Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…
If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.
Muhammad Ali, 1967
Two thoughts from my Facebook feed.
I was saddened to hear that War Resister Muhammad Ali has died.
His courageous refusal to fight in Viet Nam inspired and encouraged me in doing likewise. Nor was it simply a matter of his religious commitment. When he said "No Vietnamese ever called me "nigger"", he exposed the war for what it was, and African American life for what it was.
As a War Resister, Muhammad Ali was The Greatest.
Lee Zaslofsky, War Resisters Support Campaign
RIP peoples champ. And writer friends, could we please remember to mention Ali was a proud Muslim? Bold, yes. Brave, yes. Handsome, yes. But also a deeply spiritual person. That can't be forgotten today or ever. #stopislamophobia
Joel H., Ottawa
Not all white people are racist?
There are many white people who mean right and in their hearts wanna do right. If 10,000 snakes were coming down that aisle now, and I had a door that I could shut, and in that 10,000, 1,000 meant right, 1,000 rattlesnakes didn’t want to bite me, I knew they were good... Should I let all these rattlesnakes come down, hoping that that thousand get together and form a shield? Or should I just close the door and stay safe?
Muhammad Ali, 1971
‘I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali, Dave Zirin, The Nation
Muhammad Ali Risked It All When He Opposed The Vietnam War, Justin Block, HuffPo
Muhammad Ali: Worshipped. Misunderstood. Exploited., Ishamel Reed, New York Times Op-Ed
Official New York Times obituary, written by Robert Lipsyte, a steadfastly progressive voice in the overwhelmingly ultra-conservative field of sportswriting
If you haven't seen any of these movies, do yourself a favour. None is perfect, all are flawed, but all worth seeing.
When We Were Kings (1996)
The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013)
I Am Ali (2014)