IndyCar driver Hildebrand calls out racial prejudice with new helmet design

JR Hildebrand. Image: Getty Images
JR Hildebrand. Image: Getty Images

• The Indy500 takes place at the Indianapolis Speedway on Sunday, 23 August. 

• Ahead of the race driver JR Hildebrand showed off his new helmet design emblazoned with the words "rights, justice, opportunity". 

• Hildebrand shared the reason behind choosing the words and said not all races in the United States had the same lived experience.

Ahead of this weekend's Indianapolis 500, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing-Chevrolet driver JR Hildebrand showed off a new helmet design that features a special livery emblazoned with words "RIGHTS. JUSTICE. OPPORTUNITY."

The 32-year-old Californian explained on Twitter that the words symbolise 'the three foundational elements of the promise this country was built upon'. 

Hildebrand, who is white and racing in his tenth year at Indy, said not all races in America are treated equally and that singled-out black Americans as being "critically disadvantaged" for too long. 

The last of a trio of tweets said: "So for my 2020 500 lid I've chosen to take my name off and put these 3 words instead. As a reminder when I see it of the promise of this country, and what I believe represents the best America we have to offer to others. Let's get to it together, toward the future, full gas."

Hildebrand is not the first US racing driver to show support for black people and minorities in the country. Nascar driver Bubba Wallace, the only permanent black driver in the sport was the first to publicly support the Black Lives Matter movement at races. 

The death of George Floyd on 25 May by Minneapolis police threw the spotlight back on police brutality and institutionalised racism in society. The 46-year-old father's death sparked protests in the US and spread throughout the world. Protesters demanded a justice for his death and the arrest of the police officer who kneeled on Floyd's neck for several minutes.  

In Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton spearheaded the move to show solidarity with protesters by kneeling before the start of every race. Hamilton also wears a Black Lives Matter t-shirt over his overalls before the race. Every other driver wears a t-shirt with 'end racism'. 

While some may see only see three words emblazoned on a helmet, the intention behind it says a lot more. Hildebrand's public acknowledgment that black people and minority groups have been treated unfairly for "far too long" is a way to keep the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement going. 

By using his platform in a largely white, male-dominated sport Hildebrand might face ridicule on social media, Hildebrand is raising a topic that should be at the forefront of many peoples minds. 

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