Part 4—Among liberals, who gets to be us: Is Lonnie Ali allowed to say those things?
At last Friday's memorial service for her late husband, a range of speakers addressed an age-old question: Who gets to be us?
The answer was explicitly stated all through the service: Everyone gets to be us!
For our money, the two most impressive speakers that day were Attalah Shabazz, the eldest child of Malcolm X, and 19-year-old Natasha Mundkur, a college sophomore—and they were extremely impressive.
Shabazz and Mundkur each made it pretty clear that everyone gets to be us. Two days ago, we posted this part of Shabazz's deeply impressive address, in which she quoted Muhammad Ali's own words:
SHABAZZ (6/10/16): A unifying topic was faith—an ecumenical faith, respect for faith, all faiths, even if belonging to one specific religion, or none. The root of such being the gift of faith itself.Speakers, including Lonnie Ali, also stressed the idea that every "race" gets to be us. That said, is Lonnie Ali allowed to say some of the things she said?
So in his own words, he [Ali] wrote:
"We all have the same God, we just serve him differently. Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names, but they all contain water. So do religions have different names, and yet they all contain truth, truth expressed in different ways and forms and times.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe all people are part of one family.
"For if you love God, you can't love only some of his children."
Uh-oh! Yesterday, we posted excerpts from Lonnie Ali's address. Among other things, she said her late husband "saw the nobility of all races, as witnessed here today."
That witness was extensive. But Lonnie Ali said some other things too. Is she allowed to say them?
At one point, Lonnie Ali stressed the fact that her husband had come from a two-parent home. She stressed the fact that her husband had been helped, in an existential way, when he was only twelve, by the intervention of a Louisville cop.
("We cannot forget a Louisville police officer, Joe Elsby Martin, who embraced a young 12-year-old boy in distress when his bicycle was stolen. Joe Martin handed young Cassius Clay the keys to a future in boxing he could scarcely have imagined.")
Later, she specifically said that the policeman in question had been a white cop. She even said that her late husband "had teachers who understood his dreams and wanted him to succeed"—and that, after he won his Olympic gold medal, "a group of successful businessmen in Louisville, called the Louisville Sponsoring Group, saw his potential and helped him build a runway to launch his career."
Is Lonnie Ali allowed to say those things? Especially in the contemporary context, some of those statements can be seen as emerging from a "conservative" playbook.
And then, dear God, she even said what is shown below! Is she allowed to say this?
ALI: His passing and its meaning for our time should not be overlooked. As we face uncertainty in a world and divisions at home as to who we are as a people, Muhammad’s life provides useful guidance. Muhammad was not one to give up on the power of understanding, the boundless possibilities of love and the strength of our diversity. He counted among his friends people of all political persuasions, saw truth in all faiths and the nobility of all races as witnessed here today."He counted among his friends people of all political persuasions?" Apparently, one such friend was Orrin Hatch, who spoke about Muhammad Ali's participation in Mormon charity projects in Utah.
Was Ali allowed to have such friends? Is his wife allowed to discuss such friendships?
Let's extend the reach of our questions a bit. Is it even a good idea to have friends of all political persuasions? Should it be permitted?
Do people of such "persuasions" actually get to be us? Did the late Muhammad Ali finally go one step too far?
We ask this question at a time when our own liberal tribe seems increasingly drawn to various types of hatreds. By this juncture, we don't just hate those in the other tribe. Increasingly, we seem inclined to find the other within our own tents too. For the latest example, click here.
This has always been part of the human condition. It's also "human, all too human" to spot the hatred in the other tribe, while failing to see its existence over here, among one's own.
Increasingly, we think we liberals need to ask ourselves an ancient question:
Who gets to be us? Who will we instead decide to brand as the other?
Next week, we plan to explore our own tribe's tendency toward otherization. We plan to do so by looking at a puzzling post by a very smart writer—a puzzling, yet rather typical, post which appeared just a few weeks ago.
Lonnie Ali seems to be generous in her assessment of others. She seemed to say her late husband viewed others that way too.
Is she allowed to say what she said? Can we possibly learn from her statements?
Tomorrow: "I want to see the loser"
The world's so-called alleged races: Lonnie Ali also said what's shown below. She seemed to be alluding to our inclination to believe in the existence of "races:"
ALI: You know, all of his life, Muhammad was fascinated by travel. He was childlike in his encounter with new surroundings and new people. He took his world championship fights to the ends of the earth, from the South Pacific to Europe to the Belgian Congo...Does everybody get to be us? More on this question next week.
The boy from Grand Avenue in Louisville, Ky., grew in wisdom from his journeys. He discovered something new, that the world really wasn’t black and white at all. It was filled with many shades of rich colors, or languages and religions. And as he moved with ease around the world, the rich and powerful were drawn to him. But he was drawn to the poor and the forgotten.
Muhammad fell in love with the masses, and they fell in love with him. In the diversity of men and their faiths, Muhammad saw the presence of God.