There aren’t many black people at the racetrack

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*Not going to lie. I’m not sure how long this post will stay up. But, it is a matter of ‘my site, my rules’, so here we go.*

There aren’t many black people at the racetrack.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a matter of safety or acceptance. The majority of people I’ve met while racing have been some of the nicest, and most understanding people I know. I’m just saying when I go to the racetrack, there aren’t very many black people there.

I’m not angry about it. It’s just something I want to see change.

I’m not surprised that I fell in love in racing. The sound of the engines. The complexity of the technology. The dedication of what it takes to win. However, I was surprised when I found that there weren’t very many people of color that I could relate to that shared that interest.

It figures. It’s just not a place that culturally or traditionally, we’ve been told that we belong. There just aren’t too many examples of successful people of color in motorsport.

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Do me a favor. Without going to the internet, trying to list five black people currently racing in international motorsport. There are a few high-profile names, like Lewis Hamilton, James Stewart or Robb Holland.

However, for every one Lewis Hamilton, there are a thousand Kobe Bryants. We’re just represented more commonly in different sports, like basketball, football, etc. That’s what I’m talking about, when I say there aren’t many black people who are at the racetrack.

Why does it matter? It’s because I want to see more of it.

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I know, some of that is economically related. To be involved in motorsport costs large amounts of money, even at the amateur level. It’s typically a sport of the high profile and relatively financially well-off. So, you can connect the dots. At the same time,  people of color in media are told they can be rap-artists or NBA basketball stars. However, when it comes to racing, we’re “nowhere to be seen.”

It’s not something that more people would recognize as a problem in motorsport, but it’s something that I’d like to see change. Granted, it’s much cheaper to pick up a basketball, than it is to get in a go-kart, but there have to be examples of people of color being successful in motorsport for others to follow in order to see progressive change. People said that black people didn’t like swimming, now we have black Olympians. They also said this about cycling, and this is changing too.

We live in a world, where to get what you what in life, you need to have a well-connected network. As much as we struggle to admit it, it’s easier to relate to other people when you look like them. So frankly, a black guy in a race suit stands out like a sore thumb. It’s definitely not impossible to make inroads, but it’s one of the challenges that you encounter when people initially question if the racetrack is the environment you “belong to.” 

It’s challenging when that’s what you really want to do in life. Personally, you find that it’s not so different when you put the helmet on, but when people see you take the helmet off. Don’t get me wrong. It’s the same for people from all walks of life, doing other things too, but it’s just a personal view I have that’s relevant to me. 

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So what can be done about it?

  • Act as a positive example, by showing that we can deliver value in motorsport whenever and wherever it’s possible. – It’s one of the reasons I write articles about racecraft and how to be more prepared in the sport. It’s one of the reasons that I coach people or run clinics at the kart track, whenever there is an opportunity. It’s why I try to bring new people into the sport that I love so much.  I inherently enjoy doing these things, but I also do it to show people that people of color are more than capable to be successful in motorsports, when we apply ourselves.
  • Focus on creating value for your sponsors, rather than just trying to increase your racing budget. –  I’m proud of the sponsors that I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with as I’ve been racing. I’m happy that I’ve been able to provide value to their businesses. I’m proud that they’ll willing to let me represent them, just how in the same way they help to represent me.
  • Be prepared as possible when going to compete at the track – It’s important to lead by a good example when showing up at the track. That doesn’t mean that you have to have the newest equipment, but it means that you show up prepared and ready to race. When you want people to adopt your interest, you have to ensure that you put your best foot forward to show that you understand what you’re doing, and that other people should want to join too. When you’re the 99% of the group, people don’t notice as much when one person is doing a bad job. When there are fewer people who look like you, if you’re being lazy, or sloppy, it doesn’t help.

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Please don’t get me mistaken. I’m not saying that people of color should be given any handouts, if they want to go racing. Actually, quite the opposite. I’m advocating that people of color work exceptional hard when they are at the track to put the best example forward that they can. Work as hard as you can. Work harder than everyone else around you. Learn as much you can. Practice as much as you can. Read as much as you can. Prepare as much as you can.

