Bubba Wallace is the subject of the new Netflix docuseries that’s powerful, poignant, and at many times, very emotional.
In RACE: Bubba Wallace, a portrait is painted of the latest athlete-activist, one who seemed unlikely to emerge before the events that took place in 2020 amid the pandemic and several police killings of Black people. Wallace was extremely unsettled by the death of Ahmaud Arbery in particular, leading him to speak out in NASCAR, a white-dominated field that has historically had strong ties to racism.
Wallace had a lot to lose by speaking out, but to him, he didn’t think about that at this point in time– though he tried to stray away from discussions like this earlier in his career. In doing so, he also didn’t even intended to become an activist…it just happened.
“There were two options for me that I thought about, losing my ride or keeping my ride, and that was it,” said Wallace in a recent interview with Shadow and Act. “My mom, after everything had sparked up and starting to settle, she was like, ‘Do you ever think you’d become an activist?’ And I was like, ‘Nope, hadn’t even thought of that word until you said it.’ And so I still don’t think I am. I’m just some dude that happens to drive NASCAR and try to make this place better before I leave it, and that’s it. It’s definitely been a cool journey, [an] up and down journey [and] lots of learning of self and other people– but that’s what it takes.”
Erik Parker, who has also directed project such as L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later, helmed the docuseries and said he was interested in being to document Wallace’s historic moment in real-time.
“Bubba has a very inspirational story, and what was happening to him is a part of American history,” Parker told us. What he was actually pushing forward was a part of American history. So, I wanted to make sure that we had that documented, and at some point, documenting it in real time. This is kind of like the first draft of that history, this documentary series. And we also wanted to show [it] particularly because Bubba was really interested in making sure people understood what it took for athletes to go through on a regular basis [and] as drivers in NASCAR, what they dealt with outside of just race and racing. All the little things in minutia and that kind of stuff is important to show, as well…the pressures that hit athletes..and it also feeds into this bigger story as to the stakes that Bubba had when he did speak out, why that was so much more impactful and why the stakes were so high for him there.”
In the docuseries, Wallace gets super candid about his mental health journey and his battle of depression. It isn’t the first time that he’s spoken about it, but it is the most in-depth he’s gone into detail about his struggles.
“I think I’ve learned that it’s super important to talk about your feelings and to be vulnerable, but not everybody can do that,” he explained. You have to be comfortable and have to be confident in everything you do and say, and so it’s a little different for everybody else. I was just sharing my experiences, and I had a ton of positive outreach after that. [People] were saying, ‘Thank you. This allows me to have those tough conversations with my family,’ and I’m like…I’ve never thought about it like that.”
Until he came forward, Wallace didn’t even realized the stigma in regards mental health, especially with Black men.
“I never knew [there] was such a big stigma around depression, especially in sports, but also, there’s a big stigma in general it shows a sign of weakness. But when you’re being vulnerable, I think that’s one of the greatest strengths that you could have. It’s the person that’s looking at it. How are you portraying it? There’s always two sides to everything, but I think just being comfortable with who you are allows you to do a lot of things freely.”
RACE: Bubba Wallace is streaming now on Netflix.
Watch the full interview below: