One White Guy’s Views On Mohammad Ali’s Life And Times
Mohammad Ali died a few days ago at age 74. There was a period of time, about 4 decades ago, when he was the most recognizable person in the world. There were black sports legends before him and after him like Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Sugar Ray Robinson and others but none of them left their mark on this planet like Ali did.
The sport where Ali made his name, boxing, today has nowhere near the acceptance it had for most of the 20th century. Most people don’t have a clue as to who the current heavyweight champion of the world is. It’s a white boxer from the UK named Tyson Fury who is undefeated in 25 fights. He took the title away from the Ukrainian giant (6’7”) Wladimir Klitschko last November. Klitschko had defended his title 23 times which is the 2nd most all time next to Joe Louis.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has pretty well replaced boxing as the blood sport of choice these days. One of this sport’s appealing factors to its fans is that there are a number of ways a fighter can take his (or her) opponent out including using kicks, bending limbs, and choking, aside from punching. With only 3 five minute rounds to a match the action is usually more intense than a 10 or 12 round boxing fight.
Next to Martin Luther King Ali was very likely the second most revered black man in America. I have no argument with those that think Ali was a legend, He was. What I do have a problem with is people rewriting history to enhance the legend stuff. Some claim that Ali was the best boxer of all time. Some say he changed America’s thinking on the Viet Nam War. Some say that he was strong voice in civil rights and that he stood up to the white majority in America. Personally I think that to really understand who Ali was, one has to understand the times when he was at the height of his fame and what the sport of boxing is all about.
Apparently the NBC Today host Matt Lauer was friends with Ali as Ali got older. Lauer claims that Ali was his hero from an early age. Lauer was born in 1957 so he would have been 3 years old when Ali won his Olympic boxing medal and 9 years old when Ali had his boxing license taken away from him. I’m not buying Lauer’s story. My guess is Lauer never saw Ali box live.
Boxing is an extremely brutal sport. If you are a peaceful human being and have been a boxing fan like I have, you have to live with a lot of your own contradictions. Two grown men trying to knock one another unconscious is not exactly peaceful coexistence. Ever since John L Sullivan was fighting bare knuckled in the 1880s and 1890s boxing has had strong ties to the criminal elements in society. Over time the criminal connections were often accepted as the norm. One can argue who the greatest fighters were but one can’t argue that boxing is a sleazy sport.
A Brief History of Professional Heavyweight Boxing
Before there were professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey leagues, before there were the Super Bowls and the World Series, boxing was the one sport that could draw huge crowds. It appealed to a large number of working class men and those that were more successful financially. Huge crowds meant huge money. It wasn’t until Babe Ruth came along in the late teens and 1920s of the 20th century that baseball or any other sport had as big a hero as the reigning heavyweight champion of the world.
Historically many boxers have come from hard scrabble backgrounds. In the latter part of the 19th century amateur fights were often arranged in mining and railway camps where there was little in the way of entertainment for the workers. Entrepreneurial hustlers quickly realized that there were two sources of revenue in boxing, ticket sales and gambling.
Bigger has always been better in boxing. Two 120 lb. men battling it out in a ring were never going to draw the crowds that the heavyweights could. Heavyweights were bigger than the average boxing fan and visually they looked super human. They also had the most devastating power in their punches.
The first major draw in heavyweight boxing was a man named John L. Sullivan in the 1880s in the US. For years he seemed unstoppable until he was beaten by James J. Corbett in 1892. Corbett has often been credited with changing boxing from brawling to a pugilistic art form. It took Corbett 21 rounds to defeat Sullivan. It is hard to imagine today boxers fighting for that many rounds.
|John L. Sullivan|
A number of professional boxers in the early days were the sons of Irish immigrants whose families had come to America from Ireland because of the potato famine. Many saw boxing as their ticket out of poverty. Few succeeded. Corbett and Sullivan were both of Irish stock as were other heavyweight champions after them like Bob Fitzsimmons and Canadian Tommy Burns.
The first black heavyweight champion of the world was Jack Johnson. He turned boxing on its head. He was the “colored” heavyweight champion for a number of years and wasn’t allowed to fight for the world championship. Boxing was a segregated sport back then and racism was quite prevalent throughout the US. Johnson was finally given his chance in 1908. He won a decision against Canadian Tommy Burns who was the heavyweight champion at the time, in Sidney, Australia.
The people that controlled boxing in the US didn’t want a black champion but there was little they could do about it. Long before (50 years) before Muhammad Ali, Johnson was making a statement about the western world that was mostly controlled by white men. Johnson flaunted his wealth and enjoyed driving fast cars. He married 3 different white women and had sexual relations with a number of white women he wasn’t married to.
There were other great black fighters around when Johnson was the champ but he avoided fighting them. He knew that the big draw was white people hoping and wishing that a white boxer would beat him. Eventually Johnson was chased out of the US and he lived abroad for a number of years. On his return to the US he ended up doing some jail time based on the Mann Act that made it illegal to transport a woman across a state line with the intention of participating in sexual activity or prostitution.
Johnson once fought Hollywood actor Victor McLaglen in an exhibition match. It may be hard to believe but he fought professionally until the age of 60 and was in some exhibition fights in his later sixties. He died in a car accident at the age of 68 in 1947.
In the 1920s the most notable heavyweight boxing champions were Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, 2 more guys of Irish descent. They fought in one of the most notable championship fights of all time. It was known as “The Long Count Fight”. The gate draw for the fight was close to 22 million dollars in today’s money and 105 thousand people saw the fight live at Soldier’s Field in Chicago. There was a new rule in this fight and that rule was that when one man knocked another to the mat he had to go to a neutral corner while the boxing ref counted to 10. Dempsey had knocked Tunney down and stood over him forgetting that he had to go to a neutral corner. It was the first time in Tunney’s career that he had been knocked down. The ref didn’t start the count until about 4 or 5 seconds after Tunney went down and Tunney got off the mat and beat Dempsey in a decision.
|Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey|
The world was changing rapidly in the early 1930s, not of the least of it being The Great Depression. Countries like Germany and Italy were making plans to go to war. In 1930 Max Schmeling, a German, became the heavyweight champion of the world. American Max Baer Sr. took the title way from Schmeling in 1934. Schmeling was a Nazi. (Max Baer’s son would later play the character of Jethro in the 60s sitcom The Beverley Hillbillies.)
In 1937 Joe Louis, a black fighter, beat James Braddock, another American, to win the world title. Many think that Louis was the best heavyweight boxer of all time. He held the heavyweight title for 14 years. He only had 3 losses in his career and one of those losses was when he was knocked out by Max Schmeling in 1936. By this time the writing was on the wall that Nazism was on the rise. In 1938 Louis defeated Schmeling by a TKO (technical knockout) in a return match and he was America’s hero for both whites and blacks. Two years before Louis’s win another black athlete, Jesse Owens, won 4 gold medals at the Berlin, Germany Summer Olympic Games in 1936 putting a big hole in Hitler’s claims about white German supremacy.
Louis dominated heavyweight boxing throughout the 1940s until losing to another black fighter, Ezzard Charles, in 1950. Louis’s last fight was a loss to Rocky Marciano in 1951.
