Kyle Larson: ‘I will not stop listening and learning’
Kyle Larson writes in an essay on his website that being labeled a racist after using a racial slur in April “has hurt the most, but I brought that on myself. What I didn’t expect, though, were all the people, who despite their disappointment in what I did, made the choice not to give up on me.”
Larson writes that since he was “rightly suspended by NASCAR and fired from my job” for uttering the slur before an esports event, he has sought counsel from many. He has hired a diversity coach and spoken with Black athletes, including Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee and corporate executives. Larson also states he wants to return to NASCAR. He was indefinitely suspended in April.
“Since April, I’ve done a lot of reflecting,” Larson wrote. “I realized how little I really knew about the African-American experience in this country and racism in general. Educating myself is something I should’ve done a long time ago, because it would’ve made me a better person – the kind of person who doesn’t casually throw around an awful, racist word. The kind who makes an effort to understand the hate and oppression it symbolizes and the depth of pain it has caused Black people throughout history and still to this day. It was past time for me to shut up, listen and learn.”
Larson also shared the story of speaking with the owners of the Urban Youth Racing School in Philadelphia. Larson has worked previously with the school, which exposes children - many of them Black - to opportunities in motorsports. A child, Jysir, joined him in victory lane after he won at Dover last year.
“He was one of the many people I’d hurt, and he wanted to know why this happened,” Larson wrote. “So did his mom. And they didn’t just want to hear it from me over the phone or on a Zoom call. It needed to be face-to-face. I was honest with them. We talked about difficult subjects for more than two hours, and I spent a lot of time listening. Michelle educated me on the journey of Black people in America and the ugly history of racism and derogatory slurs. I offered my apologies to Jysir, his mom and the Martins for the pain I caused. Instead of the anger I expected, what I got in return was empathy.”