NASCAR

I'm going to link to Dan's article, and you can peruse it your own self. But here's the quick sypnosis--NASCAR exploded in viewership over the past 10 years amongst white Southerners, who fly the Confederate Flag in the parking lot, and even at events. How can NASCAR expand into northern territory and into minority markets with the Stars & Bars flying? How can it take down the Stars & Bars without alienating its base?

Wetzel's premise is that white folks who fly the Stars & Bars are not necessarily racist, but feel a White Southern Pride, unhindered by that nasty business of the Civil War. After all, the Swastika was a symbol of peace before the Nazis got their hands on it! (Seriously, that's one of his arguments, go read it if you don't believe me).

Here's the deal, the Dan conviently overlooks.

1. The Confederate Battle Flag (not the CSA National Flag, Dan points out, just a battle flag, as if that makes it better) did not prexist the Civil War like the Swastika did. It was born of the Civil War. It is a product of the Civil War. It was not some appropiated symbol like the Swastika was. Cultures previous to the Nazi's can not be blamed for the Swastika. Cultures after it can be. Dan is playing with timelines in a misguided effort to be fair and balanced.

2. The Confederate Battle Flag, or The Stars & Bars, as I, a native Virginian call it, Died. It died a quiet death. Why his scholar (who he was quick to point out, "is black") didn't mention this, I don't know. But it isn't like South Carolina flew the damn thing for the hundred years following reconstruction. It was solely the property, in the 20's and 30's of the Ku Klux Klan. The State of South Carolina started flying it again in the 60's, when Black People got all uppity. They said it was temporary--a one week tribute to the losses suffered by White Folks fighting for Southern Pride. It flew for 30 years. The meaning was clear to every African-American person in that state.

2.5 I went to a high school named after a Confederate General. It's still named after him. There was a rumor that the name would change, and people exploded in anger. It was just a rumor. However, I read the paper when one of the schools in my conference all the way back in 1990 decided to cut the Confederate Flag from their mascot, and made it into a silhouetted flag. They did so because they realized their school was like 30% black, and 30% Asian and Hispanic, and 40% White. The White folks, in protest, marched up and down the street to the school, waving Confederate Flags and BURNING CROSSES. Tell me these aren't the same type of people who watch NASCAR.

3. Like it or not, NASCAR exploded about the same time it became clear that Basketball, Football, Baseball, and Golf(!) were no longer white sports. Sure, there had always been prominent black players, for at least for the last 30 years. But in the past 10 years, we've seen black General Managers, Black Quarterbacks, Black Coaches. The best golfer is a melange of minorities that any Stars and Bars loving man would describe as a product of "miscegnation".

NASCAR is almost exclusively White. Dan ignores the possibility that this very element of NASCAR is what attracts the White People flying the Confederate Flag. Dan should ask himself, what happens to NASCAR if the point winner next year is African-American? Might the white, southern, Confederate flag toting fans find a new sport?

4. The Stars and Bars are a source of White Pride. And I capitalize those words for a reason. It's White Pride. It's not Southern Pride. Black folks outnumbered White Folks in plenty of counties throughout the South when that flag was representing the CSA. It's a White Pride Flag. In Dan's research, he didn't bother to interview a few great southern Black Athletes as to what they thought about the flag, because he knew the answer. It's a White Flag.

To pretend that flag means different things to different people is silly on its face. It represents a time when Whites were on top, which is why all blacks hate it, why many Southern whites love it, and why most northern whites feel awfully uncomfy about it. It represents the exact same thing to everybody. The only difference is how we react to the memory of black people being subjugated. And NASCAR represents that world. No blacks, just heroic white folks, driving.

shame on them for trying to justify it, and shame on Dan Wenzel for trying to make it sound like there are two reasonable sides here. There simply isn't. NASCAR is, and probably always will be two things: 1) a waste of oil 2) a white person's playground.


Deformity Betty said...

How can your reality be true for everyone? How can you know that it represents the same thing for everyone? People who use it as Southern pride, you may consider simple humans, but you can't infer their meaning.
Most sports in the US are overwhelmingly white - in part because the US population is overwhelmingly white. You can pick on the use of the Confed. flag all you want, but to pick on NASCAR as an institution is just as prejudiced.

Jerious Norwood said...

I think that deformity betty is right. People you like and respect NASCAR are simple human beings. And she's also right to suggest most sports in the U.S. are overwhelmingly white-- in fact I think that the NFL and NBA should employ affirmative action policies to get adequate representation of minorities on their athletic teams. And finally, who's to say what 'reality' people infer from a burning cross or the banner of a racist culture willing to fight and die to enslave another race of human beings. Bravo, Betty, Bravo.

Anonymous said...

I would agree Betty. I also find it offensive that you would presume that NASCAR fans would find a new sport if the points leader was black.