Rocky Marciano was only 5’11”. He is the only undefeated heavyweight champion in boxing history. His record was 49 wins and no losses and he held the heavyweight title from September 1952 until 1956. He had an iron chin and his style was that of a straight ahead brawler with knockout power. He died in a plane crash at age 45 in 1969.
|Rocky Marciano landing punch.|
Floyd Patterson, a black boxer, held the heavyweight title for 3 years in the late 1950s. He lost the title to Swede Ingemar Johansson in June of 1959 and won it back in June of 1960. After retiring, Patterson and Johansson became great friends and sometimes vacationed together.
In 1960 a young black American won gold and the light heavyweight championship at the Rome Summer Olympics. He started his professional boxing career soon after returning to the US. His name at the time was Cassius Clay.
Taking The Heavyweight Championship From Sonny Liston
A somber looking black fighter with a criminal past named Sonny Liston took the heavyweight title away from Patterson in 1962. Meanwhile Cassius Clay had been racking up victories in the heavyweight division, Liston looked unstoppable. His record was 35 W and 1 L when he first fought Clay. Liston only lost 4 times in his career and 39 of his 50 wins were by knockout.
Clay and Liston boxed for the first time in 1964 in Miami Beach, Florida. Clay was a 7-1 underdog. Before the fight Clay called Liston a big ugly bear and said that after he beat him he was going to donate Liston to a zoo. Boxing or any other sport for that matter had never seen such a loud mouthed braggart as Clay before.
When the bell rang to signal the start of the first round Liston charged at Ali wanting to take him out right away. Ali used his foot speed to stay out of Liston’s way and effectively used his jab. Liston had a decent 2nd round. In the 3rd round Clay hit Liston with a combination of punches, buckled Liston’s knees, and cut Liston for the first time in his career. At the end of the 4th round Clay started experiencing blinding pain in his eyes as he returned to his corner. It has been speculated that Liston’s trainers had applied some kind of ointment to Liston’s cuts and put some of the solution on his gloves.
Clay dodged and weaved trying to stay out of Liston’s range in round 5 barely being able to see out of his eyes. In the 6th round the sweat and tears had cleared whatever it was in Clay’s eyes and he took total control of the fight and hit Liston at will. The 7th round never happened. Liston’s corner threw in the towel.
It was a defining moment in boxing history and for that matter American history. Clay became an instant hero to most black Americans. Liston, with his surly manner, had not been a popular champ. Some white people weren’t fussy about Clay’s bragging but became Clay fans when he backed up his bragging.
Up until Clay became famous, heavyweight champions were men of few words who hardly ever spoke about anything other than their sport. This was true of black or white champions. Dempsey. Louis, Patterson, and Marciano didn’t express their political views. Even baseball great, Jackie Robinson, kept a lot of his feelings about racial inequality to himself until later in his life and made his statement by his play on the ball field.
My Being A Boxing Fan…..Indulge Me
I grew up in a middle class home in Montreal in the 1950s. I’m 69 now. There were 4 kids in my family. Other than me, none of them, including my father, had any interest in sports. I could count on a few fingers the times my father mentioned anything to do with sports when I was a kid. My father came to Canada from Scotland in 1926 and he told me once about listening to a Jack Dempsey fight shortly after he arrived. My father was not a baseball fan but he knew that Bobby Thomson, an outfielder for the New York Giants, was born in Scotland. Thomson hit a walk off homerun in 1951 that cinched the pennant for Giants after the Giants had been 13 games behind the Dodgers in August of that year. My father wasn’t a hockey fan either but he seemed to like Gordie Howe, probably because he wasn’t French like Rocket Richard.
When TV became a new big deal in the 1950s there was a scramble to fill air time. Old movies filled some of that time. There were 2 sports in particular that were pretty cheap to produce and show on TV. One was wrestling and the other was boxing.
In 1939 the razor blade company, Gillette, acquired the exclusive rights to baseball’s World Series. In the early 1940s Gillette starting sponsoring a radio show called The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports which became a TV show in the early 1950s. (A cavalcade is formal procession of people walking or riding in cars. I looked it up.)
Although Gillette also sponsored horse racing, The Rose Bowl, and The World Series, many older guys like me remember Gillette from “The Friday Night Fights”. Picture quality on black and white TV often wasn’t great and sometimes the boxers looked kind of hazy. Those were the days when many sports reporters were older guys who often wore bow ties and had cigars sticking out of their mouths. The play by play guy who described each round was a man named Don Dumphy. Most of the fights were held at Madison Square Gardens. The ring announcer who introduced the fighters had a New York accent. Back then a lot of men wore fedoras.
Some older guys like me can still remember the Gillette jingle. “To look sharp…..da-da-da-da-da…..to be sharp…..da-da-da-da-da.” Gillette had another jingle that featured a couple of cartoon parrots singing “How are you fixed for blades?” Somewhere in my old stuff that I’ve kept over the years I have an unused Gillette Blue Blade from that period in time.
(While writing this the TV has been on in the background, MSNBC. They just cut in to say that hockey great Gordie Howe has died. Wow!)
There was some stuff I didn’t have to research about the Friday Night Fights from the 50s because I saw a lot of those fights as a 10 and 11 year old. My father and I weren’t exactly great pals when I was growing up but for some reason he would let me watch boxing with him on our RCA Victor TV. He wasn’t the type to jump out of his seat if things got frantic in the ring. My guess is he didn’t even know what a jab was. I think his thrill was just watching vicariously while two grown men tried to punch the living crap out of each other.
I remember a lot of the fighter’s names, guys like Carmen Basilio, Jersey Joe Walcott, Joey Maxim, Bobo Olson, Eddie Machen, Willy Pastrano, Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore, Don Jordan, and Kid Galivan. For some strange reason I never forgot that the Fullmer brothers, Gene who was a middleweight champion and Don who was 8 years younger and also a middleweight, were from West Jordan. Utah.
Robinson served in WW2 alongside Joe Louis. The pair went on tour together where they fought in exhibition matches in front of the US troops. Robinson got into trouble when he refused to fight in places where black servicemen weren’t allowed to attend. Eventually he went AWOL and was discharged. After the war Robinson and Joe Louis went into business together. They tried to open a liquor distribution business in NYC but were denied because of their race.
In the summer of 1959 Canadian boxer, Yvon Durelle, fought the heavyweight champion of the world at the time, Archie Moore, for the title at The Montreal Forum and was knocked out in the 3rd round. I read about it in the local newspapers. The last page of the sports section of the Montreal Gazette and the Montreal Star was where the stats were. For years there were listings of the top 10 boxing contenders in each boxing division.
Boxing was never my favourite sport. I preferred team sports like hockey, baseball, and football.
In the early 1970s I watched 2 of Ali’s fights on the big screen at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. A friend of mine knew a guy who worked at The Hot Stove Club at the Gardens and he snuck us in for free. I went to a number of amateur fights in Vancouver at what looked like a barn out at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds in the late 1970s. The fights were called “So you think you’re tough?” There were a lot of odd pairings. A computer programmer might be fighting a garage mechanic as part of the card. Although I wore a suit and tie at the time, I would be pulling for the mechanic unless he was a complete asshole.
