…Sting like a bee. Many of us know the quote. It has come to define the legacy of Cassius Clay, or Muhammad Ali as he is better known the world round.
Ali was the greatest. He was exactly that because he declared himself as such. What made him different from others, however, is that he backed it up and others said the same thing about him. He took the world by storm, as the saying goes, when he took down Sonny Liston in ’64 for the heavy weight title at the tender young age of 22. It shook the boxing world.
So why on earth would I be discussing Ali on this blog? I am no huge fan of boxing, so that can’t be it. But if you have read my blog, you know I have a great deal of admiration for certain figures who have found themselves in certain civil rights battles. Ali is one of those.
See, Clay changed his name when he became a Muslim. He was very close to Malcolm X for a while. The two would distance themselves from one another as Malcolm found himself facing issues with the Nation of Islam, but none the less there was respect.
And contrary to what people seem to believe today, Ali was not considered a great hero during his day. Well, he was, but several people in power considered him a thorn in their side. He even talked about being such a big name but walking around without any protection.
See, Ali was a huge name the world round. And he used his platform to take stands. He lost his title for them and had to win it back. He took a stand against being drafted for Vietnam.
“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Vietcong ever called me n****r.”
And he certainly didn’t stop there. Ali used his platform to call out the injustices he knew growing up.
“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognise, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky. My name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me.”
What many don’t realize is that Ali was not well liked by White America. Maybe he was not hated as much as Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavy weight boxing world champion for whom they had to find the “Great White Hope” to defeat him. But still, Ali faced struggles that have long been forgotten with time. Just as seems to have happened with both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. See, we seem to make a habit of that.
So Muhammad Ali is noted for having said “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Many people equate it with his time in the ring, but for me it means so much more. It was about a life he lived. A passionate man who stuck to his values.