It was truly wonderful to see the well-deserved glowing and endearing remembrances of the Champ. It is very clear to me and most of the world that Ali is the “Greatest of All Times. This post is meant to remind you that at one point in Ali’s life, he was the most hated man in America for his resistance to the war. I say this to say, look what they did to Dr. King’s legacy and others; they made them tamed and in the case of Dr. King; they would have you think he only had a dream. History is full of such acts after the person is gone.
So before it is too late, let’s get one thing straight: Muhammad Ali was a revolutionary black man, unapologetic and proud of it. He opposed the Vietnam War at a time when it was so unpopular and career-threatening to do so. He proposed reparations by another name, saying in the 1960s that the U.S. government should take $25 billion meant for the Vietnam War and instead use it to build black Americans homes in the South. Ali was so politically radical that Jackie Robinson once called him a “tragedy,” and the Nation of Islam eventually distanced itself from him.
In the 20th century, former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chairman Stokely Carmichael said “the FBI viewed Ali as more of a threat” than himself. In the 21st, it was revealed that the NSA had wire tapped his conversations and still Ali never relented in his convictions. He was black until death, first and foremost. Ali was very clear; “I was determined to be one nigger that the white man didn’t get”. He also said, “Go on and join something. If it isn’t the Muslims, at least join the Black Panthers. Join something.”
Ali didn’t transcend race because he didn’t want to – sellout was not part of his spirit. History indicates we’ll forget all that, and one day after his death, there are clear signs that white folks are already trying to use the tactics of the authors of His-Story to whitewash Muhammad’s legacy. We should not let this happen – never. This was the most real black man who ever lived in America, except maybe since Nat Turner. We really shouldn’t let them do this to Ali’s legacy.
Depending on what you think of businessmen, either willfully ignorant or shamelessly cynical, requiring the sort of unique disregard for their past bad acts. How they tried to destroy Muhammad throughout his life by not allowing him to practice his craft or the sentiments so disturbing that it actually wasn’t out of line at all to them. It is what they did to every forward-thinking black man or group in America during that period. It was and is right in line with a long-running tradition in U.S. history: whitewashing the radicalism of black Americans.
Throughout American history, white Americans have toned down the life stories of radical people of color so that they can celebrate them as they want them to be, not as they were. Ali did not allow them to do this when he was alive, and it is our duty not to let them do it to his legacy now that he is not here to fight for it himself. It is why when we think of “I Have A Dream” we hear the name Martin Luther King Jr. and not his opposition to the Vietnam War. Narratives are altered. Complex people simplified. Revolutionary ideas watered down, wrapped and packaged with a bow for mainstream America. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…