Saturday, June 04, 2016

Muhammad Ali: An American Genius gone to waste

"Boxing is a lot of white men watching two black men beat each other up."

“They don’t look at fighters to have brains. They don’t look at fighters to be businessmen, or human, or intelligent. Fighters are just brutes that come to entertain the rich white people. Beat up on each other and break each other’s noses, and bleed, and show off like two little monkeys for the crowd, killing each other for the crowd. And half the crowd is white. We’re just like two slaves in that ring. The masters get two of us big old black slaves and let us fight it out while they bet: ‘My slave can whup your slave.’ That’s what I see when I see two black people fighting.”

"It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up."
Muhammad Ali

What modern athlete, much less one at Ali’s level, has ever talked with such political complexity, ambiguity, or engagement? David Remnick - The New Yorker

Muhammad Ali, a symbol of how racism wastes human potential

If I had to find one example to illustrate how deep racism and social injustice is in America's culture, it would have to be that someone as highly intelligent, brave, resourceful, serious and charismatic, with such a massive power of communication as Muhammad Ali, had to end up semi-illiterate with his brains beaten out in the prize ring... while a second rate, B-picture actor like Ronald Reagan or an immature blockhead like George W. Bush could end up as presidents of the United States or that today someone as weird, mean-spirited and grotesque as Donald Trump could be seriously considered for that job.

"But things are much better today for young African-American men than they were when Ali was a boy growing up in Jim Crow Louisville Kentucky in the 1940s and 50s", you say.

Are they? In the booming economy of the 1950s, Muhammad Ali like many young black people back then grew up in a stable two parent family, with a live-in father, where both parents worked, where his family lived in their own home in a safe, if segregated, neighborhood. How many young black men raised by a single mother in the ghetto neighborhoods of today's USA enjoy those privileges in our present leaky, creaky, drug and gun infested, economy. 

"But what about President Barack Obama?" you reply. To which I would humbly suggest that it is quite different to be raised in Hawaii, where there are practically no African-Americans, than to be raised in Jim-Crow Louisville; quite different to be raised in a prosperous, white, college educated, middle class family and attend an exclusive Hawaiian private school, than to attend a segregated school in Louisville Kentucky... or one on the South Side of Rahm Emanuel's Chicago today, for that matter. 

This is not a criticism of our president, he was fortunate of have his enormous potential recognized early and lovingly nurtured. When that happens, that is the result. Few Americans, white or black... certainly not many African-Americans had that opportunity then or have it now. Ideally, all children should receive that treatment

In short, if you wanted to analyze the dysfunction, injustice and waste of America's human resources, you could begin by meditating upon and answering at length the following riddle. 
Why could George W. Bush graduate with a C-average from Yale and a man who could say, "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger."”, someone who was that intelligent and amply talented enough, who under the right conditions, could have been or done anything, had to have his brains punched out of his head entertaining the "sports fans" he so lucidly described
I think you know why, so do I, but today I'm just too sad to answer that question. DS

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