Muhammad Ali is one of my heroes and a man of great principle. When he took a stance against conscription to fight in the Vietnam war he did so on behalf of all the black men in America. At that time in the sixties there was the great civil rights movement fighting for justice and equality. Blacks were still greatly discriminated against. There was still segregation in the South.
These were the days of the assassination of Martin Luther King and the rise of the more militant Black Panthers and Nation of Islam with Malcolm X.
Muhammad would probably stayed in the USA involving with sport and coaching boxing. He wouldn’t have had to go to fight but thousands of other black men wouldn’t have had that option. They were sent to fight in what was a very dubious unjust war. Thousands of them got killed and maimed.
Muhammad was prepared to make a stand, sacrifice his world title, lose millions of dollars and stand up for what he believed. Black people were being oppressed at home in the States. Was this war valid?
Why was the US fighting?
One has to ask who profits from these conflicts?
His words resonate with me.
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 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’m not going 10,000 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 cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is 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. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.
One has to ask how much things have changed in America? Have we achieved parity or is there still prejudice and discrimination?
I think we are still a way off the day when a man is judged by his character and not the colour of his skin.
We need another Muhammad Ali.