NASCAR is nearly as synonymous with southern culture as the Confederate flag, so a race track in the South naturally is one of the most impactful places to protest the symbol’s use.
Pennsylvania native Gene Stilp began burning double-sided Confederate-Nazi flags at NASCAR races toward the end of the season to protest white supremacy, according to Vice. Stilp and his friend Chip Facka who promotes Stilp’s protests on social media, took their demonstration to Dover International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 7 and Oct. 14, respectively.
The two started by undertaking the flag burnings at various places throughout Pennsylvania before graduating to stock car races. Delaware news outlets publicized their plans to attend Dover ahead of the event, reportedly resulting in numerous death threats — and they similarly were met with hostility at the track.
“We got some real direct threats,” Facka said. “But there were so many law enforcement officers, like 40 or 50, easy. They escorted us in and out. There were a couple people I had my eye on, but I feel like the law enforcement presence discouraged them from doing anything.”
Stilp started making the two-faced banners by hand — it takes him two hours — following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., where Heather Heyer was killed by a protestor. He told Vice he feels “disgusted” as he pieces them together, but thinks it’s necessary to educate people on the symbolism behind the flags.
“People do email us and say, ‘Thanks for doing that, I don’t have the guts to do that,’ and things like that, or, ‘Please watch yourself. Don’t get shot,’ ” Stilp said. “We’re just trying to educate. Hopefully we can change some behavior. Maybe get some of these people to take down their flags, whether it’s enlightenment or shame or peer pressure from their neighbors… whatever it takes.”
Some NASCAR fans are known to fly Confederate flags on race weekends, especially at southern tracks. And although the sport’s governing body has banned it in an official capacity, it can do little to limit people’s freedom of expression.
As a result, Mariel Lane, the sole African-American member of the Monster Energy Girls, said minorities have to train themselves to “push it out” of their minds.
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