Posted June 12, 2020 in Podcast

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak: A Conversation About Race with Mike Metcalf Jr.

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak: A Conversation About Race with Mike Metcalf Jr.

When was the last time you had a conversation about racism?

Now more than ever, it can be challenging to have conversations about racism with your friends and loved ones. Tension and unrest caused by racism are at the center stage right now, and it’s essential that we have constructive conversations about racism and what we can be doing to promote racial equality. 

Today, I’m happy to share my conversation with Mike Metcalf Jr. with you! Mike is an iconic NASCAR coach, and he’s formed the most diverse pit crew team in all of NASCAR. Mike and I dove deep into discussing being Black in America, the murder of George Floyd, the history of racism in America, how diversity is essential for complex problem solving, the importance of having conversations about race, and what we can all do to promote racial equality. You’re going to learn so much from Mike, so let’s get started! 


Who Is Mike Metcalf Jr.?


Mike Metcalf Jr. is the co-head coach of the Chip Ganassi Racing pit-crew department and fuel man for the Number 42 team. Mike grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a former football and basketball student-athlete. He played football at Appalachian State University and graduated with honors in 2004. 

Mike first became involved in motorsports in 2006 when he became a NASCAR pit crew member. He is also very active in the Charlotte community and serves on the board of directors for the Daddy Saturday Foundation and Running Works. In his spare time, Mike loves traveling, eating, yoga, meeting new people, and spending time with his wife and kids. 

I’m so excited for you all to hear my conversation with Mike because he is full of so much grace, compassion, and gentleness, and I really think that’s exactly what the world needs to hear right now during this incredibly difficult time in which our society is addressing hundreds of years of racial injustice. 


Being Black in America


As I’m sure you’re aware, an unarmed Black man named George Floyd was murdered by a police officer named Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on May 25th. A video of George Floyd being brutally murdered while other police officers watched circulated all over the internet. Mike released a video on IGTV of his reaction to the horrific killing, and he discussed how he felt while watching the video:

“My initial viewing of the video was like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening again,’ but also, ‘Hey, I’m glad that somebody is filming it. I can’t believe whoever’s filming it isn’t getting involved. I can’t believe that there are other policemen watching.’ And, ‘When does this stop?'” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

Mike felt that the killing was indicative of the fact that humanity is incapable of communicating in a healthy way. People are driven by aggression rather than understanding and patience. 

“When do we get to the point where we realize that there are better ways, in general, to go about our human interactions? It doesn’t have to be that we use force. It doesn’t have to be that we use aggressive language. I think some of that is a skill that needs to be taught when it comes to education, when it comes to law enforcement, [and] when it comes to society. I think we’ve lost our ability to communicate [with] each other. … What I saw at that moment [when George Floyd was killed] was just humanity fractured. And it hurt me. It really hurt me.” – Mike Metcalf Jr.

The excessive force administered by the police officer who killed George Floyd shows how humanity has lost its ability to communicate without aggressive force and language. The police didn’t alleviate the situation through communication but instead brought aggressive force and ultimately murdered an unarmed man because of their racist biases and failure to communicate. 

Mike discussed some of the many instances in which people have judged him for being Black. The first experience that he recalls occurred when he was only 12. He entered a sports store and immediately encountered employees who made racist assumptions about him. 

“I walk maybe three steps in the door, and a lady turns and looks at me and says on the loudspeaker, ‘Hey, make sure that we have the security cameras on.’ And I was like, ‘Well, she’s looking down at me.’ And I’m like, ‘Wonder what makes her say that?’ At 12 years old, it hit me: ‘It’s because I’m Black.’ And that has kind of played out in different iterations.” – Mike Metcalf Jr.

Mike was only 12 years old, but that didn’t stop employees from assuming the worst of him just because of his skin color. He described that he’s experienced moments of racial prejudice throughout his life. People clutch their purses tighter when he walks by, and people will even exit elevators prematurely when he enters. He also once experienced an incredibly tense encounter with police officers because he fit the description of a man who had stolen a car:

“By the time I registered how many cops [were approaching], they shut down traffic. I looked back up, and the first thing I [saw] is a gun. … What had happened was that a silver Lexus had been stolen, … and I fit the description. [I was] the first Black individual that they saw driving a nice car. [They] tore through my car, … and once they figured out that it was mine, [they said,] ‘Alright, have a nice day.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh man, I feel like I just survived.’ Like a lot of my life flashed before my eyes.” – Mike Metcalf Jr.