There are 2 fighters I remember from those “So you think you’re tough?” fights. One was a black guy named Jerry (Mack Truck) Reddick who later turned pro but his career didn’t go anywhere. He used to do a standing somersault after a victory. He later spent 14 months in prison for assaulting a prostitute. The other guy was a heavyweight from Nanaimo, BC named Gord Racette. He also turned pro. He fought for the Canadian heavyweight championship twice and lost both times. He retired with a career of 38 wins and 6 losses. He fought some pretty impressive boxers along the way including Jimmy Young, Tony Tubbs, and Trevor Berbick. He beat a boxer named Scott Ledoux who many think Sylvester Stallone based his Rocky character on.
When Ali retired, my interest in boxing kind of waned a bit. Over the next 35 years I watched Mike Tyson’s bigger fights including the fight with Evander Holyfield where Tyson bit part of Holyfield’s ear off. There was a long period of time when the middleweight division in boxing was far more exciting than the heavyweight division. For some reason I was never much of a fan of Sugar Ray Leonard’s. To Leonard’s credit he fought and beat some of the best fighters of his time including Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Robert Duran, and Wilfred Benitez.
I tuned in the TV to watch Canadian heavyweight fighters like Trevor Berbick and Lennox Lewis who became world champions. Lewis never seemed to figure out whether he was British or Canadian. I saw Canadian middleweight Donny Lalonde lose to Sugar Ray Leonard.
To me Ali, Foreman, Norton, Holmes, and Fraser were always the big deal, the high point. Many great fighters came after them and became champs but few of them left a lasting impression on me.
Back To Mohammad Ali
The first time I ever heard of Mohammad Ali was when he was still known as Cassius Clay and had just won the light heavyweight championship at the 1960 Rome Olympics. I think I read about him in Sports Illustrated. It was probably just another one of those stories about some young up and comer that I didn’t give that much thought to.
Ali was 18 years and 286 days old when he won his first professional fight in 1960. At the beginning of his professional boxing career Ali was sponsored by a group of Louisville, Kentucky businessmen. An American Olympic gold medal winner in boxing almost always turns pro. The American public wasn’t paying much attention to Ali at the beginning of his pro career but boxing insiders had a good idea of what his potential was. At 6’3” Ali had hand speed and foot speed that no other heavyweight possessed at the time.
|Ali at 18.|
Angelo Dundee became Ali’s manager after Ali’s first pro fight and stayed with him for almost all his fights over the next 20 years. Dundee was one of the best managers ever. In the fifties he was the corner man for Carmen Basilio, a welterweight/middleweight fighter, who became a world champion. Basilio was only 5’-6-1/2”.
Ali was 19-0 and had just turned 22 when he first beat Sonny Liston and won the world heavyweight title in 1964. At that point he had been boxing professionally for 3 years. He didn’t have an easy time of it in every fight on the way up. In his early fights he was knocked down by Sonny Banks and British boxer Henry Cooper. In the Cooper fight Ali was saved by the bell after being knocked down. In 1963 Ali fought Doug Jones. Jones staggered Ali in the first round and when the match was over most of the crowd thought Jones had won the fight. The decision went to Ali and the crowd booed and threw debris into the ring.
Nobody would ever claim that Ali wasn’t a confident fighter. In retrospect this is perhaps why he took some chances earlier in his career. He was not a KO (knockout) boxer. He only had 11 knockouts in his 61 professional fights. Most of the fights he won were by TKO (technical knockout). A TKO is when the referee feels a fighter can’t safely continue fighting.
One of the more notable boxers Ali fought on the way up was former champ Archie Moore who was 46 at the time. Ali’s people were careful about who he fought. Just one loss would be a huge setback. Being “undefeated” sold tickets and keeping that record meant there would be a big money payoff eventually in a championship fight.
Ali’s Early Life
I think it is important to understand the times when Ali first became famous and how he grew up in the Jim Crow years in the south in Louisville, Kentucky. Not a lot has been written about Ali’s youth in the 1940s and 1950s other than that he took up boxing after his bike was stolen when he was twelve on the suggestion of a white police officer.
Ali’s mother had a lot of influence on him when he was a kid. She was a Baptist and made sure that he was in church on Sundays. Ali didn’t grow up poor nor did he have a lot of brothers and sisters like a lot of other black fighters. There was just him and an older brother by 2 years named Rahaman (Rudy) who was also a boxer. Ali’s father was a sign painter and a bit of a philanderer and his mother worked as a domestic. Ali’s parents owned their own house.
Another thing that was different about Ali’s growing up than many other black fighters was that he never ran with street gangs nor did he get involved in criminal activity. A good part of his teen years were spent in the gym and participating in amateur fights. In some ways Ali was a “goody two shoes” as a kid.
It’s kind of ironic that Ali is buried in Louisville, Kentucky. The city that he grew up had a lot to do with the anger he had about racial injustice. There were theatres and drive-ins that blacks couldn’t go to along with restaurants and hotels. Justice and the law were different for blacks and whites. Most of Ali’s adult life was lived away from Louisville. Once Ali became champion he never fought in his hometown again.
When Ali was a kid the US South was controlled politically by mostly Democrats who were sometimes called “Dixiecrats”. The party of FDR mostly turned a blind eye to civil rights and segregation.
The 1960s were a hectic decade and Ali became famous in the middle of it. There were 3 assassinations in the sixties that included the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King. The Beatles turned up in the US a few months before Ali beat Liston in 64. The Viet Nam War, the draft, hippies, the pill, peace marches, women’s lib, pot and LSD, and then to top it all off, a man on the moon in 1969 were just some things that came about during that decade.
Cities like Newark, NJ and Watts in LA, to name a few, were burning to the ground and there were race riots all over America in the bigger cities, particularly after MLK was killed. Freedom marches from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama and one to Washington, DC where MLK gave his “I have a dream” speech were organized. Over 200,000 people saw MLK speak that day. Some black churches in the South were burned to the ground. Black students were blocked from entering a segregated high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. African American civil rights activist and WW2 veteran, Medgar Evers, was murdered in Mississippi.
Americans, black and white, saw peaceful black demonstrators being attacked by police dogs and water cannoned in states like Georgia and Alabama on TV and in photos in Look and Life Magazines. A number of liberal white Southerners and Northerners joined black demonstrators in their cause and some of them were murdered.
There were a number of things that stood out about Ali right away. For starters he was a clean cut photogenic looking young man. He looked different than other black champs before him. His face didn’t look like it had been battered in previous fights like Patterson. He didn’t have the typical body of many other heavyweight fighters. He wasn’t thick or stocky like Sonny Liston or Rocky Marciano. He was 6’3” tall, muscular, and sleek.
He talked so fast that sometimes he had to stop and take a breath like he had just gone a few rounds with his mouth. Another thing that was different about was his sense of humour. Boxing is and was a serious business. Ali loved to joke around right from the start. He could be a bit corny at times but he was always entertaining.
He didn’t accept direction from reporters. They weren’t going to lead him around in conversations. He was going to say what he wanted when he wanted. Many were fascinated when he predicted which round his opponent would go down in. His poetry was pretty simple and included rhyming the number one to ten as in boxing rounds but it had a cute element to it.
For a number of white people, particularly those from the US South, Ali was a threat. They wondered just who did this “uppity” black boy think he was? Why was he so mouthy?
Right away Ali when became the champion he was an instant hero in the American black community. Black woman thought he was handsome and a lot of black men liked the way Ali didn’t shy away from white men or bow to them. Although many black Americans admired Martin Luther King some were tiring of MLK’s pacifism and his Ghandhi like approach in peaceful demonstrations on civil rights. When Ali openly spoke openly about racial inequality in the US he was saying things that millions of black people wanted to.
