(NNPA)—Muhammad Ali was, among other things, a proud Black man. He embraced his Blackness, and often referred to it. He is often quoted for saying he had no quarrel with the Vietcong, but less frequently quoted for saying, in the very next sentence, “the Vietcong never called me a n**r.” Muhammad Ali was unapologetically Black. Why, in death, are White folks claiming that he “transcended” race?
White people must think it some kind of compliment to say someone “transcended” race. I consider it an insult. Race is nothing that someone has to overcome, or “rise above.” Race is not an impediment. It is simply a fact. Muhammad Ali is “The Greatest,” he’s amazing, he’s an outstanding boxer, he’s a humanist and he is a Black man. Nothing to transcend. Something just to be.
I have never heard anyone say that a White person transcended race because, perhaps, whiteness is not perceived as a handicap, as something to rise above. Whiteness is perceived as the norm, and everything else is perceived as at least somewhat deficient. This manner of thinking is what allows the likes of Donald Trump to disrespect a judge because his parents were born in Mexico. It is the kind of thinking that allows a judge to sentence a teenaged White Stanford rapist to six months in jail because he would be damaged by jail time. It is the kind of thinking, indeed, that compelled tens of thousands of people to call for the parents of a Black child who fell into a gorilla pen in Cincinnati to be investigated by Child Protective Services. It is plain and simple white skin privilege that allows a White person to speak of an African American icon as having “transcended race.”