I really don’t know Kyle Miyata Larson, and other than the numerous times I’ve watched him drive the wheels off of numerous types of race cars, our interaction has been limited to yours truly sticking a voice recorder in his face while seeking a quote I can write about.
In those limited conversations, he’s always been polite and seemed genuinely interested in fulfilling his media obligations, while representing the numerous sponsors that have supported him financially throughout his racing career in a respectful fashion.
He was everything NASCAR needed in terms of connecting with the younger demographic with his good looks, articulate manner and a million dollar smile that never failed him when cameras were around.
When you combine all this with his incredible driving talent, the 27-year-old phenom had an incredible future.
All that changed on April 12, when competing in a iRacing event through a simulator in the comfort of his home, Larson used a unspeakable racial epithet that created both a cringe-worthy moment and, in all likelihood, the end of his racing career. While Larson attempted to facilitate his regrets through a video apology, it only exacerbated the situation, and one by one his blue chip sponsors such as Chevrolet, McDonald’s, Credit Bank and Clover terminated their respective business relationship with Larson and his employer, Chip Ganassi Racing, which opted to fire Larson on April 14.
While just about everyone associated with Larson has folded their tent and run for cover, this most recent example of blatantly inappropriate behavior is simply yet another reminder as to where our country is in terms of race relations, as opposed to where it should be. It won’t be long before another high profile individual makes a similar unconscionable statement, only to offer up a pathetic apology through social media and beg for forgiveness.
Larson’s actions clearly illustrate the wound that is racism in this country is open and hemorrhaging profusely, with no tourniquet anywhere in site. One of the saddest aspects of this societal portrait is that only the higher profile individuals are publicized when their transgressions occur, giving the everyday common folks a virtual pass as if their actions are simply not equally offensive.
Let’s face it, this type of language is used in barbershops and locker rooms across the United States every day by those who will never feel the scrutiny that Larson is rightfully receiving, and while it is the norm in many circles, it remains problematic in every aspect of American life. From music lyrics to career politicians, the use of such epithets is alive and well, and isn’t going anywhere, and the longer it continues to fester in our country the more damage it does.
Before too long, another explicit example of what Larson demonstrated will occur and most people will look at it as unfortunate but not that serious. That alone is horrific, and should make everyone stop and reflect on the sad commentary that has become “acceptable” on many fronts. One thing is certain: Those who practice such heinous actions are multiplying as opposed to deteriorating, so it will continue to happen. The real question is why don’t enough people care? Maybe if we pull our collective heads out of the sand in protest, we can make a difference for the next generation, and they’ll learn it’s not just the Kyle Larson’s of the world, it’s all of us.
Danny Bridges, who is thankful for two parents who stressed equality from day one of his life, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.