Ali’s Conversion To Islam
When Ali won the championship in 64 the world was at his feet. Kings, queens, presidents, and dictators may run their countries but there is only one heavyweight champion of the world. Shortly after beating Liston Ali dropped a bombshell. He had changed his name from Cassius Clay to Mohammad Ali and joined The Nation of Islam. Most Americans at the time had no idea what Islam was.
A man named Elijah Mohammad was the leader of the Nation of Islam. He himself had converted to Islam in the 1930s and formed his own sect. In the 1940s he spent 4 years in prison for sedition for encouraging black men not to serve in WW2. Part of his ideology was that white men were evil. He didn’t believe in the mixing of races or inter-racial marriage and wanted to see a place where black people lived apart from white people.
It should be remembered that Ali was only 22 at the time and very impressionable. He had experienced firsthand racism in America, Never the less he fell in line with the doctrine and for several years espoused the views of his church. In fact Ali himself became a racist for several years.
The 2nd most influential leader of The Nation of Islam was a man who called himself Malcom X. He inspired Ali to join The Nation of Islam. It has been said that Malcom X and Ali were like brothers. Eventually Malcom X became disillusioned with The Nation of Islam and became a Sunni Muslim. One of the reasons he chose to cut ties was that he didn’t think Elijah Muhammad was a good example to his followers. Muhammad had fathered 21 children by various women and it was rumored that he was having sex with his secretaries.
The Nation of Islam was not interested in cooperating with groups like the NAACP or black civil rights activists like Martin Luther King. When Malcom X left The Nation of Islam he changed his views and started working with those that were trying to get equal rights.
In February of 1965 Malcom X was assassinated in front of 400 people by 3 gun carrying members of the Nation of Islam. It would be several more years before Ali would leave The Nation of Islam and become a Sunni Muslim himself. Later Ali stated that his biggest regret in life was turning his back on Malcom X.
Its 2:30 a.m. on the west coast. I fell asleep at about 10 p.m. I’ve just awakened from a dream and I know it will take a bit of time before I go back to sleep again. I decide to see if I can pick up the writing of this story. First I checked my e-mail and then I went to Huffington Post to see if there is any new news. There is brief blurb about a shooting in Orlando. I remember that a young girl singer who was on The Voice on TV had been shot and killed in Orlando the day before. I check back with Huffington Post about an hour later and now they are saying that 20 people had been killed and as many wounded at a gay night club in Orlando. I turned on the TV to get a better idea of what was happening. By the time I went to sleep again at about 6:30 a.m. 50 people were reported dead and 53 wounded. The murderer is identified and apparently he was sympathetic to ISIS. We know that only a small fraction of Muslims are murderous terrorists but damn. These people are all dead at least in part because of some religious beliefs.
There are always those that latch on to someone else’s fame. In Ali’s case one of those people was a New York sportscaster named Howard Cosell. Cosell was one of the first sports reporters to address Ali by his new name and this may be why Ali gave him more time than other reporters. Cosell was on Ali’s side when he later refused to join the army. They fed off each other verbally for close to 20 years. Cosell didn’t speak like others. His voice often boomed like he had just discovered something amazing that the world had never heard of. He was bombastic and had a huge ego. He claimed that he liked to fearlessly “tell it like it is”. A scribe once pointed out that he had changed his name and wore a bad toupee so he wasn’t quite as authentic as he claimed. Ali would sometimes pretend that he was going to pull Cosell’s toupee off but he never did.
|Cosell and Ali|
Drew Bundini Brown
Brown was one of Ali’s corner men throughout Ali’s professional boxing career.
Previously he had been part of Sugar Ray Robinson’s entourage. My guess is that
Brown has been forgotten by many. He was an interesting character. He lied
about his age and joined the navy when he was only 13 years old. He wrote a lot
of Ali’s poems and came up with the line “Floats like a butterfly and stings
like a bee.” In the early 1950s Brown married a Jewish woman and converted to
|Drew Bundini Brown|
2nd Liston Fight
After winning the heavyweight championship and defeating Sonny Liston Ali didn’t fight for over a year. His next fight was with Liston again. Originally the fight was to happen in Boston but Liston couldn’t get a boxing license there because he had a criminal record and was known to have mob connections. At the last minute the fight was moved to the small city of Lewiston, Maine.
Liston didn’t last 2 rounds. He went down on his knee and didn’t stand up for the count. Why he went down on knee has long been a mystery. He claimed he was hit by an Ali punch that nobody else saw.
had a sad life. His father beat him regularly when he was a child. Some of the
welts were still evident when he was an adult. As a teenager he turned to crime
and was easily identified because he always wore a yellow shirt. He was
sentenced to 5 years in prison. By 1960 he was the number 1 contender but it
took him 3 years to get a chance to fight the champ at the time, Floyd
Patterson. Liston was the surly sort and was disliked by most boxing fans.
After he defeated Patterson and became champion he returned home to
Philadelphia and only a few fans were there to greet him. After losing to Ali
he won 12 of his next 13 fights but never had another shot at the championship.
He died in his home on December 30th 1970 of a suspected heroin
Ali’s Next 8 Fights Before His Title Was Taken Away From Him
After calling Liston an ugly bear Ali usually had derisive nick names for those he fought from then on. Floyd Patterson was called “the rabibit” and Canadian George Chavalo was called “the washerwoman”. Of the 8 fighters Ali fought before losing his title he particularly disliked Patterson and Ernie Terrell because they refused to address him by his new name. For the last half of his fight with Terrell it seemed like Ali was torturing him and not trying to knock him out. Ali fought 4 of these fights outside of the US in Canada, Germany and the UK. There are some that thought that those fights happened in other countries because of Ali’s availability to do his time in the services was being questioned. Ali was always a hero in the black community but some in the white community were questioning his loyalty to the US.
Ali’s Loss Of His Title And The Viet Nam War
In 1948 The Selective Service Act became law. It required fit young American men between the ages of 18 and 26 to serve in one of the armed services for a period of 2 years. Probably the most famous was Elvis Presley who spent 2 years in Germany. Others who served before they became famous include Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Kris Kristopherson, Morgan Freeman, Mr. T, Willie Nelson, and George Carlin.
By late 1965 the US had increased its military forces to over 200,000 troops in Viet Nam. The basis of this war was something called “The Domino Theory” which was about stopping the spread of Communism in South East Asia. The draft had been introduced in the US and there was a lottery based upon the 365 days in a year. A low number meant a young man could count on doing time in the armed services and most likely in Viet Nam.
Rich kids or those that knew somebody important could often get deferments. Some got doctor’s letters that claimed they were unfit. Some got student deferments while others claimed they were the sole support in their families. Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell all got deferments. George Bush Jr. didn’t show up for ROTC. Rock and roller and gun activist Ted Nugent acted crazy and shit his pants. Some buggered off to Canada or went underground.
Ali was listed as 1-A in 1962 which meant he was draftable. In 1964 he was listed as 1-Y which meant he would only be called up in an emergency because his reading and writing skills were considered to be sub-par. He may have faked that. As the Viet Nam war progressed standards were lowered and Ali again became eligible. He refused to enlist in 1967 and he was forced to forfeit his championship.
He said that the Viet Cong had never done anything to him so he didn’t see why he should be forced to fight them.
