BAKER: Add A Dash Of Foreign Flavor

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From one German to another (Steve Etherington Photo)
From one German to another (Steve Etherington Photo)

Before I began studying journalism and following a career path toward working in motorsports, I wanted to earn a degree in history. History has been something that’s always captivated my interest since a child, and even now that I’ve pursued a different profession I still consider myself a student of history.

One of the first things children learn when studying history is that the United States, in its infancy, was a land of immigrants. I can remember as early as kindergarten learning about Christopher Columbus and the Pilgrims. Later we learned about colonists and immigrants from other countries, including our own ancestors, settling in America. Who among us wasn’t forced to learn the lyrics to “Great American Melting Pot” from “Schoolhouse Rock?”

As older students we studied world history, and it quickly became evident that not only are events linked in a cause-and-effect manner within this country, but what happens halfway around the globe can have far-reaching effects in other parts of the world. No man is an island, and neither is one country or another. It’s been this way for centuries, and so it shall remain, especially as technology continues to evolve to bridge the gap between distant parts of the world.

National Speed Sport News is closing in on its 80th year of publication, and throughout that time its pages have told the tale of motorsports around the world, from Indianapolis to Le Mans to Suzuka to Nürburg to Melbourne. As the Bible of motorsports and America’s motorsports authority, NSSN has never discriminated; its staff has always sought to provide complete racing coverage from every corner.

Not everyone likes every form of motorsports. Some people prefer grass-roots midget racing in the Midwest. Others live for drag racing on the West Coast. Still, others love the thrill and power of Formula One racing on a global arena. Whatever the form of motorsports, it’s always been about speed and performance – bottom line. And most racers will say their cars don’t know if they’re black or white, male or female, Colombian or British, a Capricorn or an Aries. None of it matters except for going fast and winning.

That’s why I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around why some people have such an issue with anything foreign – drivers, manufacturers, etc. – when it comes to motorsports. Granted, I grew up in a different era than most of our readership. Times have changed and I may never be able to fully appreciate the fear and loathing that previous generations have for foreign powers that have tangled with the U.S. in previous decades.

I have lived long enough, however, to experience the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil and know firsthand what it’s like to have something of that magnitude hit close to home – so close, in fact, that United Airlines Flight 93 crashed a mere eight miles from my childhood home in Pennsylvania. Will the next generation be able to understand what it was like that day, 50 years from now, or will I be shaking my fist at my grandchildren as I try to convey the emotions of Sept. 11, 2001?

No man or country is an island, and the U.S. certainly was not alone that day nearly 10 years ago. Hundreds of individuals from other nations also lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The point of all this is that, like the “Schoolhouse Rock” tune says, the U.S. is a melting pot of foreign-born immigrants, and most of us wouldn’t be here if someone in our ancestry hadn’t hopped a boat at some point. Motorsports, too, is a big “stew” of various forms of racing and individuals from around the world. Diversity is the spice of life – and of racing.

I wish more people would understand and respect that.

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Sheena Baker
Sheena Baker is a freelance writer who has been covering motorsports since 2006. She previously served as production editor of National Speed Sport News.