Denny Hamlin should have known better.
One of NASCAR’s top profile drivers – a 41-year-old three-time Daytona 500 winner and 23XI Racing team co-owner – should have known not to tweet a racist, anti-Asian meme.
Even if it was his attempt to drive the joke with his friend and rival, Kyle Larson, who set a wreck on fire Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway collecting the two 23XI cars, a racist joke emphasizing harmful anti-Asian American stereotypes is unacceptable.
On the final lap of the GEICO 500, Larson ran close to the front and moved several lanes on the track to try and steal the lead and victory. In the process, he made contact with Kurt Busch’s car, and when Busch bounced off the outside wall and got back into traffic, he hit Bubba Wallace, which ruined both 23XI cars’ chances of a strong finish. It’s racing; it happens.
NASCAR:Denny Hamlin recommends undergoing sensitivity training
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Hamlin tried to mock Larson on Monday, apparently without thinking about the devastating effects of racist jokes that perpetuate dehumanizing stereotypes. He tweeted a meme: A snippet from “Family Guy,” a program no stranger to racist and misogynistic jokes, which maintains an ugly stereotype about Asian-American women not being able to drive well. To make matters worse, the track features a character – Hamlin’s meme put Larson’s name over her – with a strong stereotypical accent.
Hamlin could have used any meme, any joke to tease Larson – who is half Japanese and the only Asian-American full-time rider in the NASCAR Cup series – about his last lap incident. The internet is full of meme choices that do not target already marginalized groups of people, and he could have chosen any one of them to tease his partner.
If he had tweeted a meme that was not inherently racist and merely made a harmless joke about Larson, it probably would have been fine. But he used an already malicious and demeaning punchline to make his point, and that’s the problem.
Later that night, Hamlin deleted the tweet and apologized – though he should have further explained why it was offensive.
But some in the NASCAR world and fans still missed why it was so terribly offensive and that there were, in fact, racial implications.
As an organization, NASCAR – which works to be more inclusive, diversify the predominantly white, male sport and welcome all supporters and participants – naturally saw the anti-Asian-American racism in Hamlin’s tweet. And on Tuesday, the governing body announced: “This morning we warned Hamlin that he must complete sensitivity training and the process must begin by the end of this week.”
Toyota, the maker of both 23XI Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing, the team Hamlin competes for, agreed with NASCAR’s response.
It does not matter whether Larson – who suspended NASCAR and fired his former team in 2020 after the driver used a racial grievance – was not offended by the joke. It does not matter if you are not offended by the joke. A racist joke is still racist. So again, Hamlin should have known better and at least reflected on why he found the joke funny and whether it had the potential to harm others.
Often rooted in fanaticism or xenophobia, stereotypes are dehumanizing, and reinforcing them can have real negative impacts, including violence, especially when the target is a group of people who have already been marginalized or discriminated against.
Hate crime targeting communities of Asian American and Pacific Islanders is on the rise and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism noted earlier this year, anti-Asian hate crime has increased by 339 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, NBC News reported.
Via the American Psychological Association:
“In the incidents documented by Stop AAPI Hate, women have been targeted more than two-thirds of the time, indicating more complex gender stereotypes that also contribute to current violence,” he said. [Dr. Derald Wing Sue, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College]including the shooting deaths of six Asian American women in Atlanta. “
Last year, eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in a shooting at Atlanta area spas. It happened five days before NASCAR’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and the track and sport honored the victims.
“It’s definitely getting closer to me,” Larson said after winning that 2021 Atlanta race. “Hopefully things will go better in our world. This is just an awful, awful time for Asians. I hope it goes better. “
Barely a year later, one of NASCAR’s biggest stars tweeted a racist joke to its substantial platform at the expense of AAPI communities, especially women.
NASCAR’s sensitivity training is a slap on the wrist for Hamlin and others who have had to take it before because of their actions, including Kyle Busch after using a capable and derogatory slander in 2021 and Larson after a racial slap in the face used in 2020. that training has had or will have a significant impact on those who have taken it will only be determined by their future behavior and actions.
Hopefully, empathy, compassion and humanity will be strengthened in addition to an education on how racism and fanaticism affect people regularly and how to combat it. Hopefully, this will encourage Hamlin and others to ask themselves before saying something: Can it negatively affect an already discriminated group of people, whether it is about race, disability, gender or sexual orientation?
Hamlin may not have asked himself that before tweeting the racist meme on Monday. But he had to.