Bubba Wallace Explains How He Learned to “Embrace” Activism in New Op-Ed

In a new Op-Ed for The Players Tribune, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace explains how he came to embrace activism.

Bubba Wallace writes:

Hell, I’m just tired.

Simple as that.

Hearing from tons of media outlets around the clock. Not really being able to put the phone or computer down. I haven’t been able to take my foot off the gas for weeks. Imagine being asked about hatred every single day for like three weeks. And then having your message overshadowed by something out of your control. It’s exhausting.

Anyone who thinks this is what I wanted, just doesn’t know me at all.

I’m a simple, country guy — someone who’s always tried to make his own choices and stand up for what’s right. It’s the way I was brought up. I’m no hero, and I’m not trying to be. I never saw myself as an activist. I’m just a guy who likes to drive fast, you know? That’s who I’ve been since I quit my AAU basketball team and got a go-kart when I was nine.

I never thought I’d be the reason for a national media debate about the Confederate flag. I never thought I would put BLACK LIVES MATTER on my car. And I never thought I would be at the center of a national conversation about race and sports.

Then … everything in the world just shifted. And I became that guy, for better or for worse. And I’m learning to embrace it.

I think the moment was the trigger for me. The Ahmaud Arbery video really shook me to the core and spurred me to stand up and say something. And then seeing George Floyd go through that was kind of like the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’m not much of a reader, that’s for sure. Words don’t stick with me. But music does. And after I saw that video of George Floyd, I thought of this song that I’ve been listening to over and over ever since.

I’m a big heavy metal-screamo guy. That stuff that you’ve probably heard once and been like, What are they even saying? That’s my genre. It might seem crazy, but the heavier it sounds, the more calming and soothing it is for me. That’s when it really resonates and makes me feel at peace. I love lonely rides on my motorcycle and just listening to music. I love them so much that I watch the weather obsessively so I never miss a chance to take my bike out on a sunny day. When I’m on a quiet road, I just let the music take me to a place where I don’t have to think.

But this song I’m talking about is different. I actually listen to it to help me think. It came out a few years ago and talks about social injustice and racial inequality in America. It says things I just can’t put into words myself.

It’s by the band Silent Planet. And it’s called “No Place to Breathe.”

The drums, the guitars — everything — just accent the powerful lyrics:

Place your hands to the pulse of this city, keep your ear to the ground, hear him gasp, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Are we so blind to believe that violence could give birth to peace?

Make every breath a protest in a world where your neighbors cannot breathe.

Hell, I’m just tired.

Simple as that.

Hearing from tons of media outlets around the clock. Not really being able to put the phone or computer down. I haven’t been able to take my foot off the gas for weeks. Imagine being asked about hatred every single day for like three weeks. And then having your message overshadowed by something out of your control. It’s exhausting.

Anyone who thinks this is what I wanted, just doesn’t know me at all.

I’m a simple, country guy — someone who’s always tried to make his own choices and stand up for what’s right. It’s the way I was brought up. I’m no hero, and I’m not trying to be. I never saw myself as an activist. I’m just a guy who likes to drive fast, you know? That’s who I’ve been since I quit my AAU basketball team and got a go-kart when I was nine.

I never thought I’d be the reason for a national media debate about the Confederate flag. I never thought I would put BLACK LIVES MATTER on my car. And I never thought I would be at the center of a national conversation about race and sports.

Then … everything in the world just shifted. And I became that guy, for better or for worse. And I’m learning to embrace it.

Anyone who thinks this is what I wanted, just doesn’t know me at all.

I think the moment was the trigger for me. The Ahmaud Arbery video really shook me to the core and spurred me to stand up and say something. And then seeing George Floyd go through that was kind of like the final straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’m not much of a reader, that’s for sure. Words don’t stick with me. But music does. And after I saw that video of George Floyd, I thought of this song that I’ve been listening to over and over ever since.

I’m a big heavy metal-screamo guy. That stuff that you’ve probably heard once and been like, What are they even saying? That’s my genre. It might seem crazy, but the heavier it sounds, the more calming and soothing it is for me. That’s when it really resonates and makes me feel at peace. I love lonely rides on my motorcycle and just listening to music. I love them so much that I watch the weather obsessively so I never miss a chance to take my bike out on a sunny day. When I’m on a quiet road, I just let the music take me to a place where I don’t have to think.

But this song I’m talking about is different. I actually listen to it to help me think. It came out a few years ago and talks about social injustice and racial inequality in America. It says things I just can’t put into words myself.

It’s by the band Silent Planet. And it’s called “No Place to Breathe.”

The drums, the guitars — everything — just accent the powerful lyrics:

Place your hands to the pulse of this city, keep your ear to the ground, hear him gasp, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Are we so blind to believe that violence could give birth to peace?

Make every breath a protest in a world where your neighbors cannot breathe.

I was born in Mobile, Alabama. My family moved to Concord, North Carolina when I was two, and I’ve been here ever since.

My first love was basketball. I have an older sister — she’s 31, 32? (Hell, I don’t know. She’s getting up there in age.) We grew up really close, and she played basketball all the way up until her junior year of college. She had a full ride to South Carolina State, but she tore her ACL her junior year. I remember running around the gyms when I was six, seven, eight years old, following her.

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