THE FOURTH EXCERPT OF “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” – Being Rejected By People Who Looked Like Me

While I can’t draw anything like this guy and am higher functioning, I can certainly relate to him. Photo courtesy of intersecteddisability.blogspot.com

 

THIS EXCERPT FROM MY UPCOMING BOOK – “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” – FOCUSES ON MY FEELING ALIENATED AND REJECTED BY SEEMINGLY TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY, SPECIFICALLY IN THE INNER CITY AS MY FELLOW BLACK KIDS, QUITE SADLY, BULLIED ME MORE THAN ANY OTHER GROUP AS A CHILD, SEEING ME AS A “GOOFY MARK” BECAUSE OF MY ASPERGER’S TRAITS.

HERE IS PART OF CHAPTER FOUR: “The Black Alienation”…

 

Mom and I went to celebrate the…festivities at a (place) which was located in a pretty much all-black (at that time) mid-to-lower income neighborhood full of people whom the only thing I had in common with – quite honestly and regretfully – was the color of our skin.

To a nine-year old boy on the Autism Spectrum who had interacted almost exclusively with white kids up to that point, I’m being brutally honest when I say that the folks in that neighborhood seemed loud, aggressive, crass, and just not very nice.

I won’t lie; it intimidated me.

During that late afternoon, I was sitting on a front porch when I was asked something about knowing how to fight.

I fully understand today that (the guy asking) was trying to toughen me up, to teach me how to defend myself and to not be so vulnerable, but he may as well have been speaking Sanskrit as I had absolutely no clue whatsoever of what he was getting at.

The next thing I knew, all these fists were landing on various parts of my body, mostly my arms and shoulders, but it seemed like a lot more body parts than that.

My attempts at fighting back at the seemingly dozens of people who by now had joined in were quite pathetic and futile as it culminated with some big thuggish-looking girl, who looked about 17 and had a big cast on her arm, clocking me with that cast, leading to some hysterical crying from me and much unhappiness as I went home that night, that traumatic memory ingrained into my gray matter for all time.

Being a sheltered Asperger’s boy, in my mind I was being bullied and abused by people who looked like me for no reason.

In retrospect, that beat down was symbolic of my alienation, ostracization, and rejection from African-American inner city culture, though in fairness I have to emphasize that nobody knew anything about me having Asperger’s Syndrome – I wouldn’t know for another twenty years – and I don’t blame anybody for any conflicts that might have stemmed from our background and socialization due to the fact that they were so different from me…

Getting back to that incident:

That episode set the tone for many of my future experiences in (Santa Monica’s) Pico Neighborhood.

Because of where I came from, I had absolutely no knowledge of what was considered “cool” as I was now living in an area where there were four liquor stores in a ten-block radius, seemingly large apartment buildings, five times the number of children running around, and alleyways with strange-looking writings on them; what the hell did I know about gang-banging and tagging?

I had no clue that among many, if not all, black youth in the lower-income hoods, being academically intelligent and getting good grades was considered a nerdy “white” thing, nor did I know about having a good part of being “cool” depending on how tough and “hard” you were; your brawling ability and how many kids you could beat up.

I was likewise ignorant of needing to have good gross motor skills, needing to be able to catch, throw, dribble, shoot, and hit a ball to be accepted, and woe be to those who didn’t wear the “fresh” fashions as to not dress like the dancers on that TV show “Soul Train”, seemingly, was a crime punishable by social death.

In those areas of “Blackness”, I failed miserably and fell way, WAY short of the mark as with my autistic tendencies, it was sort of inevitable that I would.

…when my toughness or “hard” factor was tested by the other black kids in school (Marlon* mostly, but there were others) and elsewhere by being punched all of a sudden, I either ran to a teacher or I cried like a little so-called “bitch”.

(* = not his real name)

One can imagine how that went down, my reacting the way I did instantly relegated me to being “scary” and an easy “mark”, and being made fun of accordingly. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t just leave me alone or accept me as a young brother in the name of that Black Unity concept that was still all the rage in the 1970s.

 

This sort of says it all. Image courtesy of ollibean.com

 

This “mind-blindness” aspect of the Autism Spectrum Disorder rendered me as more or less incapable of knowing how to do what was necessary to be accepted and liked among too many of my fellow black kids in Santa Monica’s inner city community.

Another prominent word that too many of my young black peers in the Pico called me on a regular basis was the same name as one of Walt Disney’s iconic characters, a certain tall, skinny long-eared black dog going by the name of…

“Goofy”

That two-syllable epithet was something I heard from various kids – some of them white and Latino as well as many of the black kids – for years as “Big Goofy” “Goofy-Ass Mark”, and (pardon the expression) “Goofy Faggot” were just some of the taunts directed to me at school, on the playground, in the street, and pretty much everywhere else in that part of town. Being that I fell well short of the Pico’s coolness standard, I suppose it was inevitable that I was treated the way I was.

