Thursday, April 15, was a day dominated by news related to the deaths of Black people by way of police officer.
In Minneapolis, Minn., the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of murdering George Floyd last May, came to its conclusion.
Miles away in Brooklyn Center, Kim Potter was arraigned on a charge of second-degree manslaughter after she shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop on Sunday, April 11.
And in Chicago, body cam footage was released that showed an officer shooting and killing 13-year-old Adam Toledo following a foot chase on March 29. In the body cam footage and other video, Toledo appears to toss away a gun before he turns to face the officer with his hands up before being shot.
Thursday night, just after 11 p.m. ET, Bubba Wallace posted a tweet with Adam Toledo’s name used as a hashtag.
“It seems like every day now is a different hashtag, just sad,” Wallace lamented Friday morning in a media session that had been scheduled well ahead of Thursday.
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) April 16, 2021
In fact, it was Wallace’s second tweet in less than 48 hours containing such a hashtag.
Wednesday, he posted one with Wright’s name.
“Sad, angry,” Wallace responded when asked how it felt to post similar tweets in such a short period of time.
“I mean, what are we supposed to do? It’s just unfortunate to watch and to see everything that’s going on. It’s tough to talk about, honestly. Because it seems like there’s no progress being made, especially the one I watched last night (where an officer) shot the 13-year-old kid and (his) hands were up. So that’s simply doing what you’re asked to do. And still not good enough.”
Wallace is no stranger to these conversations.
Last year in the wake of the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia (which particularly affected Wallace), the 23XI Racing driver shared his own experiences of being profiled by law enforcement.
He also talked about how he lost a cousin to a police shooting when he was a child. The officer was later cleared of wrongdoing. His family filed a civil suit and lost in court on appeal.
While the events of the last five days are tough for Wallace to talk about, he’s “comfortable” being put in that situation.
“I’m not just going off some tangent and just speaking nonsense,” Wallace said. “It’s much easier for me to talk about these topics of unarmed Black men and being a part of discrimination by the police. Like them, I’ve been a part of it. When it affects you directly, it makes it easier and it makes you, unfortunately, comfortable to talk about those things versus anybody else in the field. I tried to do my best at encouraging my peers and other competitors to do the same.
“Because you know, the great quote of ‘if it doesn’t affect you indirectly, doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect the other ones around you directly.’ So that’s big and so the more people that understand that is huge. … I am the one to talk about it. People are going to come to me and talk about it. So they know that I’m going to give them a honest and true answer.”
When Wallace posted his tweet with Wright’s name Wednesday, it was to promote a video produced by NASCAR documenting new partnerships meant to “advance diversity, equity and inclusion” in the sport and society.
The organizations NASCAR is partnered with include the Urban Youth Racing School, Trevor Project, the Women’s Sports Foundation and UnidosUS.
“I’m proud of the efforts from NASCAR,” Wallace said. “Continuing to try to show that, hey, we are as inclusive as any other sport and that we want everybody to come out. And so showing those efforts is big and we can’t stop, we’re not stopping. We’re not letting off the gas or anything. We’re continuing to go.
“So excited to see that direction and excited to have those conversations with the NASCAR leadership to see how we can just continue to build off this. But yeah, you just gotta keep going. This is a never-ending battle, as we see each and every day, but we’ll try to do our part. And hopefully, one day society will wake up and treat each other with respect.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) April 14, 2021
Wallace was in the news himself this week as he and the rest of 23XI Racing publicly received COVID-19 vaccine shots in an effort to encourage more Americans to go through with it.
“It was good partnership and a good collaboration with Novant Health to encourage others,” Wallace said. “I’m not trying to shove it down people’s throats. I’m just saying, hey, I’m comfortable taking this route to get us back to a normal capacity at all aspects of life, go back to what we used to do. And Novant Health had a great outing. I had the whole shop floor looking like a hospital floor. All the crew guys getting their vaccines and whatnot.
“So I thought doing my part, saying, hey, if I can do this, we can do it together and show that we’re trying to take the right steps to get us back to pre-COVID. Where times were somewhat good, I’d say. It’s just all about doing the research. And people I know are very hesitant on trying out some experimental shot or vaccine. But I’m OK right now. And I feel good and knowing that I’m doing my part and a small part to help everybody feel comfortable is big.”