This is where this issue becomes very complicated. Many feel that one of the landmarks in his life was his refusal to fight in a war he didn’t believe in and the fact that he lost millions of dollars by not being allowed to box at the prime of his career.
For many there is no argument that Viet Nam was a shitty war that the US should never have been involved in. Fair enough, but why should all those other kids have to go and not Ali?
He couldn’t very well claim to be a peace loving conscientious objector when he made his living trying to physically destroy another human being. Over the years it has amazed me that so many people looked at Ali as just some kind of entertainer when in reality he was involved in a brutal sport that was often controlled by criminals. Boxing is sport where a man could die and a number have including Davey Moore, Benny “Kid” Peret, Davey Browne, Randall Carver, Greg Page, Cleveland Denny, Kim Duk-Koo, and Sonny Boy West. In fact, a boxer named Sonny Banks, who Ali fought in the early part of his career, died at age 24 shortly after a bout with another fighter.
Ali also couldn’t claim that his religion, Islam or The Nation of Islam, believed in non-violence. Wars have been an integral part of Islamic history. I believe the real reason Ali didn’t want to go to war was that he didn’t want to take the chance of getting his ass shot off. He wasn’t alone in that belief.
He could have spent time in prison as a lot of draft dodgers did but he didn’t. He could have enlisted and gotten a guarantee that he wouldn’t be on the front lines in combat but he didn’t. He could have moved to another country and resumed his boxing career but he didn’t want to. He may have lost millions by not being able to box in America but he didn’t lose his life or get wounded like thousands of other Americans his age did.
At the time The Nation of Islam claimed hatred for white people. Ali seemed to ignore the fact that it was mostly white people who were spending big money to see him fight. When he found himself in debt because he couldn’t fight, he started doing paid speeches at mostly white dominated colleges. There were a lot of contradictions in Ali’s life at the time.
Ali’s Comeback In Boxing
In 1967 Ali was convicted of draft evasion, fined 10 thousand dollars, and sentenced to 5 years in prison. His conviction was appealed and he remained free on bail. In 1970, with his case still in appeal, he was granted a boxing license in Atlantic City, New Jersey thanks in part to a black state senator from Georgia named Leroy Johnson.
Ali wasn’t given back his title. He would have to fight to get it back. His first fight was against a white boxer named Jerry Quarry in October of 1970. Ali won the fight in 3 rounds after Quarry was severely cut. Ali’s New York boxing license was then reinstated and he beat Argentinian heavyweight Oscar Bonavena by TKO in the 15th round of their fight in December of 1970. The stage was set for Ali to fight the heavyweight champion of the world at the time, Joe Fraser.
Many Ali fans
that look back at his boxing history tend to skip over his trash talking like
it was a humorous part of Ali’s character. Ali pretty well derided every black
boxer he fought in his life and some of what he said was out and out racist. He
often called other black contenders “Uncle Toms”. Ali was quite aware of the
psychological damage he could do to another black fighter but he never seemed
to care.He knew he was popular in the black community and that other black
fighters didn’t want the black community to think that they had sold out to
“Whitey”. Ali was particularly cruel to Joe Fraser. Ali said the only people
who would root for Fraser were white men in suits, southern sheriffs, and
members of the KKK.
|The Louisville Lip|
Former Today Show host Bryant Gumbel was a big fan and a good friend of Ali’s. Gumbel once wrote a story about Fraser agreeing with Ali that Fraser was an “Uncle Tom”. These were strange words coming from a man who catered mostly to a white TV viewing audience.The Fight Of The Century?
Ali and Fraser stepped into the ring at Madison Square Gardens in NYC in March of 1971. I saw the fight live on the big screen at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. A friend of mine knew an usher at The Hot Stove Club at the Gardens and we were smuggled in. Ali was 29 years of age and had lost a bit of his speed.Joe Frasier was the son of a share cropper and the 12th child born into his family. He grew up dirt poor and his parents farmed the land with 2 mules. His father worked the farm with a burned left hand and a partly amputated right arm. Both parents were once shot and wounded by a man who made a move on Fraser’s mother. The shooter was convicted and sent away to prison.
the start of the fight a bobbing and weaving FrasIer pressured Ali connecting on
a number of body shots. Ali responded with jabs and combinations. As the fight
went on Ali resorted to clinches and something that was termed “rope a dope”. While
Ali had Fraser tied up he would shake his head to the crowd like Frasier wasn’t
hurting him at all. He was. Ali was taking a physical beating. Ali’s plan
seemed to be one he used many times in his career, wear his opponent out and
finish him off with TKO or a KO in the later rounds. This time it didn’t work.
Frasier wobbled Ali in the 11th round but didn’t move in to finish
him off because he thought Ali might be just clowning and trying to suck him
in. Frasier knocked Ali down in the final round with a vicious hook and was
awarded a unanimous decision at the end of the fight. It was Ali’s first
Frasier’s uncle noticed his stocky build and suggested that he could be another Joe Louis. For the next 6-7 years Frasier worked out daily with a big punching bag filled with rocks, rags, and other things. He would wrap a cloth or a neck tie around his hands. When he was a kid Frasier was chased by a 300 lb. pig he had taunted and fell on some bricks severely injuring his arm. He never went to a doctor and that arm was crooked for the rest of his life. He was pretty well forced to run away from home after some white men found out that he had told some black kids about witnessing the white men beat another black child.
Eventually Frasier made his way to NYC where he worked in a Coca Cola bottling plant. Later he moved to South Carolina and then Philadelphia. He was on his own and 15 years of age by this time. He started boxing as an amateur in the Golden Gloves and was the heavyweight champion in 1962, 63’ and 64’.
In 1964 Frasier was a replacement fighter for the Injured Buster Mathis in the summer Olympics in Tokyo. He won gold in the heavyweight boxing division and turned pro in 1965. Other than a draw in his last fight Frasier only lost 4 times in his pro career, twice to Foreman and twice to Ali.
Ali and Frasier were friends and Fraser lent Ali money when he had his boxing license suspended and defended Ali’s refusal to serve in the armed services. Ali didn’t return the favour. In all 3 fights with Frasier, Ali demeaned him and turned the black community against him. It was so bad that Frasier’s kids were bullied at school. The two of them almost came to blows at weigh-in before one of their fights.
Frasier may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed. He lost most of his money after he retired. He did seem to be a decent human being and eventually he forgave Ali for all the trash talking and belittling. Frasier’s pro record was 32-4-1. He died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 67.
Ali Starting Over
Ali had to work his way back to getting another title shot and he did it by beating Jimmy Ellis, Buster Mathis, Jurgen Blin, Mac Foster, George Chavalo, Jerry Quarry, Floyd Patterson, Alvin Lewis, Joe Bugner, and Bob Foster. Most of these fights were won by TKO.
Ali lost his
second professional fight to Ken Nortonin September of 1973. Norton and Frazier
were friends and never fought each other. They shared the same manager, a man
named Eddie Futch. Norton beat Ali in a
split decision even though Norton had broken Ali’s jaw. Ali considered retiring
after his loss to Norton. A rematch with Norton was arranged 6 months later and
this time Ali out pointed Norton. I saw that fight and agree with many others
that Norton was robbed. 3 years later in 1976 Ali beat Norton one more time on
Norton was briefly the heavyweight champion in 1978. His boxing career went downhill after he lost a 15 round decision to Larry Holmes also in 1978. Norton was twice voted “father of the year” by a Los Angeles newspaper. His son Ken Norton Jr. had a long career in the NFL. Norton Sr. died in 2013 at the age of 70 from a stroke. At one point in time he was my favourite boxer.
