The passing of another legend has provoked dialogue on how Blacks are viewed by mainstream media and some Whites in America. Once it was announced that Muhammad Ali transitioned, a multitude of stories and tweets were published regarding Ali’s ability to transcend race and religion.
On NBC News, writer Jon Schuppe wrote, “Ali was an anti-establishment showman who transcended borders and barriers, race and religion.”
On The Star-Legder, Jerry Izenberg wrote, “a constituency that transcended all economic, racial, ethnic and political barriers.” Izenberg also called the Nation of Islam, “a group that was more Afrocentric cult than religion.”
The gist of such flawed arguments suggests that Ali was above being Black and Muslim. Some view being Black and accepting a religion that is different from Christianity as a handicap or detrimental. To believe that someone transcends race or religion is to believe that they found acceptance within the mainstream while carrying a deficiency.
A similar argument was made once Prince died in April. Some publications wrote that Prince and his music transcended race as if Whites haven’t always gravitated to Black music such as the blues, jazz, R&B and even hip-hop. Other publications, such as The Independent, called Prince, “mixed-race.” It was a disturbing revelation of how some Whites seek to detach successful Blacks from their race and culture. It reinforces racism by conveying a message that Whites are only comfortable with Blacks if they can exhibit an elite skill and talent.
But just like Prince, Ali never viewed his own race or religion as a shortcoming. He was a man who stood tall in the midst of criticism and embraced being Black and Muslim. He always accepted himself, but it took decades for others to give him the acceptance that he always deserved. In order to continue to grant him that respect, understand that his race and religion defined him more than his spectacular feats in the boxing ring.