The police stopped Mike merely for being Black while driving an expensive vehicle. He was fearful for his life because of the many instances in which police officers have committed violence against Black people. Mike observed that facing racism is extremely hard on people of color long-term, especially if they’ve faced life-threatening encounters with the police. 

“It really can grind on you. It can be really tough to go to work and show back up the next day, and [people ask,] ‘How was everyone’s day yesterday?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m here.’ … These are hard things that I think a lot of people like me deal with and live with and have those experiences.” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

Black people regularly deal with racial prejudice from others, and it is an absolute tragedy that our country still struggles with racially-motivated violence and judgment. It can be challenging to have conversations about racism, but it’s a conversation that we need to keep having to rectify racial inequality in America and prevent further violence against people of color.


Addressing the History of Racism in America


Mike and I continued our conversation about race by discussing the roots of racism. Mike analyzed the issue of racism from a biblical perspective: 

“From a biblical lens, racism would be a sinful thing. I think it’s a prideful thing. And I think that all throughout scripture, there’s so many references to how pride is destructive. And that’s what racism is. It’s a destructive thing. And so I think a lot of work needs to happen at the heart level for people to just kind of go through that transformation process.” – Mike Metcalf Jr.

On one level, Mike views racism as an issue of pride. People view themselves as important and better than others, so they judge and subjugate people who look different. Mike also observed that race is not a natural classification and was created for economic convenience hundreds of years ago. 

“Racism is also an economic platform. … Back in like the 1600s, you had imperialism, and from the very get-go, there’ve been people [who] … weren’t okay with [slavery and racism]. … Race was created by scientists, and it was backed by the government and then endorsed by the [Christian] church. … It was just to expand territory, and the transatlantic slave trade was a booming business. So [racism is] economic driven, and it’s what our country’s founded on.” – Mike Metcalf Jr.

Racism was largely created as a means for countries to expand their wealth and influence by colonizing and subjugating people from other countries. It was created to justify marginalizing people in order to benefit economically. Mike noted that this was especially true in the United States’ founding because we’re incredibly wealth-driven, and we continued the subjugation of Black people to create an economic platform. 

“We generally kind of go with the money, right? I mean, that’s just kinda how this nation is. And I think a lot of where the racism comes from is just these initial decisions on the foundations of the country. That [slavery] would be an economic platform that we could benefit from. And the only way for us to do it is to make people [who] implement this feel as if they are superior, [which was] backed by [the] government. … That was the dominant way of thinking up to [around] 50 years ago. And so we’re still dealing with decisions that [were] made hundreds of years ago.” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

Racism comes from feelings of superiority that were constructed for economic purposes. Black people were viewed as subhuman so that this country could use them for free labor and create wealth, and we’re still feeling the effects of slavery in 2020. The racism that Black people and other people of color face today results from the destructive narrative of White superiority that was created to justify imperialism and slavery. 


Creating the Most Diverse Pit Crew in NASCAR


Mike is actively advocating for diversity and promoting racial equality. He’s known for the fact that he’s built the most racially diverse pit crew in all of NASCAR. Mike observed that diversity doesn’t inherently mean racial diversity — it means bringing together people of different backgrounds and expertise. Diversity is crucial for solving complex problems. 

“Diversity is not what people think it is. It’s a word that gets hijacked often. … You can get a singular group of people to accomplish tasks that are very easily attainable or very clear in what the outcome needs to be. But most of us aren’t in those kinds of environments. Most of us need to be able to solve complex tasks where the objectives and outcomes aren’t very clear. And so you need a heterogeneous group of people. You need a multicultural, multi-thought, multi-experienced, multi-aged, multi-modal team.” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

Diversity isn’t just about bringing in people of different races or cultural backgrounds — it also means bringing people with different experiences, ages, and schools of thought. Mike observed that his team’s success is rooted in the diversity of its people. He and his co-coach, Shaun Peet, didn’t set out to create the most racially diverse team, but they sought to create an incredibly heterogeneous group to create the best team possible. 