2nd Frasier Fight… Ali-Fraser II
In January of
1974 Ali fought Joe Fraser for the 2nd time. Fraser had recently
lost his heavyweight championship belt to up and comer George Forman. Ali was
strong in the early rounds but Fraser came on in the middle rounds. They both
had their moments in the later rounds but Ali would often tie Fraser up. In the
end Ali was awarded a unanimous decision.
|Frasier ducking and Ali body punching.|
way to describe Don King was that he was a piece of shit. In his younger life
he murdered 2 people. He shot one guy in the back when he claimed he was being
robbed and stomped another man to death. He became friends with Ali when Ali boxed
in a charity exhibition that King had organized. Ali didn’t like the idea of
white promoters having as much influence on boxing as they did. In the next few
years King took over control of most of professional boxing. He was as crooked
as they come taking percentages from every aspect of professional boxing. There
was a time when fighters couldn’t fight for the heavyweight championship
without him getting part of the action. It was believed that he had connections
to organized crime and he once took the 5th when questioned about
mobster John Gotti.
He was sued for millions by a number of fighters including Tim Witherspoon, Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Terry Norris, and Lennox Lewis. In 1982, after Ali had finished boxing, he sued King for over a million dollars. Ali was ailing and in the hospital. King sent him over a box with 50 thousand in cash in it and Ali dropped his suit.
In 1983 King was pardoned by the Ohio governor at the time for his murder convictions. Letters supporting him were received from the Rev Jesse Jackson and Coretta Scott King, MLK’s widow. It was Don King who organized “The Thrilla in Manila” and “The Rumble in the Jungle”. He got the deal for The Rumble in the Jungle by securing a 10 million dollar purse from the poor country of Zaire. Zaire at the time was run by a dictator named Mobutu Seese Seko. During his over 30 years of rule he amassed great personal wealth and had a number of his people murdered.
The Rumble In The Jungle
In October of
1974 Ali fought the undefeated George Foreman (40-0) in Zaire, Africa. Ali was
a hero to many Africans. Foreman was the heavyweight champion at the time and
the fight was for the title. Ali scored with right crosses to Foreman’s head in
the 1st round. In the 2nd round Ali did his rope a dope
thing by backing into the ropes and inviting Foreman to hit him while Ali was
covering up. He clinched and counter punched all while taunting Foreman
verbally. Foreman began tiring midway through the fight. In the 8th
round Ali dropped Foreman with a series of punches. Foreman was counted out.
Foreman was boxing Ali and others he wasn’t the friendly pitchman type we see
on TV these days. He was a sullen kind of guy and quite serious. The famous
Howard Cosell line… “Down goes Fraser. Down goes Fraser. Down goes Fraser” was
uttered when Foreman beat Fraser in Jamaica in 1973. Foreman fought until he
was almost 49 years old. His record was 76 wins and 5 losses. 3 of his losses
were when he was over 43 years of age.
At one point Foreman retired from boxing for almost 10 years. He has 12 children, 5 of them boys. All the boys are named George. Foreman is probably the most successful person financially to have ever boxed and he has made more than 200 million dollars with his George Foreman Grill. Somewhere along the line he realized that he would do much better in life with a sunnier disposition.
The Thrilla In Manila
Ali beat boxers Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle, and Joe Bugner before fighting Joe Fraser for the championship in Manila. Wepner’s nick name was “The Bayonne Bleeder”. He was a white guy from Bayonne, New Jersey.
with Fraser, their 3rd match, was called “The Thrilla In Manila”. It was 100
degrees F when the fight occurred in October of 1975. Ali started the fight
exchanging blows with Fraser but soon became tired from the heat and switched
back to his rope-a dope style to conserve energy. Like a lot of his other
fights he knew he had to wear his opponent down. Fraser was relentless,
particularly with his body punches, but by the 12th round he too was
totally exhausted. He managed to last 2 more rounds but his manager threw in
the towel at the beginning of the 15th round. Ali was awarded a TKO.
|Ali jabbing Frazier|
Both Ali and Fraser claimed that this was the hardest fight of their lives. Ali said “It was the closest thing to dying that I know”.
The Final Years Of Ali’s Boxing Career
Ali was almost 34 when he beat Fraser. He had started to slow down in his punching and foot speed. He had 10 more fights before hanging up the gloves for good. He lost 3 of the last 4 fights in his career. Previously he seemed to be fighting for the glory and the money. At the end of his fighting days it seemed to be mostly about the money.
In those last 10 fights he beat Jean-Pierre Coopman, Jimmy Young, Richard Dunn, Alfredo Evangelista, Earnie Shavers, and Leon Spinks. He couldn’t take other fighters out any more and his wins were all 15 round decisions.
Ali’s last hurrah was probably retaking the title for a record 3rd time. A young Leon Spinks had beaten Ali in early 1978 in a split decision. 6 months later Ali took the title back from Spinks in a 15 round unanimous decision.
The end of Ali’s boxing career was rather sad. Both Larry Holmes and Canadian boxer Trevor Berbick took him out in 10 rounds. Ali retired just short of his 40th birthday. Towards the end of his boxing career Ali began slurring his words. It should have been a clear sign to his handlers and promoter Don King that there was something severely wrong with his health but they let him box anyway. He was their meal ticket.
Ali retired from boxing in late 1981. He wasn’t diagnosed with Parkinson’s Decease until 4 years later. To his credit he never publicly expressed the unfairness of being trapped in his own body nor did he ever ask for sympathy. His decease subdued a part of him. He wasn’t as loud and boisterous as he once was. His inner spirit was evident in other ways.
Ali’s Personal Life
Ali was married 4 times. Altogether he fathered 9 children, 2 who were with women he wasn’t married to. Being the most famous person in the world, a lot of women were attracted to him. He wandered from his religious beliefs from time to time when it came to sexual relations.
In 1986 Ali
married his last wife who is called “Lonnie”. They had known each other for 20
years at the time. She seems to have made Ali’s retirement years more organized
both in a personal sense and a financial sense. Ali’s lone son that he fathered
lives in Detroit. He has been on welfare for years and gets no financial
support from the Ali family. It appears that some of Ali’s children did not
have access to him in his last years.
Ali was married 4 times. Altogether he fathered 9 children, 2 who were with women he wasn’t married to. Being the most famous person in the world, a lot of women were attracted to him. He wandered from his religious beliefs from time to time when it came to sexual relations.
|Ali and wife Lonnie.|
It would be fair to say that Ali made some poor choices politically in his life, particularly when he was associated with The Nation of Islam. At times he claimed that white people were his enemy and that his people didn’t want to live with white people. The reality was that he had a lot of white people as friends in his life.
A lot people forget that in Ali’s early years of fame in particular, he was homophobic, anti-Semitic, and very sexist. He had no qualms talking about those feelings. It would be hard to say that he was an intellectual in any manner of speaking. He was, however, curious about the world and had a good understanding of oppression.
Ali travelled a lot in his life as a boxer and as a civilian. He was interested in the continent of Africa because that’s where his ancestors came from. He visited Ghana in 1964 shortly after becoming champion. Many of the other countries he visited had large populations of Muslims.
