Yesterday, The Greatest of all Time passed away. As the media covers his passing with headlines like ‘Ali Transcended Race’, I paused to think about what that really means. Ali did not transcend race, he forced white america to transcend it’s beliefs about race, culture and identity, and inspired Black Americans to embrace their race culture and identity.
Fredrick Douglass, Jack Johnson (the boxer), Rosa Parks, Malcolm X , Angela Davis and Caesar Chavez. They stood up, they spoke up, and in many cases sacrificed more for their beliefs than many of us would in similar circumstances. They were imprisoned, denied the right to work, publicly shamed and some paid with their lives. This is what People of Color and women have done for most of the history of this country. They did not transcend race any more than great women broke the gender barrier.
Transcending race/gender is what white people say when they begrudgingly accept us as equals. Not realizing that they are the ones that need to transcend.
As America mourns a great human being, I hope it also remembers that he and many others of his and previous generations did not transcend race, they offered white america the opportunity to transcend their racist beliefs and evolve. The offer stands. I hope someday you take it.