Jerious, most sports in the U.S. are overwhelminly white. They may play the sports, but they aren't writing the checks.

Before the "Stars and Bars" was created, the flag that represented slavery was the same one we fly today and for alot longer too.

You folks sure like to paint with a broad brush, huh?

Jerious Norwood said...

Yes, most of the sports are controlled by white people, and they do in fact write the checks. In what world does this make them 'overwhelmingly white'? By this wonderful logic, American sports are almost exclusively very old white men. What? Also, how far back are you going to reach to try to justify this ludicrous assertion. First of all, most Americans don't know the first damn thing about where California is on a map, let alone the niceties of the supposedly noble history of the stars and bars. But more to the point, culture tends to evolve in places not south of Mason-Dixon line. This means that your average peace loving hippie probably shouldn't tie dye his shirt with a swastika, describe a happy person as gay, or proclaim a miserly man to be niggardly. That is, unless they don't care if they offend and confuse the people to whom they wish to communicate. Why the hell should anyone bend over backwards to justify this crass allusion to a racist culture, especially when one the brand exclusionary politics associated with these cars continuously taking left turns prides itself on taking unyielding, critical stances on most efforts to afford any understanding to minority opinion?

Jerious Norwood said...

By the way, if Cowboy Troy was the points leader, I wouldn't expect a mass exodus from the sport. But if the sport was consistantly dominated by persons who didn't share their 'sensibilities', we'd soon be hearing about the southern sub-culture surrounding set crap on fire... or whatever.

Muumuuman said...

The flag flown during our olde slavery days was not the same as the flag flown today, it had fewer stars on it. I will support the flying of the stars and bars when black people hoist it up as a symbol of southern pride. Oddly enough, white people in the south also used to hoist black people up as a symbol of southern pride - perhaps the infield at NASCAR should allow such lynchings in the name of southern pride.

Jerious Norwood said...

Come now, Muumuu. That's ridiculous. The country has advanced way beyond that point. Perhaps burning pictures of Osama and the Ayatollah Ass-a-hole-a, or maybe even Chuck Darwin would be more appropriate.

Anonymous said...

A couple things.

There are affirmative action policies in sports hiring.

The NBA just went through a period of customer discontent, post Jordan, due to the perceived "thug athelete." Granted you don't see many confederate flags being flown in NBA stadiums but I also wouldn't say it's because their fan base is racist and advocates lynchings.

To say the sounthern soldier fought and died to enslave blacks is to say prochoice adovactes fight and die for the right to murder. I don't think many northern soldiers fought to free black people.

NASCAR is motivated by money. You don't think they would love the finacial prize of an athelete with the cross over appeal of Tiger Woods?

Do you all take hyperbole classes from Bill Walton?

Muumuuman, that's an interesting point about the confederate flag being raised by blacks. Has there ever been an instance were a symbol of oppression has been taken by the oppressed and used as a symbol of strength?

Jerious Norwood said...

Yes, there is affirmative action in sports hiring.... for management positions! What does that have to do with a sport, any sport being overwhelmingly white.

So what if the NBA went through a period of bad PR? What does that have to do with anything. I'm sure there are a ton of racists involved with everything. The ONLY point is that the Confederate flag is an offensive symbol of the oppression of one particular group of Americans. I don't particularly car if people are racist, just don't wrap yourself in a racist symbol and then pretend to be offended if your rightly branded as perpetuating ignorant hate.

You're right, the average soldier wasn't necessarily fighting specifically for or against slavery. No soldier ever is, so this is hardly the point. But the political class, and those funding the war certainly were motivated by this (among other things)

They'd love a Tiger obviously. Just not a T.O. And that has nothing to do with the fact that they appreciate class and dignity. Just that they like there assholes a bit fatter and pastier... say like Tony Stewart.

And finally... yes symbols and words have been 'taken back' in the past. What does that have to do with anything. Thats not the case in this situation.

By the way, this the most heated and important debate in the history of the blogosphere.

Garwood B. Jones said...

First of all, Big Blue does an excellent job of laying out the reasons why we should understand that the confederate flag is not a blank symbol on which we can all foist our own particular meaning. It is a symbol of segregation that is embraced by southern whites. 40-odd years of apologists attempting to soften that meaning doesn't change it.

Suggesting that it's insensitive for him to generalize is asinine. Did you read his post? With the exception of point #3 which is a bit of personal commentary (and some generalization), everything else is a well-reasoned and well-documented historical argument as to why the confederate flag is a FIXED symbol rather than a blank symbol to which one can attach whatever meaning he wants.

i.e. If someone wakes up tomorrow morning with a cross burning in his front yard, he doesn't need to "infer" its meaning. It means, very plainly: NIGGER GET OUT! Years and years of history have borne out that singular meaning.

