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Muhammad Ali Understood the Racist Roots of War and Militarism


Muhammad Ali Understood the Racist Roots of War and Militarism

Phyllis Bennis

With all the discussion and debate these days about intersectionality and the need for progressives to link our movements against racism and against war, the name of Muhammad Ali belongs right up in our pantheon with Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, Howard Zinn, and so many other women and men who fought and continue to fight those linked battles together.


Ali's eloquence outside the ring matched his grace within it.
He was a man of good conscience in the truest sense. RIP


Remembering Mohammed Ali reminds me how much easier it was in those days to recognize the enemies of peace and prosperity. How speaking of the world has been intentionally jumbled by corporations, media and politicians to seem nuanced beyond all repair. That's all a lie, of course. Mohammed Ali was great at seeing and explaining lies and cruelty for what they were. Someone or something exploiting a situation for money; the white man's real god, of course.


The idea that skin color is the alpha and the omega, the driving force behind everything from canned soup to Armageddon, and at the heart of all political decisions made through history, is solidly contemporary American.

History's wars have been driven by greed. Wars are launched to gain power over resources and/or dominate a people to serve as slaves (i.e., Egyptians taking Jews into slavery during the days of the pharaohs). Decisions about which people would be targeted were always based on opportunity and the likelihood of conquest. Those with the biggest army and most powerful weapons dominate. Both war and slavery have been universal, with people of every race being the conquerors and the conquered at some point in history.

America's wars/militarism have not been rooted in racism, but in economic issues. When it came to the draft, those who were able to evade service were the better off. The soldiers sent to Vietnam, for example, were poor and working class Americans. The great majority of US poor are (always were) white.

The US shipped out a huge share of our jobs since the 1980s, creating a surplus of jobless people. We've taken huge steps backwards when it comes to what we do with this surplus of people. This generation decided that they are undeserving of the most basic human rights (per the UN's UDHR) of food and shelter, but this doesn't solve the problem. They continue to exist, and we don't know what to do with them. Logically, we would expect to see the draft restored at some point, with this human surplus used for war. Again, most of these are white, but we will nevertheless say that the draft is about anti-black racism. Because.