Unashamedly Black, Unapologetically Muslim, Unmistakably American

Better and better prepared writers than I have written beautifully and powerfully about Muhammad Ali in the days since his death.  Among them are:

Jeet Heer in The New Republic, "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Victory Came When He Didn't Fight":

During his rich and complicated life, Muhammad Ali did many things good and bad. But the finest thing he ever did was standing, in the face of fierce public condemnation, against a foolish and criminal war. RIP.

Kara Brown on Jezebel, "If You Don't See Blackness, You Didn't See Muhammad Ali":

There is no deep and true respect for Muhammad Ali that does not also come with a deep and true respect for his blackness. And to love Muhammad Ali, you must also love his love for his people. Those who attempt to draw attention away from Ali’s blackness—whether deliberately, carelessly, or by delicate omission—do so because they either cannot or choose not to love black people. They can’t understand that Ali’s blackness was integral to what made him great. A white Ali would not have been possible, nor would he have meant nearly as much to the world.

Charles Pierce in Sports Illustrated, "The Essential American":

In 1849, in a letter to his publisher, Herman Melville made the point that, “The Declaration Of Independence makes a difference.” He meant that it changed how people should think about themselves, and how they should express themselves. He was talking about the contradiction in the nation’s birth, and he meant that the measure of an American must be how willing he is in his public life to call Jefferson’s great bluff. I am created equal? I have certain unalienable rights? OK, watch me exercise them to their fullest. Or is your country a lie? Raise or call?

That was the implicit message of Muhammad Ali’s life. He was a great American athlete. He was an essential American. He was a powerful pivot in American history. He was such a better American citizen than were the people who denigrated him for his brashness, who spat on his religion, who called him a coward because he wouldn’t be an accessory to mindless slaughter, and who hounded him out of his profession at the height of his powers and influence. They were the American government. He was America, the great and self-evident contradiction of a nation, and that, as Melville warned us, makes all the difference.

Consider this an open thread to reflect on Ali's life and times...and our own. #GOAT #RIP

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Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 

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