Now, if for the next 40 years people burn crosses and claim that it has some other meaning, in 2050 maybe someone will be able to make the claim that the "new" meaning is equally appropriate. They'll be wrong, but the claim will seem more plausible based on 40 years of repetition.

But let's (pardon the pun) call a spade a spade. What you're asking is that critics of a symbol not paint all traffickers in that symbol with the same brush. Okay. Here's three brushes. If you fly a confederate flag you are either:

1. A racist.
2. Ignorant of the connotations the symbol holds. (In that case, I'd imagine that one would be grateful that someone is educating you.); or
3. Aware of the connotations but you want to not deal with the "icky" realities.

I'm guessing that you're looking to defend people who fall into category number three. And you know what? Go ahead! Arbitrarily choose to disassociate yourself with the STIGMA of the fixed meaning while simultaneously enjoying all of benefits of said same meaning. Just PLEASE don't pretend to have even a shred of intellectual honesty or criticality while you do so.

Anonymous said...

If you consider the sport to be only the players, than yes they are predominately black. If you include the coaches, where affirmative action policies are in place also, scouts, trainers, owners and fans, I submit they are predominately white.

NBA PR problem-What does this have to do with anything? Well, it was implied that NASCAR would see a drop in fan support if a black driver rose to the top, because I guess, all NASCAR fans are racist. To support this claim I tried to think of examples in other sports where the rise of black atheletes has hurt the sport or driven away fans. Golf and Tiger Woods? How's that working out for them? Can you name me a single black golfer before Tiger? No google please? I would also submit golf has just as long and storied a racist history as NASCAR.

The Civil War soldier example speaks to your earlier post, "banner of a racist culture willing to fight and die to enslave another race of human beings."

I reject your use of T.O. as some sort of example of black pride in rightous defiance. We've had this debate before. He ain't Bill Russel or Ali, he's just a jerk. That's why people hate him.

The point about symbols being taken back speaks to Muumuuman claim that, "I will support the flying of the stars and bars when black people hoist it up as a symbol of southern pride." No it isn't the cae in this situation, but it has happened before and could happen again despite our cinicism. Maybe that's the route needed to get people who fly the confederate flag to put theirs away.

To be clear, I believe the confederate flag is an offensive symbol, but I also believe it can mean more than one thing to different people, as so many other symbols do. If you take the worst acts commited under any flag, symbol, whatever, than any symbols can be taken offensively. When you indict an entire group of people for the actions of a few, like assuming all NASCAR fans are racist, cross-burning, lynching hillbilly's because of a flag on display at a racetrack, well, that's just to close to Bush politics for me. Is everyone that goes to R.F.K. to watch the 'Skins play a scalp-sellin' indian hater. I doubt it.

I agree, this debate will have far reaching effects that only history will be able to quantify.

Go Bears!

Anonymous said...


Obviously Madonna redefined cross burning in her ground breaking video, Like a Prayer. When will the rest of the world catch up with her?

Jerious Norwood said...

"When you indict an entire group of people for the actions of a few, like assuming all NASCAR fans are racist, cross-burning, lynching hillbilly's because of a flag on display at a racetrack, well, that's just to close to Bush politics for me. Is everyone that goes to R.F.K. to watch the 'Skins play a scalp-sellin' indian hater. I doubt it."

Excellent point. For some reason people (I'm not picking on you Phil) think that it is some sort of intellectual defense to point to commonly shared fault as evidence of the propriety of yet another one. No, everyone that likes the 'Skins isn't an Indian hater. But tell you what, there isn't an argument to defend it either. We have chosen to not give a damn that we insult these people precisely because we did such a good job of slaughtering them a few generations back that there aren't enough of them to put up an annoying stink about it. The Redskins franchise is a reminder that we are a bunch of hypocrites that don't give a damn about such issues unless it is annoyingly put in our face constantly by an uppity minority (or self-righteous blogger).

Garwood B. Jones said...

Fair enough, Phil. I completely left out category #4: Celebrity/artist/cartoonist provocateurs using a highly charged symbol to create controversy/buzz.

Anonymous said...

I suppose these battles must be fought one at a time. Huzzah for your honesty.

Is there any movement to change the Redskins logo? They changed the Bullets to Wizards in the same city.

Big Blue Monkey said...

I believe I have already blogged self-righteously on this topic, as a matter of fact.


Deformity Betty said...

Weee this is fun. I'll let you all argue out all the bits about the flag and how terrible southerners are. Big Blue and I have actually had this arguement a couple times before.
But I wanted to clarify why american sports are overwhelmingly white. If you choose only the NBA or NFL to represent all american sports, you have an extremely narrow definition of sport. If you include all college athletes (men's swimming, women's field hockey, men's cross country skiing, women's volleyball, men's soccer, etc. etc.), all high school, youth participants, adult league, plus 'professional', semi-pro and 'minor league' - yes, indeed: American sport participants are overwhelmingly white - like 95% overwhelmingly. Sad to say, but my advanced degree is actually in sociology of sport, so I've studied this. How much you get paid or get on TV does not definte sport-hood.