I imagine that some people may read this and think that I’m blanketing all African-American youth, over generalizing and saying that every black I encountered treated me like shit, bullying me and calling me all those bad names.

That, I need to emphasize, was NOT the case as I want to make crystal clear that there WERE some African-American children in the Pico who treated me well and became my friends, three of them living upstairs from me and Mom.

A prominent root of this general black social rejection and alienation (as a youth), besides having Autism Spectrum Disorder, was that being from a rural community where I was the only black kid in the immediate area that I knew of, having exactly one African-American classmate in the four years I attended school there, I was essentially an “Oreo”.

This was exacerbated by the fact that because I acted so “white” upon moving in with my mom, the white kids, by and large, were the ones that were friendly and accepting to me, and it pretty much stayed that way all through junior high and high school.

The social rejection and alienation was something I felt even as an adult as for example, during my mid-20s there was this young dude who lived next door and taunted me by shouting “Like a virgin!” (you know, that Madonna song from the 80s) every time I walked by him When I called him on it after enduring months of his ignorance he very tellingly said, “You act white!”

Along with everything else, this showed how much it hurt to have people who looked like you socially reject you.

It actually hurt a lot, to the point where I don’t feel like I’m a real part of the black community nearly enough of the time, as I feel that Black American inner city culture in particular doesn’t want me, a so-called “Goofy Mark”, around.

The pain that was put upon me during my childhood and over the years was deep, lasting, and though I know it shouldn’t has stuck with me as an adult, which is why – most unfortunately I must emphasize – don’t feel as naturally comfortable in the inner city African-American community (I feel more comfortable among the black middle class and elderly, probably because I didn’t suffer any bullying and “Goofy Mark” taunting among them) as much as I could and should, sad to say, because among my fellow blacks in the ‘hood I was shown too many times that in too many of their eyes, I was “Goofy”.

A “Mark”

A “Faggot” (sorry for the term).

An “Oreo”.

“Scary”.

“Retarded”.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:  Excerpts from Chapter Five, detailing my rough times in high school.

 

No, I did NOT dress like this, and I was not nearly as clumsy or had his high nasal squeak, but I reckon that more than enough of my African-American peers during my childhood saw me as similar to Steve Urkel here. Photo courtesy of chron.com

 

 

 

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TURNING FIFTY: Personal Musings About A Milestone Birthday

 

 

THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS FROM AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN WITH ASPERGER’S AS I APPROACH MY 50th BIRTHDAY

18, 263 days old – at least as of this coming Sunday.

I’ll be honest, as I usually am…

Anytime anyone reaches fifty years of life, it needs to be celebrated.

Particularly – considering the sometimes extreme tension and polarization that we are currently in – those who are Black males in America.

And on the Autism Spectrum to boot.

Which is why I’m celebrating my 50th birthday this weekend with something that I haven’t done in decades and won’t do again…

Throw a big party.

I can’t imagine being fifty years old, and I probably won’t be able to imagine it even after the fact as when I was a kid – and throughout my life, really – I saw fifty as being, for lack of a better way to describe it, on the border between regular adulthood and senior citizen status.

What’s more, it’s hard to imagine the people I knew as kids, who I went to school and grew up with, turning fifty.

Yes, I know what people say:

“50 is the new 40 (or 30 or whatever)”,

“Age ain’t nothing but a number”,

And I don’t disagree with those sentiments as save for a gout condition and the hypertension that I’m controlling quite nicely with medication, changing my diet and exercise as well as playing pick-up softball on a regular basis for over twenty years, I think I’m in pretty good shape.

 

 

I like this mug – shows the year I was born and the fact that yes, my parts are original! Photo courtesy of amazon.com

 

 

However,

It’s still weird to think of myself as a fifty-something.

Especially when I look back on my life, as I reckon folks commonly do when they reach a milestone birthday.

When I think about it, although there have been some struggles in my social and emotional development due to having Asperger’s as I was bullied and shunned as a young guy in school and have had troubles working for someone else in subsequent years, not being able to hold a job for longer for three years,

Which is the reason why I became a writer and online blogger with a book describing my experiences as an Aspie, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, nearly done with a target date for (self) publication at the end of the summer,

And although I have missed out on some of the stages of life considered normal in American society such as marriage and opposite sex relationships as my behavior has for the most part rendered me as “not boyfriend/husband material” – which I have accepted as marriage is not for everyone,

I can honestly say that I have had a blessed life to this point, a life for which I am grateful.

I have a family, friends, and particularly a mother that has loved, understood and supported me, which considering my place on the Autism Spectrum hasn’t always been the easiest thing to do,

Grandparents who gave me an idyllic childhood, who I’ll always love and, as they are no longer with us, dearly miss,

And have enjoyed a relatively middle class life.

