Bubba Wallace is still learning to ‘embrace’ activism after finding himself at the center of a race debate

CNN  — 

NASCAR ​driver Bubba Wallace says he’s still learning to “embrace” the idea of being an activist after finding himself at the center of the race debate in recent weeks.

In a passionate essay published in The Players’ Tribune this week, the 26-year-old addressed issues of racism in sport and society but stated he never went looking for this newfound attention.

The unexpected spotlight comes after Wallace last month called for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag. Just days later, NASCAR and the FBI launched an investigation after a crew member discovered what appeared to be a noose in Wallace’s garage at the Talladega Superspeedway.

The FBI report ​later found that the item had been in the team garage since last year and Wallace, therefore, was not a victim of a hate crime.

Following the investigation, the 26-year-old has spoken out on racism and has subsequently received a backlash, which included President Donald Trump calling for the driver to apologize.

“I’ve had more run ins with racist people than I have ever before in my life in the past few weeks. All because I spoke up,” he wrote, in an essay titled ‘Come Ride With Me.’

READ: Plane flies Confederate flag over NASCAR race as thousands watch on

Bubba Wallace wrote an essay in The Players' Tribune.

FBI investigation

Wallace, the only Black driver in NASCAR’s top circuit, says the recent investigation has been “really hard” to deal with and he has been frustrated by the ordeal.

“I’ll say this [about the noose]. Having been in garage stalls on a regular day, hell, you don’t notice those types of things,” he wrote.

“There’s so much action going on when you’re in the garage, usually. And even for me, just standing there, when I climb out of the car and watch my guys work for a minute, I’m not looking at a damn rope that’s hanging from the garage door.

“And so, whoever tied it, tied it and left it there, and that was it. And moved on. We’re only at Talladega twice a year. And so, the reason that it sat there is because that was the first time the garage had been used since October.”

Confederate flags

Wallace says people have since tried to use the investigation to discredit him, especially after he spoke out about the use of Confederate flags.

The symbol has become synonymous with his sport over the years but, after educating himself on its history, Wallace called for the end of its use.

“It just alienates people. I’m still educating myself on these issues just like everyone else,” he wrote, saying he knew he’d be putting a target on his back by speaking out.

“If you dive back deep, and read about the Confederacy – which I’m still learning about as well – you understand what those people were fighting for.

“People will say anything to defend it. But make no mistake: It was a war over slavery. It was about the South trying to keep their slaves.”

Last month, NASCAR announced the Confederate flag would be prohibited from all official events in response to the worldwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality ​following the killing of George Floyd.

Wallace welcomed the decision and says the sport he loves finally has a chance to enforce real change.

However, at a race in Tennessee on Wednesday, a plane flew a Confederate flag over the track prior to the Bristol Motor Speedway, demonstrating the issue is far from over with certain NASCAR fans.

READ: Bubba Wallace responds to FBI findings

‘I’m energized’

Despite never wanting to be in the spotlight, Wallace wants to use his position to continue fighting for change and has praised the Black Lives Matter movement which has gained momentum over the past months.

In his essay, Wallace explains his own experiences with racism, one of which he says happened recently.

He says an undercover policeman advised him to pull over before questioning whether he was able to afford the car he was driving.

“Listen, I’m new to all this. I’m still learning. But I’ve never been the guy to follow the crowd because it’s safe or easy, and I’m not going to start now, ” he wrote.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do – but I’m ready for whatever. I may be tired now, but I’m energized for what the future holds.”