Muhammad Ali's 'mama, how come everything is white?' interview sounds as relevant as ever

It is safe to say that the wise words of Muhammad Ali stands the test of time. Widely considered to be the greatest heavyweight boxer the world has ever seen, the legacy of Ali extends far beyond his pugilistic endeavors. Throughout his career, he spoke out about racial issues and injustices. The brash Mohammed Ali (or who we once knew as Cassius Clay) was always on point with his charismatic rhetoric— despite being considered arrogant at times. Even so, he had a perspective that was difficult to argue with.

As a massive boxing fan—and a huge Ali fan—I have never seen him more calm and to the point then in this recently posted BBC video from 1971. Although Ali died in 2016, at 74 years old, his courage inside and outside the ring is legendary. In this excerpt, Ali explained to Michael Parkinson about how he used to ask his mother about white representation. Even though the interview is nearly 50 years old, it shows exactly how far we need to come as a country on the issues of racial inclusion and equality.



In this interview, Ali remembered posing the question to his mother: "Why is everything white?" He recalled being curious about Jesus being white. He pontificated as to why all angels were white—why Angel food cake is white while Devils-food cake's the chocolate dessert. He talked about all the products of his time that were labeled "white" like White Swan soap, King White soap and White Cloud tissue paper. Oh, and where does the president live? The White House.

He goes further into why all the celebrated models of the world are white and how beauty is only seen on white women. Miss World and Universe are always white—but why? He knows that women in America have all different types of complexions, shapes and sizes. Why not embrace it? They aren't all Barbie. He goes into Snow White, Santa Claus—noting that everything we view as "great" in this country is—you guessed it—white. In classic Ali style, he rhymes, "Everything bad is Black. The Little Ugly Duckling was the Black duck. And the Black cat was the bad luck. And if I threaten you, I'm gonna blackmail you. I said, 'Mama, why don't they call it 'whitemail?'' They lie too." It's hilarious but sadly true. It wouldn't shock me if Ali made the entire speech on the spot. He's brilliant.

The highlight of the interview has to be when he discusses Tarzan. Ali makes you think: how is it that Tarzan, a white man, is the king of the jungle in Africa? How can he talk to the animals but none of the Black men—who have lived there for centuries—are able to communicate with them?

Ali makes you realize that our country is completely whitewashed and always has been. He hammers home the idea that something is terribly wrong with our society. I can go on about how impactful he is. But, honestly, it would be like writing the lyrics to a Tina Turner song without listening to her music. You just have to experience Ali for yourself. Trust me, it's worth it.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Racist jokes are one of the more frustrating manifestations of racism. Jokes in general are meant to be a shared experience, a connection over a mutual sense of humor, a rush of feel-good chemicals that bond us to those around us through laughter.

So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

Keep Reading Show less
True

*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.

With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

Keep Reading Show less