Ali was outspoken in his belief that Palestine should have its independence. In 1978 he participated in a march in the US for American Indian rights along with Stevie Wonder and Marlon Brando. In 1980 he convinced the government of Kenya to withdraw from the Moscow Olympics after the USSR invaded Afghanistan.
In 1984 Ali announced his support for the re-election of President Ronald Reagan. Ali’s reasoning for giving his support was “He’s keeping god in schools, and that is good enough for me.” Reagan believed in “trickle down economics” which didn’t help the average black American in any way.
In 1985 Ali visited Israel and requested that they release some Muslim prisoners. Israel declined. In 1988 he participated in a rally in Chicago in support of Palestine. He went to The Sudan the same year to raise awareness of a famine that was occurring there.
In 1990, prior to The Gulf War, Ali travelled to Iraq to secure the release of some American hostages and he was successful. George Bush Sr. was president at the time and he and number of other American government officials were not happy that Ali had interfered in international affairs.
By the year 2000 Ali’s health had been in steady decline for almost 20 years. He received a number of awards in his later years including The Medal of Freedom, The Presidential Citizens Medal, and a Peace Medal from the UN.
My Personal Thoughts On Ali’s Life
I liked him, then I didn’t like him, and then I liked him again.
I first looked at Ali as an entertainer. He could certainly get people’s attention. I liked his outspokenness about race relations in America and identified with his anti-authoritarianism. Ever since I was a child I’ve hated the idea of people controlling others.
At first I gave his bragging a pass but after a while it started to wear a little thin. He started to sound like a narcissist with his “I am the greatest of all time.” And “I am the prettiest.” He demanded that he be the center of attention and didn’t appear to have any tolerance for other people’s opinions.
It got worse when he joined The Nation of Islam. He was sexist and thought that women should be put in their place and that men were superior to women. He once talked about kicking a wife out of the house and finding a younger, prettier one if she didn’t do as she was told.
In his own right he was a racist and often demeaned other black fighters as Uncle Toms, not seeming to care about the backlash that was foisted on them by their own community. He was also very homophobic with no understanding of another minority.
He pretty well painted all white people with a broad brush not bothering to consider those white people who had spent a lot of time and effort trying to get black people equal rights, sometimes risking and losing their lives.
He seemed to think that simply because he was the heavyweight champion of the world that everyone should have to listen to whatever he had to say. It was often hard to be on his side. You can see a lot of shades of who Ali was back then in Donald Trump today.
I agreed with Ali partly on Viet Nam. It was a totally shitty war that should never have been fought. Nothing was won and close to 50,000 young Americans lost their lives not to mention all the Vietnamese casualties. His refusal to enlist in the armed services encouraged some black and white kids to do the same. Many who fought in the war on the American side were poorer kids from the inner cities and country boys just out of high school, black and white. At 12 they may have been watching The Mickey Mouse Club on TV and 6 short years later they may have found themselves in a jungle on the other side of the planet hoping to come home alive.
I never wanted to see Ali sent to Viet Nam but I didn’t see why he should be an exception when it came to serving in the military. He could have stayed stateside and done his time.
He wasn’t a supporter of the NAACP or Martin Luther King and it wasn’t until he became a Sunni Muslim that he considered looking at positive ways of changing racism in America.
I didn’t like his rope-dope stuff. It seemed more like a psychological ploy than actual boxing. After listening to years of his bragging I wanted to see another fighter take Ali out. I was glad when it happened. Even so, I admired Ali’s courage in the ring. He fought and beat the best heavyweights of his time.
My feelings about Ali changed at the end of his boxing career. It was sad to see. He was becoming a shell of his former self. I felt empathy for him when he started slurring his words. Why was he still boxing? Why did his people let him fight? Why did they let him take all that punishment? Why did it take so long to discover that he had Parkinson’s Decease? His boxing career didn’t end in a blaze of glory.
Parkinson’s took over the last half of his life. To Ali’s credit he never complained about getting a raw deal nor did he ask for sympathy. The loss of his mobility seems to have been gradual. For a number of years he gave some of his time to causes like The Special Olympics and The Make A Wish Foundation. He made appearances at funding events for research into Parkinson’s Decease along with Michael J. Fox. He even made an appearance at a fundraiser for a theatre group in Israel at the request of his old friend comedian Billy Crystal. Some of Israel’s neighbours must not have been happy about that.
To say that
Ali worked tirelessly for social causes in his retirement years would be false.
He wasn’t physically capable of that kind of effort. His appearances over the
last part of his life were just that, appearances. It was a win/win situation.
His fame drew attention to a number of worthy causes and he was assured each
time he showed up that he was not forgotten about in his last decades.
|Ali and Billy Crystal|
Ali became a sympathetic character in the 2nd half of his life. He was endearing. I remember seeing him joking with young kids. He was like the kindly grandfather. Like most others I was pulling for him when he struggled to light the Olympic torch at the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996.
seen that much in the last 20 years and when he was he looked quite feeble.
Unlike most old fighters he wasn’t forgotten. Documentaries and the Will Smith
move “Ali” in 2001 kept Ali’s fame alive. Oddly enough the Ali movie actually
|Ali with Olympic flame at Atlanta Summer Games.|
His family and friends knew he was going to die. His wife Lonnie had made all of the preparations. She chose who would speak at his funeral and who would be his pallbearers. I thought the TV broadcast of his memorial was quite touching.
As a controversial figure for most of his life maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that part of Ali’s funeral was too, at least to me. I couldn’t understand why Ali’s wife chose Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson to be pallbearers. Lennox Lewis wasn’t an American boxer and although Tyson was a great fighter he had a disgusting past that included spending time in prison for rape, biting part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off, and once telling another fighter that he wanted to eat his children. Possibly Ali’s wife recognized that Tyson had made great progress in reforming his life.
If one is honest, aside from Ali’s boxing accomplishments, the most notable thing about him was his race and how he reacted to his people being mistreated and not being accepted as equals.
Racism is a difficult thing to talk about in America, yesterday and today. Slavery lasted for over 250 years in the US and the Jim Crow laws for another 100 years. Some Americans choose to ignore the things they aren’t comfortable with from the past including slavery and stealing land from the American Indians. Some are unwilling to admit that the US lost the wars in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
In life hardly anything is 100%. White people have always controlled most of the wealth and influence in the US but that doesn’t mean that all white people don’t have a social conscience. Some proof of that is that a black man, Barack Obama, was elected twice as the US president.Considering the plate Obama was left with he has been one of America's better presidents.
All black people are not left wingers wanting social changes. Something like 25% of American black voters are either conservative, or lean conservative. This includes black people like Colin Powell, Herman Cain, Michael Steele, Allen West, Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, and Ben Carson.
As far as I am concerned, when a person or a group of people endorse someone like racist Donald Trump, they themselves are racists. His “dog whistles” to the most prejudiced people in the US are pretty obvious.
Black people are only 13% of the US population. Proportionately they are less likely to have full time decent paying jobs than whites and are far more likely to find themselves doing prison time. The US has the biggest prison population in the world and close to 37% of the inmates behind bars are black. White people are often sent to rehab for using powder cocaine and black people are often sent to jail for using rock cocaine. Cocaine is cocaine. In a better world, addiction would be treated as a health issue and not an excuse to incarcerate people.
