Friday, June 10, 2016

Muhammad Ali’s Real Opinions on Race

The man was a great boxer and athlete and who would doubt it, but have people ever listened to what he actually thought about race? You listen for yourself; you decide for yourself.

Of course what we have now is a flood of liberal and left-wing people rushing to praise Muhammad Ali while airbrushing his – umm, somewhat controversial? – opinions out of history. If only Christopher Hitchens were still alive, since he was wonderful at deflating our modern cult of celebrity and liberal hypocrisy.


  1. Ali certainly held disgraceful opinions on race. He may have experienced oppression but he clearly chose the wrong way to tackle it.

    Btw, Hitchens and other new atheists were/are celebrities with cults built around them. Questioning them supposedly means you're against "science and reason," which is whatever they want it to mean.

    1. Yes, Hitchens and the New Atheism have a cult of personality. I don't even dispute it.

      They are also, generally speaking, poor defenders of atheism by serious philosophical and historical argument.

      The fact remains, however, that Hitchens -- before he became a neocon warmonger -- was a decent cultural critic.

    2. I've found that the more familiar and more serious a new atheists spokesman takes philosophy, the better their critiques tend to be. Out of the major four, Dennett takes philosophy the most seriously, and tends to put forward the best arguments of the bunch. My personal favorite of the new atheists, Massimeo Pigliucci, is well versed in both philosophy and science.

      I suppose the hang up with new atheist familiarity with philosophy would be Harris, since he did get his undergraduate degree in philosophy. However, given the hostility he shows to academic philosophy in The Moral Landscape ("Many of my critics fault me for not engaging more directly with the academic literature on moral philosophy ... I am convinced that every appearance of terms like `metaethics,' `deontology,' ... directly increases the amount of boredom in the universe"), perhaps an exception is justified in his case.

  2. He changed in views in later life after the leaving the Nation of Islam, which preached racial separatism.

    One of his daughters married a white Jewish man and allowed her son to be raised as a Jew. Ali attending his grandson's bar mitzvah in 2012.

    Ali became a sufi in 2005, which is the most tolerant and ecumenical sect of Islam.

  3. Read his opinions in Playboy when I was a teenager. The statements sounded pretty much like you hear in the video. I was unprepared to process that stuff, I really thought "Well that must be how blacks think about these things?"

    As has been pointed out, these were ages ago and his thinking could have evolved greatly since then. Remember who Ali's spiritual mentor was? Even Malcolm X walked away from all of that.

  4. As others have chimed in pointing out that this was NoI Ali, and Kevin mentioned Malcolm X having similar regrets about his time and rhetoric in the NoI, I find it only appropriate to post this quote from Malcolm:

    "[L]istening to leaders like Nasser, Ben Bella, and Nkrumah awakened me to the dangers of racism. I realized racism isn't just a black and white problem. It's brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another.
    Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant—​​the one who wanted to help the [Black] Muslims and the whites get together—​​and I told her there wasn't a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I've lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then—​​like all [Black] Muslims—​​I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years.
    That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days—​​I'm glad to be free of them."