‘#WeRaceAsOne’ must make a difference the way ‘Racing Against Racism’ didn’t

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An email landed this morning with a press release from NASCAR, confirming the appalling details of the act of racist intimidation targeted at driver Bubba Wallace at Talladega yesterday.

A few hours later Formula 1 confirmed details of a new initiative intended to, among other things, “show that we as a sporting community stand united against racism and are doing more to address inequality and diversity in Formula 1”.

While the F1 announcement might be assumed by some to be a reaction to the NASCAR story, it isn’t: F1 has been working on plan, titled ‘#WeRaceAsOne’ for some time.

F1 pointed out that improving diversity within the sport was one of the goals stated in the sustainability strategy it announced last November. However it acknowledged that “recent events have reinforced the importance of those issues”. These recent events being, of course, the anti-racism demonstrations in America and beyond sparked by the death of George Floyd four weeks ago today.

Within Formula 1, six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton has been the most vocal supporter of the movement, challenging others within the sport to give it their backing and attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration in London yesterday. Over the weekend, Hamilton announced his own initiative to promote black participation within motorsport.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2008
Hamilton was targeted by racists in 2008
The Hamilton Commission intends to tackle the skills shortages and other obstacles to greater diversity in motor racing. The purpose of ‘#WeRaceAsOne’ is harder to follow.

In its press release today F1 said it intends to recognise “the two major issues dominating society’s consciousness at this time, COVID-19, and inequality.” Both are undoubtedly incredibly important subjects, but also totally different challenges. Grouping both under one symbol sends an unclear message; even more so when that symbol is the rainbow insignia already long associated with LGBTQ rights.

As the NASCAR story reminds us, racism is too pernicious an evil for a box-ticking social media exercise to be sufficient. ‘#WeRaceAsOne’ needs to be more than just something those of us who follow motorsport can post colourful pictures of on Instagram and say “isn’t it nice to see F1 doing this…”

F1 has been here before. During pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya in 2008 Hamilton was targeted for abuse by a group who showed up in blackface and wigs carry signs which read “Hamilton’s family”.

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The FIA took swift and positive action, putting the venue of the Spanish Grand Prix on notice that a repeat would not be tolerated. That year’s race went ahead without similar incidents being reported.

NASCAR, Darlington Raceway, 17th May 2020
NASCAR has a diversity programme
At the race the governing body’s previous administration also launched an initiative called ‘Racing against Racism’. However well-intentioned it may have been at time time, it’s impossible to make great claims for its success, particularly as any mention of its existence appears to have been long deleted from the FIA’s website.

The key questions for initiatives like these are: ‘What do you intend to achieve?’ and ‘How are you going to do it?’. As far as its anti-racism aspect goes, ‘#WeRaceAsOne’ needs a clear process leading to tangible change. Without that, F1 will stand accused of making gestures but not taking action – one can already imagine the cries of ‘rainbow-washing’.

The initiative will set up “a Formula 1 Task Force that will listen to people from across the paddock, including the drivers, as well as externals and make conclusions on the actions required to improve the diversity and opportunity in Formula 1 at all levels”, said the press release.

My feedback to the task force would be this: Where is the equivalent programme for non-white competitors to that which the FIA announced for women just last week? Even NASCAR, for all its problems, started its Drive for Diversity programme 16 years ago.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 35 comments on “‘#WeRaceAsOne’ must make a difference the way ‘Racing Against Racism’ didn’t”

    1. William Jones
      22nd June 2020, 13:15

      I’ve got to agree, it seems very odd to group Covid 19 and racism into one. I think I can see what they are saying – we all are as one affected by wider world events and we will stand stronger together in adapting, but it feels a bit empty.

      1. Well if you append your cause to a hashtag i will automatically assume the substance behind this is purely marketing based.

        1. unfortunately I think you are right.

    2. Adam (@rocketpanda)
      22nd June 2020, 13:37

      I’m in support of the drive to end inequality, and the pandemic – both will need us to come together to fight them off. But I am surprised that for all the aspects of inequality, racism & sexism F1 wishes to challenge it didn’t make any mention of LGBTQ rights anywhere. Not Jean Todt, not F1’s statement, not McLaren, Renault. This despite using a symbol long associated with a minority group that does suffer the inequality this drive is meant to challenge. For an organisation that will defend its branding at all costs I can’t imagine they’d be ignorant to that connection.

      Presumably the lack of mention is related to not upsetting some countries who have some questionable records on human rights but then that makes this statement just come across as a little toothless.