“Diversity for us is our strength. … We didn’t go into it saying, ‘Hey, we want to make it more colorful. We want it to make it more diverse.’ It just so happens to be that it looks more colorful.” – Mike Metcalf Jr.

Striving to be inclusive and working with a diverse group of people are essential ways to solve complex problems because people with different backgrounds and experiences will bring different perspectives and solutions for fixing an issue. 


Having Conversations about Race and Promoting Racial Equality 


Racism is an issue that everyone in our country should be addressing and trying to fix. We need to start having more conversations about race so that more people can learn about the adversity that people of color face and address issues of racial inequality. Mike pointed out that it’s important for Black people and people who aren’t Black to have conversations about race together, and it’s also essential that we teach our kids about racism.  

“These aren’t … just Black or just White conversations. You know, like these conversations can’t just be had at my dinner table with only Black people. … It takes courage for you to say like, ‘Hey, … how do I help? I want to, but I’m trying to figure out ways to do it. Like what do I tell my kids?’ And so I think you and I having this conversation is great. And then you can kind of take some of that stuff and bring it to your kids, [and] I can learn from you [and] bring it to my kids.” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

People of different races can learn from each others’ experiences and grow together, and we can use what we learn from others to educate our children about race and racism. In addition to discussing how we should be engaging in constructive conversations about race, Mike also unpacked the controversy surrounding the name of the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter

“[If a] parent is burying a child while they’re mourning … you would never get up in that moment and say, ‘Hey, time out, all children matter.’… This has never been only Black lives matter. … It’s not a cry for like, ‘Hey, look at us. We’re the only ones that matter right now.’ It’s just like, ‘We seem to be like a target right now. And man, we want this to stop. Can you help us out a little bit?’ The more voices we have, maybe we can get some kind of reform to where this doesn’t happen.” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

The term and movement name “Black Lives Matter” is not saying that Black people matter more than anyone else. It’s addressing the fact that Black people are more likely to face racially-motivated violence, and we need to establish reforms to prevent more injustice. Mike pointed out that we need to speak out and do something when racial injustice occurs. 

“Instead of being just an observer … [and saying] like, ‘Hey, I’m not a racist.’ I think that’s neutral. What I think humanity is looking for right now is for people to kind of go to the other side and be an ally to say, ‘Hey, when I see injustice, I want to speak up about it even if it’s uncomfortable or if it doesn’t benefit me in any way.’ Because racism affects all of us. Any injustice against one of us is an injustice on all of us.” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

It’s up to us to address racial injustice when it occurs. Rather than be neutral and merely say, “I’m not racist,” we need to be active in the fight against racism. If you see a racist incident occur, you need to speak up about it. The more we address racism and show our support to the Black community, the sooner we can prevent more Black people from being killed.  


Reaching Beyond with Mike Metcalf Jr.


I had such an amazing and important conversation with Mike Metcalf Jr. Mike is such a compassionate and gentle person, and I’m so grateful for our discussion. I hope that my conversation with Mike and his perspective help you on your journey in figuring out your voice during this time of tension and unrest. 

One final point that I’d like to share from Mike involves using your personal gifts to contribute to racial equality. 

“Use your gifts. I think a lot of people are kind of lost at how to get in the game. They’ve been on the sidelines of this racial conversation and are like, ‘I want to get in the game.’ Get in the game in an area that you have expertise in and use that talent in the ability to move the needle.” – Mike Metcalf Jr. 

If you found Mike’s experiences and advice helpful, I’d be so grateful if you took a few minutes to write a five-star review on Apple Podcasts and share the episode with others who will benefit from hearing it. I’d also be incredibly grateful if you’d tag Mike, @mrmetcalfjr, and me, @kyle_depiesse, on Instagram and share your greatest takeaways from the episode! 

Cheers to your success! I’m rooting for you.

Kyle Depiesse Signature