Sunday, June 5, 2016

Whitewashing ‪Muhammad Ali‬: Our Racist Past, Present, and Future – the becoming radical

Whitewashing ‪Muhammad Ali‬: Our Racist Past, Present, and Future – the becoming radical:

Whitewashing ‪Muhammad Ali‬: Our Racist Past, Present, and Future

Throughout my ‪social media connections, in the wake of Muhammad Ali‬’s death, a warning and a prediction were common: do not allow Muhammad Ali‬ to be whitewashed and watch as people whitewash Muhammad Ali‬.
On ESPN radio, during a show soliciting people to call in about Muhammad Ali‬, I listened as George Foreman shared an anecdote about Muhammad Ali‬ and Foreman discussing God, reaching the conclusion that Muhammad Ali‬ transcended race.
Muhammad Ali‬ did not transcend race. A black man, he was race. He punched racism in its cowardly face.
This whitewashing of Muhammad Ali‬ has a long history, in fact. It is what we do in the U.S. to mask our racist past, to deny our racist present, and to insure our racist future.
In 2012, Michael Ezra explained: “[Muhammad Ali’s] emergence as boxing’s eminence grise, one of the country’s most beloved figures, tells us much about how Americans construct the past to make sense of the present.”
After outlining Muhammad Ali’s tumultuous fame and infamy, Ezra concluded about the resurrected and recreated Muhammad Ali: “But Ali’s return to glory has come at a price; it is predicated on the whitewashing of his past and the silencing of his voice.”
Under the weight of disease and now shrouded in death, Muhammad Ali has been subsumed by the very demon of the U.S. that he chose to fight with dire consequences to himself and his career as a boxer.
Muhammad Ali has been reduced to a caricature to suit white America in the same way Martin Luther King Jr. has been trivialized as a passive radical.
“Transcending race,” “post-racial,” and “I don’t see race” are codes that blind of progressive racism, of what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “elegant racism.”
The most vile examples came when Muhammad Ali died and mostly, but not exclusively, right-wing political leaders—who are racists, who court racists, who are xenophobes, who court xenophobes, who are Islamophobic, and who court Islamophobes—offered effusive praise Whitewashing ‪Muhammad Ali‬: Our Racist Past, Present, and Future – the becoming radical:


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