    3. What F1 (and FIA) need to do is to cut ties and cancel some of the contracts it has with countries and companies that are known to discriminate, have laws that in a way produce inequality and are yet to show will to change. Meaning races in Bahrain, Russia, (USA too with it’s continued issues) need to be called of until a will to change is shown by those countries. Yes, that means F1 will have to bite the bullet financially but unless F1 is willing to cut it’s ties and say we will not have anything to do with you until you change there is no hope in my view for this campaign to have any success.

      I know that there are a lot of countries where there is some form of racism and some form of inequality or discrimination. But countries that for example punish one for being gay or have shown violent tendencies against a person of a different race than it’s majority have to be on top of the list that need to be excluded from all and any events.

      The ball is in F1’s court. It’s up to them to make the first move. Make it count.Make it work.

      1. F1 doesn’t support discrimination…. They accept all currencies.

      2. @us-brian – I can accept them not cancelling contracts but if the logos disappear at certain races then it shows that this is nothing more than a cheap PR stunt. I really hope it isn’t but we’ll find out over the coming months.

        I don’t personally think getting rid of races will achieve anything – showing up in those countries and promoting equality loud and proud will do a lot more.

      3. @us-brian oh man, you want to bring up USA where diversity actually exists but you don’t mention Australia where police are beating & murdering indigenous people? Or literally China with its continued human rights abuses towards minority groups, practitioners of certain forms of martial arts, Christians and those who don’t follow group think? Then what about the UK because, and maybe you’re not aware, but England is basically the source of the entire world’s colonialism, except for when Japan did exactly the same thing to Russia & Korea. North Korea exists because of Japan, and Japan attempted at every angle to eliminate Korean culture & populations in the same fashion that America tried to eradicate Native American culture & populations. Oh yes, lest I forget the raping and slaughter of Chinese… Pray tell, are we only allowed to race in Africa & Canada?

        I wish people wouldn’t think so ignorantly. It’s really sad that decisions are being made because of the blind leading the blind.

      4. I applaud their effort, but it’s pretty much a dud from the start if McLaren are involved given their Bahraini Government owners’ human rights abuses.

    4. The world has gone insane. For a while F1 seemed to be one the one place that this global insanity hadn’t infected. Now look what has happened. As if the virus is not enough!!! It will be interesting to see how these new groups will handle the Chinese Gov’t vis a vis the suppression of over one million Uighers as well as their actions in Tibet? Some of middle eastern countries where GP’s are held are also charged with human rights abuses. Or are these to be overlooked by the virtue signallers who seem to be welcomed into the F1 arena. I still firmly oppose any introduction of these groups into F1. F1 should remain outside sociopolitical movements and concentrate on what is the core essence of its raison d’etre…racing at the highest level and disconnected from a cheesy saccahrine ‘we race as one’ meme.

      1. As you said the other day “they have freedom of speech – they may say things you don’t want to hear but so what?”

        1. @petebaldwin…exactly so. It appears that you have at last learnt something. As to the ‘so what’, keep it out of F1, that’s what.

          1. @kenji The two posts you have made in this strand contradict each other. There’s no “not this bit” where it comes to places where free speech may be employed.

            1. @ A la C….not so. You are being obtuse. You know exactly what i’m saying. F1` is no place for pushing so called ‘social justice ‘ claims. They’re spurious anyway. Maybe you can give me multiple instances of racial discrimination in F1, evidence of white superiority in F1 matters and also evidence of active discrimination towards lack of diversity in the ranks of the LGBTQIA or whatever the latest iterations of that are in vogue. Hamilton though played the race card a long time ago…in Monaco in 2008 [ ? ] when the stewards gave him multiple penalties for driving infringements. When he was questioned about this he said ‘maybe it’s because i’m black’ then quickly tried to retract what he’d said whilst trying to turn it into a joke. He accused the stewards of racial discrimination. He had to apologise later. This latest hysteria is just a follow on… keep it out of F1. As for painting rainbows on the cars is just plain stupid tokenism and after posting this i’ll just have to let ‘the hard rain fall’. On a separate note….where did you get the sig? I’m curious.

    5. I think this is where I finally call quits on this sport after every single weekend for two and a half decades. I enjoyed watching hard racing, with brilliant innovation on the technology side. This has simply become ludicrous. If I wanted extreme left wing political philosophy jammed down my throat, I’ll simply plug in to the mainstream media matrix (this sport has always been a relative safe haven from it). You can take pleasure in banning my user account as well. Adieu!

      1. @ Brolloks… I would urge you to stay. I have been following / watching motorsport since 1950 and yes, this latest wave of distraction seems to be all pervading but you need to stay and make your voice heard otherwise the snowflakes will win with no one to question their attempted shutdown of alternative opinions.

