Disclaimer: This might hit some nerves IF you understand or know where I’m coming from. If not, just understand this is my perspective. Any questions comment below of course.
Back when I was looking at Focus ST’s, I attempted to see if there was some kind of ST tuner community nearby. Being SoCal I assumed there would be. And there were a few. I ended up finding some Youtube Channels as well of people that lived in the area. Out of the ones I found, there was 1 guy that was Black. Now some people that might want to sweep the issue at hand under the rug or try not to acknowledge it might say something along the lines of “Well why were you purposely seeking out other Black people?” That’s not what I was doing. But in the event that I did do something like that, I wouldn’t find many and that’s the problem.
For as long as I can remember, I was always aware of the fact that there weren’t’ that many people that looked like me in the automotive enthusiast world. Not only as a hobby, but in racing as well. But I think overall this just speaks to a diversity problem as well. Most times it was a blatant reminder, as in stares. Not stares as in “you shouldn’t be here.” But weirdly to me, it was stares of “yea you’re the only Black guy here”. Here and there there were stares of “what are YOU doing here, especially in places with expensive cars. From Cars & Coffee to local meets (and even then there MIGHT be 2 or 3 other Black people) to auto shows and performance events , it can be a little bothersome.
There are 2 main problems as to why I think I don’t see or encounter very many Black people in things dealing with cars, aside from very specific things like Lowriders, but that’s a whole separate thing in of itself:
- Cars as symbols of wealth:For one,culturally, many Black people see cars as more of a display of status or wealth. For instance, you won’t really see an upper level management Black man in an C63 AMG, but you will see one in an S Class or other luxury sedan. Luxury and status over 0-60 times and high horsepower. You ever wondered why so many Black people favored Cadillac’s and Lincoln’s?
- Different incomes: It’s no secret the unequal wealth distribution in this country. It’s also no secret that Black America income wise has been dead last. When you look at income levels by ethnicity, the gap widens greatly. Often time then some people don’t have the luxury or excess funds that are required to even be able to start something like say a car restoration or investment in tuning a car. That’s why things like Classic Car shows are stark White for the most part, or tuner meets are starkly everything but Black.
Now I have encountered some older Black men that are into cars, my father for instance. But when you get to my generation and younger, you’ll find the same thing I stated above: more young Black men like cars as a show of wealth and status than as a hobby. Go around to different late night meets up here in Southern California, and you’ll be hard pressed to see even 5 Black people. I’ve had friends/family members that would rather have an E Class as their first car, than a an S2000 and tune it. Why? Because an E Class at a young age can make it seem like they got it like that. An S2000 to them is a Honda before anything else, something that’s equatable to a Civic. Even online auto publications like Jalopnik, Car & Driver, etc have very few if any Black automotive journalists or writers ( I think Jalopnik has like 2 contributors).
Would I like to see more Black people as car enthusiasts? Of course, but things have to change. We have to feel like we are going to be welcomed into the fold and we have to be genuinely interested in it. I’m not saying that there AREN’T Black enthusiasts, I just would like to see more from time to time so it doesn’t seem like I’m the only one.