Estimated reading time: 12 minute(s)
In the mourning of our legends there are some of those who want to erase their identity. There are those who have this idea that our ancestors have “transcended race/religion.” I’m specifically referring to the recent passing of Muhammad Ali (May Allah be pleased with him). But it’s not just him whose identity has to be tampered with. We saw this with Prince, Michael Jackson, and even Whitney Houston. Too many people saying that our great legends “transcended race” or “transcended religion” when that is just not true.
Transcend means: Be or go beyond the range or limits of (something abstract, typically a conceptual field or division). surpass (a person or an achievement). Surpass (a person or an achievement).
So when you say that one of our deceased ancestors transcended race/religion, are you saying that their race/religion limited them? How do you go above your very identity? Do not imply that our blackness is something we have to
overcome. That feeds the mentality that if you stop talking about race, racism will go away. You’re telling us that calling ourselves black is a bad thing. We need to overcome racism and white supremacy, not our race. You can be a hero and be black at the same time. You can be a champion and be Muslim at the same time. You can be a legend and be a black Muslim at the same time.
Our freedom fighters and champions such as Muhammad Ali did not deny their blackness. Them being black was and is something that gave black people in particular a lot of hope. It gave pride and representation to those who did not have much of either. Muhammad Ali was unapologetically black. Being black and being a world hero or champ is are not mutually exclusive identities. You can’t say or even remember Muhammad Ali, without admitting to his black pride.
Also, respect his religion. His name is Muhammad Ali. Muhammad meaning “One who is worthy of praise” and Ali meaning “Most High”. His name was given to him in the Nation of Islam by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. His Islam was something that many hated in this islamophobic country called the United States of America. In his beliefs, he rejected being drafted into the Vietnam War.
When mainly whites say that our ancestors “transcended race”, they are trying to be included in the work that they did, when for the main part, their work was focused and centered around blackness. Notice that talented white people who pass on, never “transcend” their race or religion ever.
Do NOT define blackness as an obstacle, or an imperfect flaw that our ancestors wanted to overcome. That was not at all what they wanted. To say that Muhammad Ali transcended race says that instead of acknowledging his work centered around black people, it’s best to eliminate his race altogether. If his work was not rooted in involving white people, then whitewash his identity for him. To say that Muhammad Ali transcended religion is quite an oxymoron considering he would literally fight you for calling him out of his Muslim name. There is such a fear of Muslims today, that being one is a bad thing. But who would call the great Muhammad Ali a bad person for being Muslim? So they try and whitewash his religion as well. They refuse to mention it. We are living in a society where islamophobia is intensely high. We are living in a society where blackness is considered a badge of shame, and a target for many to prey on.
Don’t put Muhammad Ali or any of our ancestors on a colorblind agenda. Stop erasing their blackness to include whites for their own comfort. Our ancestors will forever be unapologetically black, and many, unapologetically Muslim as well. In the perfect words of Muhammad Ali:
“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”
Follow Nzinga Muhammad on Twitter @QueenNzinga13)