    6. If you want to help people give your money. All these slogans and hashtags… I don’t watch F1 for politics, I watch it because I like watching racing. Other things I find in other places. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a right to opinion, but on the other hand, your opinion is as good as mine or someone next door.

      1. @ Dex…It’s very simple. Well said.

    7. I don’t think rainbow logos will ever change anything about racism, nor will any hashtag for that matter. It’s such a complex question that it just cannot be solved with such idealistic and simple answers. Also, pushing for diversity in racing (or at any workplace, truth be told) leads only to a fake, shallow, enforced and artificial diversity, good enough for marketing only.

      I might be a horrible person, but I’m also not thrilled about programmes to promote drivers with certain backgrounds into the sport. I’m afraid that any programme dedicated for non-whites, non-male, non-straight, etc. drivers can only result in someone eventually getting a racing seat for something besides talent at the expense of some guy who also has talent, but happens to be straight & white. Isn’t that kind of the same thing we don’t like about pay drivers?

      1. Your statement actually makes the case for having such programs.

        Read it over and over and you might eventually see why.

        1. I would rather have you elaborate on your arguement, because implying my opinion is wrong in your opinion doesn’t help either.

      2. Bingo!

        Forced diversity is just as bad as none at all. In fact its worse because its no longer about talent but box ticking.

        1. And how many boxes need to be ticked to make everyone happy? Race and gender are the obvious ones, probably sexual orientation too. But does a cisgender woman represent a transgender woman? Maybe we need to have representation for all age groups, and religions too. Are Satanists allowed? F1 also needs to work on representing all body types so larger people can feel included, as well as those with physical disabilities.

          And in this perfect future, the racing will probably still be boring.

    8. F1 defines itself as the most technologically advanced sport, always pushing the boundaries, projecting its innovations into the future. They could indeed apply this forward looking philosophy in social terms.

      Being a sport with such elitist social heritage and tied to so many questionable sponsors and public authorities, the fact that they at least pretend to seem socially inclusive is a very welcomed step forward.

    9. It’s very weird that F1 (and by F1 I mean everyone from drivers to teams, from journalists to organizers) seems perfectly ok with receiving money from corrupt dictatorships with few respect for human rights, but they still do this PR stunts.

      It’s great that society changed and “being against racism” is finally considered the norm and is finally considered good PR policy, but F1 is not trying to achieve nothing with this, just a few PR credits.

      1. @JCCJcC

        It’s not weird if you recognize that this is first and foremost about their own ego, status and financial well-being. They are not willing to actually pay a price for their convictions.

    10. I’m not getting the impression F1 understands what it needs to do to be helpful.

      Sentence I would not have thought to write last year: F1 needs to learn about diversity programming from NASCAR.

    11. “Where is the equivalent programme for non-white competitors”

      Why should there be a programme for non-white competitors? Sorry, as what you would regard as BAME person in the UK, I find this quite offensive, just like any other form of affirmative action. You make it, in all walks of life, if you’re good enough.

      Thats just my opinion.

      1. NeverElectric
        23rd June 2020, 4:16

        You miss the point. Your argument would be valid if the “playing field” was sort of equal, or even just slightly unequal. But it isn’t.
        Motorsports in general is very euro-centric in ethnicity. Whether it is F1, or WRC, or Nascar, or MotoGP, or SuperBikes, the participants in these sports, the teams and the supporting services tend to be ethnic European. @dieterrencken wrote about the challenges that a kid with a non-European nationality would face if s/he wanted to get into F1 (see the article here: ).
        What that article did not cover is the socio-economic realities within European states, and how those realities broadly follow ethnic lines with ethnic Europeans generally wealthier and in higher socio-economic strata than other ethnicities within the same European country, and how those realities translate into barriers for kids from non-European ethnicities in European countries.
        F1 fancies itself a global sport. This has assumed even more meaning in today’s world, with the advent of globalisation, worldwide TV and streaming audiences, and sponsorship money coming from virtually all over the world: in the 2019 F1 season, for example, RacingPoint were partially sponsored by SportPesa, a Kenya-based sports betting company. Lewis Hamilton is wildly popular in urban Africa, and many local kids look up to him given his status as the only driver with any sort of African connection on the current grid.
        It follows, then, that for F1 to achieve a more worldwide appeal, it needs to reflect its audience to some extent. F1 needs Asian drivers, it needs African drivers, it needs female drivers, and so on, in addition to its current crop of male mainly ethnic European drivers drawn from Europe and the Americas. F1 already has a category to help female drivers come through its feeder series and hopefully make it to the top tier. There should be no controversy when F1 seeks to increase its share of Asian, Black, and other minority drivers – not by making F1 itself any easier, but by making the path to F1 more accessible to minority and other families that would otherwise simply not be able to afford the journey.
        I don’t see anything even remotely controversial about that.

