Well, my post last week sure created some discussion, mostly online, some in-person.
Granted, the vast majority of feedback came from within current NASCAR participants and fans. Very little feedback came from anyone outside this sphere. Which is the sphere that I’d really love to hear from. I’ll work on that.
But for now, I’m offering some clarification based on feedback received, stuff like:
You’re exaggerating / being dramatic: Yup. Not really by that much, but, yup. I’m striving to make a point about the probable positive effect that could be had by new participation and viewership from Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z that are not already engaged at all in motorsports.
When I think about these generations as a new audience it could be in an area where NASCAR tracks dont exist, which is a significant part of the country. And wouldn’t it be great to cross-reference that with where local tracks (non_NASCAR) exist.
NASCAR and the industry is working on diversity in the sport: For sure! NASCAR is now, and has been — for years -, doing work behind-the-scenes to make their organization more diverse, and then ideally and intentionally have that cascade to the industry as a whole. I did mention some of that in my previous post and I completely realize there are many layers to that work. (As Code2040 talks about diversity work, “It is not a sprint, not a marathon, it is a relay race.” YES )
And it’s really hard and frustrating work; I’m positive that I have no idea how truly hard and frustrating the work is within the sport,
AND… I also wish this work was more transparent, more apparent, to the non-NASCAR audience about this work.
Another liberal trying to force diversity: Ah, this was a popular comment! So, I wanted to get some clarity on what is meant by the phrase forced diversity. If it means hiring someone not qualified or competent for a role yet hired because that person does qualify as a diverse candidate and there is some quota that is being pressured to be met, then, yeah, that’d be a bad decision.
The idea that there is such a phrase as forced diversity is based on a belief that everyone, including those from marginalized communities, has the same opportunities to even apply for / train with / connection to the same opportunities that the current (yes, mostly white male, that’s just a fact) people within the motorsports community have had. These opportunities are not going to come naturally.
I’ve seen this challenge about forced diversity in tech. Again, I work in operations and systems design, I speak at those tech conferences, and I have seen the arduous work by many to be intentional in attracting diverse candidates so there can be representation within the industry not just for diversity’s sake, but for the benefit of everyone involved to have and experience new ideas, perspectives and knowledge, because that’s the environment we should all be spending our waking hours in.
So when I talk about diversity and inclusion, it’s around opportunity. Check out the hashtag #opportunitygap : Go ahead. It’s a good place to start.
What you wrote angers me. This industry losing an audience isn’t about diversity, it’s about too many 1.5mile tracks / restrictor plates / races are too long / attention span of viewers / etc etc: Indeed. There are a ton of reasons and ingredients that are in the way way deep bowels of how and why this sport grew and the infrastructure it operates from and where does one even start and then continue this relay work? I’m not offering a magic pill that will make it all better. I’m not naive. I’m leveraging my knowledge from one industry and offering it into another. The other possible factors listed are valid and I understand those topics since I am a race fan, but that’s not the basis of the experience of my work.
This past week I was asked how / why I can keep having these discussions, how can I be tolerant of some comments and things that were said. I direct everyone to my absolutely all-time favorite and extremely clear definition that’s an analogy of what white male privilege is from writer John Scalzi. In my experience working in tech companies, it’s spot-on. And I’m learning, as I dive deeper into the NASCAR culture, it’s pretty accurate in this sphere, too.
Social identity of being white is a privilege, and with awareness can actually come strength and support for others that are not like you, be it racially or as a gender.
So what now? Besides listening to each other and hearing each other? What’s the next action for NASCAR and teams and broadcasters and racetracks and sponsors in this industry? I keep coming back to transparency. Being truly authentic about understanding the importance of gender and racial inclusion (and we haven’t even really touched upon those who identify as LGBTQ in my posts, yet…), and then being transparent and intentional in what might be considered unlikely spaces for NASCAR to be — in the media, in other industries, in other social constructs, places — both physical and online — that are frequented by under-35yr olds who will comment “What is that red-neck brand doing here?”
And then be attractive to this potential new audience with the strategy, the thrill of competition, the math and science, the personalities, the layers of complexity of the people who are having fun every weekend. And listen and hear them and welcome them to the NASCAR family.