Recently, fellow Jalops, I drove my Panamera through white-out conditions in the middle of summer. The blizzard came courtesy of the French Lick Resort, located in French Lick, Indiana, a place so white the maids are white. They also speak an accent-free, Midwestern English, just like people in 1950’s movies. Do you desire time travel, but can’t be bothered with the quantum physics? No worries: just point your car towards French Lick. The decades will melt away, and by the time you check into your room, you’ll be watching the Cuban missile crisis on TV.
Intensifying the whiteness was the ingress of 1500 members of the Porsche Club of America, a group so unremittingly Caucasian the ratio mirrors the purity of Ivory Soap: 99.8%. Here’s a shot of the Concours Banquet, with the relevant fellow (yes, singular) pointed out.
I have to hand it to him. That guy must love him some Porsche to brave those odds. Which brings up a relevant question at a time when race is much in the public mind: why are the “shield” car clubs so white?
You know the shield brands: companies like Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini - brands that emblazon their logo onto a bit of enamel to imply a bit of old-world class. The shield is metaphorical more than literal: any upscale brand qualifies. Rolls Royce. Bentley. Even Mercedes, especially if it has an AMG designation. Check out their owner’s clubs online. Every scenic drive leads through the Caucasus mountains.
Let’s get a few obvious answers out of the way. For example, don’t assume the worst about people at events like the Porsche Parade. It’s by no means a Jalop event, but for every guy with a 918 (1, who brought his car at the request of the factory), there were lots driving mid-2000s Boxsters and 996-model 911s near the bottom of their depreciation curve. Cars you can buy for less than a new Taurus, in other words. If you love the brand, you’re in. If you can lay down a quick autocross time, you’re really in. So, good people, great cars, and a refreshingly low level of attitude. But so, so, white.
At 1st, I wondered if this was a Porsche problem. Porsche, I’m convinced, is America’s whitest car brand, and probably the 2nd whitest brand overall, 2nd only to the Confederate Battle Flag. (The reasons should be the subject of another article.) But people of color do buy shield brands, and white clubs are therefore the result of more than economics. I live in Nashville, where Tennessee Titans routinely roll up in Ferraris, Bentleys, and - of course - Escalades the Official Car of Hip-Hop©. African-Americans love Ferrari so much Shaq modified 1 so he could drive it, or whatever passes for driving when a guy 7 feet tall crams himself into a 360 Modena. True, pro athletes aren’t going to join car clubs, but what about African-American, Asian, and Hispanic bankers, doctors, and small business owners? Should the Ferrari club in San Diego - the nation’s largest chapter - be so unremittingly white? (Google it.)
The more you look, the more you see the problem. Take Atlanta, the intersection of black wealth and car culture where one might reasonably expect more diversity. The Peachtree Chapter of the PCA’s FB page is loaded with pictures of white people enjoying the hell out of themselves. Likewise, the Ferrari site. Also, BMW, Rolls, and Bentley. White, white, white. Or at least 99.8%.
I don’t think the appalling lack of diversity in car clubs is overt racism. Maybe it’s just that once a certain ratio of white/others is achieved, it’s too difficult (or simply undesirable) to enter the mix. But that’s not something to preserve. Should loving Ferrari or Porsche mean nothing more than a bunch of white people getting together? And while gays are getting married and brave women are scaling flag poles to pull down the Confederate flag in South Carolina, shield car clubs need to do better. The clubs would be immensely enriched by a more diverse membership, and it’s time to reach out. Clearly, it’s not going to happen on its own.
You know who could illuminate this subject? The manufacturers. Thanks to the mysteries of Big Data, car manufacturers know a metric ton about their customers. I’m pretty sure Porsche knows my shoe size. I’m certain they have a clear grasp on the political and social proclivities of their customers. Manufacturers invest lots of money into understanding the demographics of their buyers, and the clubs represent their most intensely loyal customers. So, Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, et al: be a part of the solution. But mostly: get with it, car clubs. Time to diversify.