Badcock said...

'Scuze me while I whip this out.

So the debate is good, and the tangents are interesting, but I'd like to bring it back to the issue: NASCAR associating itself with the Confederate Flag.

Regarding NASCAR and the potential for a black superstar to cross over for them, they would love to end the de facto $egragation. There would be some backlash, but fans would return to it. What else do they have? Tiger Woods is an excellent example of a minority taking over what had been an all-white pastime. This highlights that golf exclusion is more about class than color, The same is true of NASCAR, whose fans are a lower socio-economic
class than, say, educated people. Another compelling similarity between golf and NASCAR is that neither are actual sports. In order to be a sport, a)you need to break a sweat and b)someone needs to be trying to stop you.

Regarding the flag, it is absolutely flown for provocation. We don't need to go way into post-modern semiotics here: the flag is flown because it is an "unacceptable" image, and the Pride is based on rebelling against a nigga-lovin world.

No one wants to say it? People who are into NASCAR and the Confederate flag are demonstratably less intelligent than those who aren't.

Any flat-earthers out there want to contradict me? The popularity of NASCAR ties proportionality to the increasing fatness, stupidity and myopia of the American people.

Fuck the Non-Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks.

Anonymous said...

Could the rise of NASCAR popularity also correlate to Joe Gibbs inabiltiy to coach?

Anonymous said...

Idiots fly the stars and bars b/c it pisses people off. They are saying "Look what I can do nigger, you got you're rights, but I still got my flag!" If no one made a fuss then they would probably stop. 40 years ago if a black person called a white a cracker or honkey he would have probably been lynched. Now it is funny. Why has the N-word not evolved? B/c people still flip out about it (but only when a white person says it, blacks can use a former "symbol" of hate with pride just not a FLAG!" It is kinda like the old X hats when the malcom X movie came out. He openly said kill whitey, but no one really cared that people wore a hat symbolizing him. If people got a little bit thicker skin the world would be a much better place.

Barnyard said...

Further, the broad brush and hyperbole are appropriate as any entertainment source the wealthier side of professional lacrosse has an army of PR A-Holes carefully crafting a brand identity. It is a conscsious choice made by the NASCAR powers that be to allow this flag waving AND a conscious choice by the advertisers who support NASCAR to support it AND a healthy source of reaffirmation for those who cotton to such nasty symbols.

Not unlike football fans who dig on the Coors Light twins.

p.s. to Betty: the extremely narrow definition of sport in this country is the correct one. If you're not talking major pro and college sports, you're talking about activities, not sports.

Jerious Norwood said...

I agree anonymous, those blacks should just get a thicker skin. Best point so far. Nothing is relative and history doesn't matter. To call Charlie Rose a cracker is just as injurious as calling a poor black woman a racial slur. Both of them should just call on their respective coping skills and cultural support networks (which they obviously both have in the same supply). You must be the smartest person on earth.

The Fan's Attic said...

Just like to point out that anonymous just told you all the answer regarding the question about a class of suppressed people hoisting a flag/symbol of their suppression for their own pride...the N-word.

Other than that, I don't care for your moral debates. Let's just make fun of athletes and the stupid things that happen in sports. More dick jokes, less philosophy.

Big Blue Monkey said...

By the way, long, long ago, Phil said, "I don't think many northern soldiers fought to free black people."

And that may be true, but the overwhelming majority of black men who fought in the Civil War fought for the Northern side, and they fought for exactly that reason.

Yes, there were draft riots in NYC as poor white men (mainly Irish) reacted violently to the idea of fighting for niggers, as they put it. But they knew why they were being asked to fight. As did the Black Men who willingly signed up to fight. It's just further proof, actually, that the sides in the War knew exactly what they were fighting for. Poor racist whites in the North revolted against fighting; black Northerners volunteered. And yet the war was about States Rights and the Flag isn't a racist symbol. Hmph.

Anonymous said...

I'm not competely sure what you are saying, Blue.

I would say there is plenty of evidence to support multiple rasons why men fought in the civil war.

Some fought to preserve the Union. Some fought to free the slaves. Some fought for glory. Some fought for blood lust. Some fought for power. Some fought for money. Some fought for states rights.

My main disagreement is any definitive statement, for example, We invaded Iraq to free the people of Iraq. Sure, that's a by product of our invasion and I believe some of our soldiers who have and do fight think of that as their main goal. But Ithink we all know the reasons are many and not nearly as cut and dry.