Ever since NASCAR announced that it supports the removal of the Confederate battle flag at the South Carolina statehouse, conservatives have devolved into a frenzied mob of illiterate and insane “not-racist” fools.
Among the barely-decipherable complaints on Fox News’ Facebook page, there are a number of remarks that Dale Earnhardt Sr. would not have stood for the removal of the flag :
Prepare to be embarrassed, conservatives: Dale Earnhardt Senior wasn’t the champion of the Confederate flag conservatives wish he was, and neither is his son.
In fact, Senior would have gladly supported a ban of this symbol of hate — perhaps, not at first, but after he was educated on the damaging impact the flag can have on society:
Flags bearing Earnhardt’s No. 3 still fly alongside the rebel flag in infields. But how did Earnhardt himself feel about the flag? A story from off the track gives a clue.
There’s a bumper sticker out there still on sale at just about every truck stop in the South. “AMERICAN BY BIRTH,” it reads, “SOUTHERN BY THE GRACE OF GOD,” usually with a rebel flag alongside. One day Earnhardt slapped one of these stickers onto the bumper of one of his trucks. He didn’t think any more of it until his housekeeper, an African-American woman beloved by Earnhardt’s children Dale and Kelley, mentioned that the flag’s implications made her uncomfortable.
Earnhardt immediately went out to his truck and sliced off the rebel flag. The motto remained; the flag itself was trashed.
“He didn’t want to offend anybody or make anybody mad in that manner,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller on her “Fast Lane Family” podcast. “He had a good heart.”
In other words, after he was educated on the fact that the “Rebel Flag,” which is often used as a substitute for the swastika in places where displaying it is illegal, was hurtful, he had second thoughts about displaying it — something that is sorely lacking in today’s conservatives.
Conservatives who might think that Earnhardt’s son would be supportive of the Confederate flag have obviously never read his autobiography. At a Q&A in Richmond, someone asked Dale Earnhardt Jr., “What do you think of the rebel flag?” His answer might shock NASCAR fans. From Driver #8:
This [question] is followed by a chorus of redneck yelps and cheers.
The guy has put me in a bind. As much as I brag about being a no-[B.S.]-tell-it-like-it-is-here’s-how-I-see-it kinda guy, I know that these are the fans that pay my salary, so I’m hesitant to tell him the rebel flag represents closed-minded, racist views that have no place in today’s society. Give ’em a straight answer and I may piss off the “rebels” in the crowd … But I have my opinions and I don’t want to give a dishonest answer, either. I feel like the weight of the Civil War is resting on my shoulders.
I take a couple of breaths and say, “I think it means something different to me than it does to y’all … ”
That gets mixed reactions. Some hoot and yell, some kind of snicker.
But time is up and I’m not going to stick around and argue the point.
In 2006, Yahoo Sports asked more than 30 drivers what they thought of the flag — and Earnhardt Jr. was the only one to answer.
“We live in a country where you can speak freely and do as you may,” Earnhardt said, taking a careful approach to the topic. “I don’t know [if] what that flag stands for is the same for me as it is the guy who might have it flying out there.”
Conservatives enjoy rewriting history and, while NASCAR once embraced the flag wholeheartedly, that has not been the case for a long time.
“The image of the Confederate flag is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive,” NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said in a statement to the Associated Press after the organization banned Ben Jones’ Dukes of Hazzard car in 2012.
NASCAR has had a policy in place for years that prohibits the rebel flag from being displayed on official merchandise, as well — one that the organization has promised to continue as it supports the flag’s removal:
As we continue to mourn the tragic loss of life last week in Charleston, we join our nation’s embrace of those impacted. NASCAR supports the position that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took on the Confederate Flag on Monday. As our industry works collectively to ensure that all fans are welcome at our races, NASCAR will continue our long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate Flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity. While NASCAR recognizes that freedom of expression is an inherent right of all citizens, we will continue to strive for an inclusive environment at our events.
If conservatives want to identify Earnhardt as a legend in his sport, that’s probably accurate — but to paint him as the champion of the rebel flag would be disingenuous, at best. Earnhardt learned that he was displaying a symbol of hate, and chose to no longer do so.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the Right could learn from his example.
Featured Image via NASCAR History (modified)