Not all black people are poor but a large portion struggle economically. Often at a young age, living in inner cities in the US, young black men have a choice to make in their lives and that is to take a shitty low wage job working at a fast food place with no future or making some fast money selling drugs and quite possibly getting shot to death.
Most white people rarely if ever think about their skin colour. Most black people on the other hand have experienced racial profiling in their lives. White people count on calling the police when criminal activity occurs whereas black people are fully aware that a number of unarmed blacks have been killed by the police.
There have been a lot of positive changes when it comes to race and integration in the US in the last 50 years. Inter-racial marriages are more common these days. Black men and women have been elected to a wide variety of political positions. Cities like New York, Washington, DC, Detroit, and Los Angeles have all had black mayors. There is a much bigger segment of black people who have college degrees these days than years ago.
The following isn’t meant to be finger wagging but it is one white man’s observations of some of the black community in America today.
It seems to me that a number of black people today seem to feel that there is no other music worth listening to other than hip hop or rap. If it isn’t black it doesn’t matter. To me this seems very limiting. White people are quite capable of creating good sounds too. It seems to me that white people are far more inclined to listen to black music than the other way around.
Gangsta Rap may reflect inner city black strife but there isn’t a lot that is positive in most of the lyrics. A lot of this music is just plain nasty and hurtful. There was nothing glorious about rappers Tupac and Biggie Small being murdered.
Two of the biggest
black stars in the past 30 years were Michael Jackson and Prince and both died
from relying on prescription drugs. I liked a lot of Jackson’s music but there
was always his weird personal life in the background. I never really got
Prince. I didn’t think his tunes were anything special including Raspberry
Beret and Purple Rain. I preferred Maceo Parker’s version of funk. I saw Parker once at the Commodore in Vancouver. When Prince
died one black writer wrote that Prince was a threat to some men because of all
the sex he used in his lyrics. How big of a threat could he be at 5’2” in
A few years
ago black singer Kanye West jumped on stage and grabbed the mike from singer
Taylor Swift at a music awards show. The award was for Best Female Music Video
of the year and Swift was at the beginning of her acceptance speech after
having won the award. West told the audience that he thought Beyonce should
have won. I wondered what would have happened if a white guy grabbed the mike
from Beyonce after she won an award and and said that another woman deserved
the award more?
To be fair, I’m old and I haven’t listened much to today’s female singers. black or white. I couldn’t name 1 song sung by Beyonce, Rihanna, Shakira, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys or Demi Lovato.
Black People On TV
There are at least 4 TV shows that exploit black people. These programs are hosted by Bill Cunningham, Maury Povich, Steve Wilkos, and Jerry Springer. Springer’s show is the worst. Near the end of his show his audience is allowed to mock the guests. Guest-wise black people are way over represented.
The 2 main themes of these shows seem to be about people cheating on each other and DNA tests done to prove a man is or isn’t the father of a baby. “baby daddy” has become a phrase. CNN’s Don Lemon, a black man himself, claims that 72% of all black children in America are born out of wedlock. There seems to be a very casual attitude by many black males about taking responsibility after fathering a child. The mother is often left to raise her children on her own. If she is working it is very difficult for her to monitor her kids. I find it hard to have much empathy for a man who just doesn’t care whether he is in his children’s lives or not.
is pretty obvious and the producers and hosts deserve blame for that. Black people
who go on those shows deserve some blame too. There isn’t anything admirable
about people who want so badly to be on TV that they are willing to expose
their crappy lives to millions of viewers.
|Maury Povich and guests.|
Black people don’t fare any better on true crime TV programs like 48 Hours. On a number of these programs a black man or a few black men have murdered someone over something that most of us would think of as petty. Sometimes it seems like there is casualness to the murder(s). Killing someone for a stupid reason and getting life in prison makes no sense.
For years I’ve been a fan of the TV show Survivor. Each series has had at least one black person compete. Often the black contestant comes across as uncooperative or lazy. The producers of the show screen the contestants. All black people aren’t lazy. The producers should give black contestants a little more thought and pick some that come across in a better light.
Black On Black Crime
Toronto Canada and Chicago have about the same populations. In 2015 there were 25 times the murders in Chicago as there were in Toronto. In a lot of the major cities in the US a large part of the black population is boxed in. There are blocks and blocks of buildings in bad shape. Street gangs like The Bloods and The Crips control drug distribution and the money that can be made can be enticing for young black men. Some have said that good paying jobs close to black communities could change things. Good paying jobs usually require a college education and for many black people that simply isn’t affordable.
One solution to the jobs thing would be well paying jobs rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Some of this could happen in America’s inner cities. Unfortunately Republicans in the US want no part of this idea because tax dollars would be involved and they would much prefer cutting back on social services and expanding the military.
OJ And Bill Cosby
In June of
1994 O J Simpson murdered his ex-wife Nicole and a waiter named Ron Goldman
outside of his ex-wife’s home. To reasonable people it was an open and shut
case. His blood and their blood was everywhere including at Simpson’s house and
the surrounding area and in and on his vehicle. Simpson just didn’t murder
them, he butchered them. A few years earlier Simpson pleaded no contest when he
was charged with assaulting his wife.
|O J Simpson|
Simpson lived in the almost all white community of Beverley Hills. He was idolized by black and whites alike. About a year after the murder Simpson’s trial began. Although Simpson lived in a mostly white community 8 of the 12 jurors were black and only 1 was white. 2 of the other jurors were Hispanic and 1 was of mixed race. Most of the jurors were women.
The defense quickly turned the trial into a racial issue. Simpson had the best lawyers that money could buy including black attorney Johnny Cochrane. Racial prejudice within the LAPD, seemed to be more important than the actual murders. In the end Simpson was acquitted. Crowds of black people cheered in the street by the courthouse. I had watched most of the trial. When the verdict was announced it felt like a gut punch. To me and many others it felt like pay back. The thought did cross my mind that if black jurors didn’t mind seeing a murderer walk why should I have any empathy for other injustices done to blacks. That thought was rejected by me but it took a day or two.
loved Bill Cosby. He was like a US national treasure to both blacks and whites.
I remember listening to his comedy albums when he was just starting out as a
comedian. Decades later he played a doctor on his TV show. It was nice seeing a
black actor playing a successful black man.
In the last few years Cosby has totally fallen from grace particularly among whites. At this point in time, close to 50 women have claimed that he drugged and raped them years ago. The statute of limitations prevents Cosby from being prosecuted for most of the charges. A number of black people have stated that the accusers are just after his money. Cosby has been married for 50 years.
There are a number of problems for those that claim Cosby has been framed, the first being why was he alone in a room with one women so many times considering he was married? I remember seeing pictures of him hanging around the Playboy Mansion in the 60s and 70s. What purpose would a married man have hanging about a place that was notorious for easy sex?
There are a couple of kickers here. In 2005, in a civil suit, Cosby admitted having casual sex with a string of young women and giving them Quaaludes. This is the same man that admonished black men and told them that that they should be better examples to their children and teach them morals at a young age.
Nothing has ever changed in my mind when it comes to the mistreatment of minorities, any of them. I am angered when an unarmed black kid or adult is shot and killed or beaten up by the police. I think “Black Lives Matter” is an important cause.
I just don’t agree with how some black people come to some conclusions. I’m pretty sure many of them wouldn’t agree with my conclusions either.