Saturday, June 11, 2016
Embracing the Legacy of Muhammad Ali Means Standing Up and Acting for Principle
June 10, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
People talk about their admiration for Muhammad Ali and profess to embrace his legacy. I have a serious question and challenge to put to them, and especially the prominent Black people among them: Are you ready to stand and act for principle as he did? Muhammad Ali put himself on the line to stand up against the oppression this system was bringing down on Black people. When the powers that be told him he had to join their army and be part of the military machine being unleashed to drown the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people in blood, Ali responded in bold and clear terms:
“No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here.”
This stand cost him the heavyweight boxing championship of the world and millions of dollars. And it put him at risk of being jailed for years, but he stood firm and refused to back down. This is what was most inspiring about Muhammad Ali: his willingness to put it all on the line to oppose terrible wrongs.
Today, the same system continues to inflict savage oppression: horrific numbers of particularly Black and Latino people, including many youth and even young children, brutalized and murdered by vicious police. How many videos must you see of people gunned down or beaten, tased or choked to death by the police, responding only with weak sympathy for the victims, and begging the system for justice someday? How long will you stand aside while the system backs up their killer cops again and again, seldom putting any of them on trial—and in the few cases where cops have been tried, virtually never convicting any of them, or at most giving them a slap on the wrist? “Justifiable homicide”? No. Ali said then, and we must say now: “This is the day when such evils must come to an end.”
Ali, in a short poem, said: "Me, Whee!" With props to his exuberance, I am going to take a liberty with his rhyme to say: Yes: You, me, WE know this horrific police brutality and murder is still going down. Are you/are we going to stand up and say unequivocally that these and other horrors perpetrated by this system must stop? ARE YOU/ARE WE GOING TO PUT IT ON THE LINE TO FIGHT TO STOP THESE CRIMES AGAINST THE PEOPLE? I’ve been doing this for a long time and will continue to so. Are you ready to join this fight? The time is now. THIS IS THE LEGACY THAT MUST NOT ONLY BE SPOKEN OF, BUT ACTED ON.