To be frank, this is to all black people who race – If you see someone giving 100 percent at the track, I urge you to  give 110% every time that you are there. Each lap you take proves and shows everyone around you that you deserve to be there. Not only that, but that you are there as a racer.

Everyone should be watching out for you to be on the podium at the next race. They should see it. They should feel that. Make them believe it. Then more people will be able to accept it. Perhaps, by leaving a positive example, more people of color will start racing or being involved with motorsports as a sponsor or supporter. Even if you don’t win, every lap that you take is a small victory in the right direction. 

So, to the last day that I go, if there aren’t many black people at the racetrack, I always will be ready to take the checkered flag.

-Davin Sturdivant

5 thoughts on “There aren’t many black people at the racetrack

  1. My daughter raced motocross for 11 years and we never saw a black competitor except when we went to a pro race where she got to meet James Stewart #7. His number is significant because my daughter adopted number 7 as her own and won two Women’s Division Championships, one at 14 years and one at 16 years. No, we never saw any blacks on the circuit but we also did not see any Japanese until she stepped on the podium time after time. Little five foot tall Japanese girl on a KTM 350SX-F. It ain’t the race of the racer. It is all about the heart of a champion

  2. Being involved in motorsports since I was 16, I get asked this question from time to time by people of all walks of life. I don’t think there is one clear reason way, but many.

    What got me involved in race is a brother that is one year older then me with more talent. He was constantly getting awards in various team sports and I decided to cut out a niche for myself. First Motocross then Karting and finally open wheel cars.

    Before giving my two cents and some reasons why you don’t see many blacks in motorsports, I have to start by saying no matter which form of the above racing I took part in, I ALWAYS felt welcomed and treated like the rest of the racers. Just another racer that happen to be black. This I can say held true whether I was competing on a Regional, National or Pro level. So in my opinion if this is being used as an excuse, I can be ruled out!

    Some of the reasons why you may not see many blacks in motorsports:
    Expense:
    Shit is it expensive! It was expensive when I got started. And it gets more expensive as you move up in classes.

    Lack of parent participation:
    My parents are of the era where blacks were just starting to break ground into the major sports of today (football, basketball, baseball). This looked obtainable and it was safe! Lets face it racing can be dangerous. If you ask most parents of the three sports, auto racing, football or baseball, which would they support, I don’t think auto racing is going to be number one. Unless of course you live in Europe.
    I can only remember my dad attending ONE of my motorsport events and that was well into my career.
    I asked him what he thought of it at the end of the day. Let’s say he wasn’t encouraging me to do more, and I wasn’t going to get much support. If he had grown up with some type of motorsports back ground, I bet it would have been a different story.
    I don’t have any children, but if I did and they mention the desire to race, I wouldn’t be able to get them to the track quick enough. No I’m not looking to adopt!

    What’s readily available:
    Anyone one of use can pick up a basketball, baseball, tennis racket or football tomorrow. Think about what it takes to get started in racing. Karting is relatively inexpensive as far as four wheel racing is concerned, but your need to buy a kart, spares, accessories and how do you get the track if you don’t have drivers license. Considerably easier to get involved in one of the sports mentioned above and once involved, sometimes there’s no looking back.

    I love racing and competition!
    I would encourage anyone that wants to do something outside the main team sports to get involved. I guarantee you will experience a friendly community, new friends and memories that you wouldn’t trade for anything.

    I forgot to mention, since I no longer race in motorsports, I have taken up racing velodrome track bikes. Here we go again!

  3. There are a lot of factors at play when looking at group participation in relation to demographics, many of which are not amenable to concerted efforts aimed at increased involvement. Even though we live in a so-called ‘car culture,’ motorsports participation is a very small percentage of the activities Americans partake of. So, I would expect minorities to be noticeably under-represented. However, the black community seems to have some noteworthy representatives/ambassadors in the sport, and, like you, I hope their example will speed (no pun intended :-)) the day when black racers are common.

    Regardless of race, Davin, I have always considered you a positive force in my little autocrossing corner of the racing world, and your kart-racing ‘witness’ has surely encouraged many.

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