What constitutes a hate crime in 2020?

On Tuesday, the FBI concluded its investigation and determined that the noose hanging above the Talladega Superspeedway garage used by NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace did not constitute a hate crime. It was determined that the noose was hung there in the fall of 2019, months before Wallace, who is black, was assigned to use that garage.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a hate crime as “any of various crimes (such as assault or defacement of property) when motivated by hostility to the victim as a member of a group (such as one based on color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation)”.  An empowered entity like the FBI will use its own subjective judgment to make their determination based on the hate crime definition provided. Their findings showed no federal crime was committed, putting an end to this story.

The FBI’s determination could make noose hanging an acceptable practice again, much to the dismay of black Americans and black American sympathizers. As deplorable as noose hanging is, the act harms people psychologically instead of physically and economically. Maybe this is the logic the FBI used to determine that the noose hanging above Wallace’s garage door was not a hate crime.

It’s a flawed logic. If someone were to hang pictures of a swastika over a Jewish NASCAR driver’s garage door, the FBI’s investigation would have severely punished the perpetrator. If a gay NASCAR driver had a sign above his garage door containing homophobic language, that perpetrator would have been severely punished as well. The Bubba Wallace noose aftermath sends the message that nooses are acceptable in 2020, and that black Americans are not offered the same protection from anti black sentiments as any other specific group.

Wallace has not offered a public comment as this piece went to press. It’s sad that Talladega Superspeedway couldn’t find someone capable enough to tie a rope unlike a noose to serve its purpose for that garage door. The incident proves that NASCAR’s newfound dedication to inclusion for all has a long way to go to achieve that end.


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