In other words, I have been quite lucky and fortunate that God has blessed me this way.

Especially since there are SO many people whose lot in life hasn’t been close to being how they would like as living in the Los Angeles area, the nation’s homeless capital, I see plenty of the less fortunate.

 

 

This is really cool; a list of things that happened the year I was born, including celebrities who will like wise be celebrating their 50th birthdays – though they spelled Kurt Cobain’s (RIP) name wrong. Image courtesy of Pinterest.com

 

 

My Biggest Birthday Wish (Besides the usual good time at my big shindig):

I want to spend Sunday – my actual birthday – in the place where I was born and spent my early childhood…

Riverside, CA, as that was where my grandparents gave me my idyllic childhood, living in a rural area (more suburban today) outside of town where my neighbors had horses and I had cows for a time; there’s even a picture of me at eight years old feeding one.

As there’s a heat wave approaching the area this weekend and my tolerance for 90 to 100 degree-plus weather has waned in recent years, I won’t be devastated if I don’t get to be there as I’ll do something else special.

But it would be fitting if I was in the town where I spent my early formative years fifty years to the day that I was born.

Outside of that, I just want to have an enjoyable weekend.

And if someone came up to me and said that I could have one wish, I would say to be in good health as a friend of mine puts it quite well,

“The best wealth is health.”

 

Summing Things Up As My Big Day Approaches:

The first thing I’m going to do when I wake up the morning of June 18th is say a big prayer of thanks to God for letting me see my 50th birthday.

I see it as a gift a there’s quite a few people I knew and grew up with who are tragically unable to have a 50th birthday as they are no longer here.

That’s why my overall feelings are those of appreciation and gratitude.

I won’t take this birthday, or any subsequent birthdays, for granted as being an African-American with Asperger’s, I am very thankful that my life has gone the way it has.

I hope that I feel the same way, and be able to say the same things I’m saying now, in the next three decades.

 

 

I certainly hope this birthday is a happy one for me. Photo courtesy of monicahswe.wordpress.com

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES REBELLION (or Riots) 25-YEAR ANNIVERSARY: Where I Was On That Day

 

REMEMBERING ONE OF AMERICA’S LARGEST RACIAL UPRISINGS FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT

 

I’ll get right to the point:

I was living (figuratively speaking) pretty far away from the infamous flash point of Florence Ave. and Normandie Ave. in Santa Monica, CA the day those verdicts in the first Rodney King trial in Simi Valley came down, setting those bigoted policemen free despite that tape showing the most obvious incriminating evidence of all time.

Though I was never brutalized like Rodney, as a African-American male in his mid-20s I could certainly relate to being racially profiled, being stopped by the Santa Monica police a number of times; there are two instances of this that stand out in my mind:

 

* I was getting some food from Campos, a Mexican place two blocks from my house whose food I grew up on, loved, and still love to this day.

As I was walking out with my order a policeman, out of the blue, stopped me and began to ask me questions, saying that I “fit the description” of someone they were looking for.

If it wasn’t for another guy walking across the street that yelled out, “That’s not him!” I would have most likely been arrested for something I had no knowledge of.

 

* One day in July of 1997, a month after my 30th birthday, I had left my house to get a newspaper when a plain clothes policeman stopped me when I was literally across the street from my home, exiting his car.

“Get your hands up!” he said, putting me in handcuffs.

Thankfully I was able to convince the cop to let me into my house so I can show him my ID, proving that I wasn’t a stalker.

To the cop’s credit, he apologized, but that did nothing to ease my irritation.

 

Being that I lived in the Pico Neighborhood, Santa Monica’s inner city for all intents and purposes, I knew deep down that being a young black man in that area, I was both a target and would be suspect for anything that went down.

The irony in all this? Santa Monica had an African-American police chief in those days, James Butts, who’s now the mayor of Inglewood.

 

 

TV news footage of that fateful day at Florence and Normandie, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

Anyhow…

I remember the day everything went down on Florence and Normandie quite well;

My mother and I were watching it all go down live on the local TV news. I specifically recall seeing a van ram into the front bars of a store, breaking the bars and leaving that store ripe for the looters, which we likewise saw.

I believe I saw Reginald Denny get smashed by that brick as well.

The other memory I have of that uprising – I’m making it a point to not call it a riot anymore – was the next couple of mornings as I was leaving the house to go to work; though no fires or looting happened in Santa Monica or the Westside, I could smell the smoke drifting from the many fires in the rest of L.A.

I was a physical education assistant teacher at a couple of elementary schools at that time, and the kids at both places, most of them white, were quite upset not only with what was going down, but also with the cause of it as being the liberal town that Santa Monica was and is, pretty much everyone felt that those four cops who beat Rodney got off scott-free.

