Muhammad Ali. Once condemned as an American traitor. He was once the most reviled sports figures of the 20th century. Jailed and literally spat upon by white America wanting to teach this upstart n***er a lesson and "put him in his place." Hated by white society for his incredible boxing talent, his inability to go forward on his feet and not on his knees. And possessing an irksome, ultra-saucy mouth that go under the skin of ring opponents and his legion of "haters." Ali, "the Greatest" drew his last breadth late last week. He suffered from Parkinson's disease for over 30 years.
Now, at his passing, he's been called an "American Hero," one of boxing's greatest, and a man of honor and principle. Muhammad Ali is now being celebrated in death more than he was in life with news media across America singing his praises, and jockeying for the best historical "Ali moments." Not to be outdone, Social Media is littered with Every-Man-Jack posting all kinds of tidbits, revelations, and engaging in all kinds of brown nosing and snide genuflecting hero worship that Ali would have rejected out of hand.
But such is the American community and the always condescending knee jerk reactions to individuals who were never "mainstream" and, in Ali's case, until Parkinson's Disease made it difficult for him to speak, was critical of and verbally expressed his opinion of the plight of America's oppressed peoples. In the process of sanitizing, white-washing, and rewriting the Ali Legacy, white America and its media sycophants are re-interpreting and cherry-picking the life and times of one of the greatest Black sportsmen.
Gone from the death narrative of Muhammad Ali is the fact that he vehemently opposed the America war in Vietnam and in this joined perhaps his greatest mentor -- Malcolm X. Nowhere on CNN et. Al is that relationship examined or explained. Nor is the fact that he is beloved across the Muslim world, especially after his embrace of Sunni Islam as practiced in countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. You see Muhammad Ali was first and foremost a vocal, critical, and outspoken advocate against United States imperialism and its unjustified and criminal war in Viet Nam.
For many years America's white community in general and former US servicemen in particular, remained angry by Ali's anti-Viet Nam war stance, as was the mainstream media and America's ruling elite class. This was driven in part by the fact that there was no "great white American hope" in boxing that was dominated by Black Americans to whom Ali was a living, walking legend elevated to near superhero status. This only served to gall those who could barely stand this handsome, brash, loudmouth, in-your-face Black boxer with near mesmerizing skills in the ring.
So in the years after Viet Nam they sought to sully Ali's image by consistently branding him a traitor. But now in death two things happened that helped make Ali such an enduring popular figure and ultimately caused the white mainstream media to abandon its pogrom of persecution against him.
First, Ali's support in the Black community throughout the world never wavered. The vast majority of Black people saw the United States government as the villain and Ali as its victim/scapegoat in the context of a war that it was losing every day. In fact, Ali became even more popular AFTER he retired from boxing. This large base of support served as a strong buffer against those who tried and failed to drag his image through the mud. Ali remained up to his death the sports icon who opposed America's war in Viet Nam on PRINCIPLED grounds and was willing to go to jail to prove the strength of his convictions.
Moreover, over the years the Viet Nam War has been resoundingly condemned both as a crime against humanity and a war crime committed by the United States. Thus, there is wide consensus that the war was illegal. These international conclusions and condemnations served to prove Ali right in his decision to oppose the war and his refusal to be part of it. It also exposed the violent nature of America's elite and its bloodthirsty warmongering.
And too, the mainstream media and its pundits all have failed to put the Muhammad Ali's Life and Times in its proper perspective and historical context. Consider the following:
Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad was a staunch advocate against the Second World War. He repeatedly spoke out against Black people going to fight against the Japanese. For this he was targeted by the United States Government and the FBI, branded as a "draft dodger" and sent to jail. Even though he was about 45 years and well above the draft age!
Malcolm X, Ali's mentor and friend, also spoke out against the U.S. invasion of Viet Nam before he split with the Nation of Islam and after he left the NOI in the Spring of 1964. As did many in the Black Power Movement, including Stokeley Carmichael in 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr, on April 1967. And who forget the now famous "Black Power" salute by John Carlos and Tommy Smith in the 1968 Olympics?
The point here is that Muhammad Ali's anti-Vietnam War stance was part of a growing movement of dissent in BOTH the Black and white communities in the United States. So in many ways Muhammad Ali was a product of his times and environment. Unlike many successful Black athletes of today he understood that his position in the world of sports was a moral imperative to speak out against injustice here in the United States and "everywhere."
Ali knew that the Black Liberation struggle and the fundamental right of Black people to be treated fairly and justly was more important than a successful Black athlete's personal fame and fortune. So the dilemma for the corporate elitists and their masters today is how to profit from Ali's death and how to hijack his legacy so it fits with a white American "clean, All-America" narrative.
Enter former United States president, Bill Clinton.
He's slated to be the keynote speaker at Ali's funeral. He's the ruling elite's best choice since he's very popular with the Black community [I've stopped using the hyphenated designation African-American because I do not believe that a people's racial identity should be a hybridized construct] and can be counted on to craft the kind of narrative that will exclude Ali's REAL history.
Indeed, there is "a battle for
the memory" of the life of Muhammad Ali as the corporate media tries to
rewrite the story of his staunch and implacable opposition to U.S. imperialism
in general, and United States interventionism worldwide, in particular, a
process that continues right up to this day.