        1. Yes I read this article when it came out and re-read again just now to make sure I’m not missing a point.

          What Dieter talks about is the reality that we live in. This is like me saying as my 7 year old self in Malaysia that I’d like to be NASA Astronaut, or fly an F-14 for the US Navy, none of which would have possible (well unless you believe in fairy tales).

          I seriously dont understand this. As an example, the UK has a very large East Indian population, majority of whom are highly educated, well represented in STEM fields. So why aren’t enough of them applying to work in F1 teams as engineers or technicians? Perhaps they aren’t interested? Did that ever occur to anyone

          1. NeverElectric
            24th June 2020, 1:32

            Being highly educated and well represented in science and maths fields does not mean the path to something like F1 is thus easier. It is not just a question of money and knowledge, it is also a question of opportunity. Do we know that that opportunities have been given them to make choice if they wanted to?
            Take a more readily substantiated analogy: football in the UK. There are huge numbers of footballers in the UK of African origin, either directly from Africa, or via British-African parentage of either Caribbean or continental African origin.
            We also know that the most natural path for many of those footballers on retiring is to move upstairs into some sort of footballing management position. But how many Black football managers do you see in the English Premier League? 1 or two at the most. In fact, in the entire top tier of English football, you’d struggle to find 5 Black managers.
            An ordinarily curious mind would ask why this is so. But then you get to listen to Black ex-footballers like John Barnes and Paul Ince and Sol Campbell – they have the UEFA papers needed to work as managers, they have the lower-league managing experience, they apply for those managerial jobs when vacancies fall open…but somehow, the call to attend a manager job interview rarely comes.
            And that makes you wonder: is it just a coincidence?
            Even more glaring is where they start their managing careers compared to similar players who happen to be ethnic European: Roy Keane, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, etc are all ethnic European ex-players who landed high-profile top-tier management jobs shortly after retiring, and without having to go down to the depths of the football league pyramid to “prove” themselves. Ashley Cole, Sol Campbell, and many other current or potential managers who happen to be Black also have the same coaching credentials, the same glittering playing histories, the same desire to coach in the top tier, but somehow they never get offered those jobs – even though, as Campbell and Cole have both said, they keep applying for them – but are never invited even to the interviews.
            This is the kind of “systemic” discriminatory mindset that specifically minority-targeted initiatives are looking to combat. You cannot tell what someone can do if you won’t even interview them, whatever your reasons. But when the people applying for a role are all high-profile ex-players with similar playing experiences, with similar title-winning credentials as players, with similarly inexperienced coaching credentials, all having passed UEFA credentials, and coming from different ethnic groups – and you then notice that those who get job offers are consistently from one ethnic group, while those denied even interviews are consistently from another ethnic group, then you’ve almost certainly got a discrimination problem that you need to address. Programmes targeted at giving a chance to those from the ethnic groups always denied even interview chances – that is one way to start addressing the issue.

    12. What I personally would be interested in is a program to encourage and develop the African karting scene and build a open-wheel scene. It would allow for more diversity and opportunity for those who really have no hope of going anywhere in motorsport (a minority in a rich country still has the chance of getting backers, see the case of Hamilton, Lewis to name the most prominent example) and help decrease the Eurocentrism currently present in the FIA “Global” Pathway.

      1. If F1 seems Eurocentric, and seems to be deficient in Africa, it is because a career in motorsport is a luxury. In a continent where life poses many everyday challenges, what leader would decide that investment in motorsport is the best way forward? F1 is about investment, not charity. When the FIA looks outside Europe, it follows the money trail.

    13. Such programs run by UEFA, FIFA, FIA, IOC (or any organization of such) will never succeed because:
      1- The ambassadors are professional athletes, they are not only educated enough, but also they are polarized figures. On top of that, some of them even work for racists, remeber Donald Sterling and LA Clippers?
      2- The most important type of racism is forgotten: The hidden racism; I believe many of the members here know, how the employers look at the job application of the people with different races or how people with different races find a house and the list of such experineces goes on.
      IMO, the blatant and brutal racism is only the very peak of the huge iceberg with the hidden part invisible to many people or ignored intentionally by many people.
      Any kind of racism is terrible and we must address it and fight against it.

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