At one of those schools there were a couple of African-American kids, both 4th graders, who lived in what was then called South Central L.A. (they were able to attend the Santa Monica school because their mothers worked in the town and were able to acquire permits) and were subsequently adjacent to all the chaos if not in the middle of it.

I knew that those two youngsters would be at least a little stressed and traumatized, so I made it a point to ask them if they were OK.

Things went more or less back to normal in Santa Monica and the Westside after the so-called “riots” ended, but you know what?

 

 

Rodney King’s famous “Can’t we all get along?” speech, courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

After 25 years, I think everyone – at least every one of color, especially Blacks and Latinos – would say that nothing has changed as far as young African-American men getting profiled, targeted, and killed by the police across America.

If you don’t believe me, ask the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and the many other young men who are no longer with us.

And ask the black folks who live in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, MO, if things are better.

To be honest, particularly under the still relatively new leadership of our President-Whose-Name-I-Will-Not-Mention, I’m surprised that “riots” like what happened in L.A. in 1992 don’t happen twice or three times a year.

And the worst part of all of this?

Considering the polarizing climate in these United States, racial and otherwise, I honestly find it difficult to see any light at the end of this pick black tunnel.

At least for the foreseeable future.

As Malcolm X once said, it’s going to take God himself to solve this dilemma.

Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017: Just A Few Thoughts

celebrating-black-history-month

A great shot of some extremely well known people; I had the pleasure of meeting the guy with the boxing gloves in the upper left hand corner. Photo courtesy of 1966mag.com

 

MUSINGS FROM A MIDDLE AGED AFRICAN AMERICAN MALE

 

It’s my regret that I’m giving homage to Black History Month on this blog with just a few days to go in the month.

But as they say, no use crying over spilled milk.

Or better late than never; take your pick.

 

Having said that…

In light of our new President-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s regime, who’s celebrating one month in office and – as we all know – has attacked every group of people not white, male, Christian, conservative, gay, wealthy, or a combination of those six attributes,

It seems like we need events such as Black History Month more than ever.

Particularly since it seems to be a bad time to be black – or any person of color who’s not named Clarence Thomas,  Ben Carson, Omarosa Manigault, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz – right now, what with the increased racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic attacks across America.

Living in California, the deepest of blue states, I’m honestly a tiny bit scared to go east of the Colorado River as while I refuse to say that every white person, or white Republican for that matter, is a bigot who feels that people who look like me are naturally inferior and  need to stay “in their place”,  it seems that too many whites have that mentality in the red states.

The comments I read from every article that talks about racial issues are an illustration of this thought, as you would think some of those folks writing such comments are carrying their Ku Klux Klan cards in their back pockets with white sheets hanging in their closets.

I feel thankful that I live in a relatively liberal area and subsequently have not seen or experienced any real, hardcore ideological or racial animosity.

At least not so far, thank God and knock wood.

 

black-history-month

A really good message that needs to always be remembered. Image courtesy of wesleyunited.org

 

Personally, I feel Black History Month is sorely needed to remind Americans of how without Black people of African descent, there wouldn’t be an America.

And not just due to the 246 years of chattel slavery as so many things that we use and take for granted, from peanut butter to potato chips to the stoplight to open heart surgery, was invented by an African-American.

Imagine if blacks – as well as women, gays, and other people of color – were celebrated every month of the year rather than merely the one designated for them (the shortest month in the case of African-Americans).

Then perhaps a guy like our new Commander-In-Chief (my personal refusal to mention his name on this blog remains in effect) would never have been elected.

And there wouldn’t be a need for groups such as Black Lives Matter.

 

The irony of all of this, from a personal standpoint:

I won’t go into any details now, but in my book describing my experiences with having Asperger’s Syndrome, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, which I’m in the final stages of editing and will begin the self-publishing process soon, there’s a chapter detailing my experiences of being black on the Autism Spectrum.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been the most fun experience, but that’s all I’m going to say at this time; you’ll just have to read chapter four of the book.

All right, I said I had just a few thoughts about this year’s Black History Month.

And I’m going to stick to that as I don’t want to ramble or go on and on save for this…

All I can do is as far as the extremely fragmented situation that this country is in is two things:

1. Hold good, optimistic thoughts,

and…

2. Be the best person I can be.

Which I reckon is all anyone could or should do.

 

 

full_pkn_20v13-064

Being the longtime baseball and softball guy that I am, this is perhaps the part of the African-American experience that I’m most proud of: The (so-called) Negro Leagues, with its two greatest stars, Satchel Paige (left) and Josh Gibson (right) featured here. I’ll be writing an article about these and the great black players from that era soon on this blog. Photo courtesy of pechakucha.org

 

THE CURRENT RACIAL CRISIS IN AMERICA: Some Random Thoughts

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I love this picture, for obvious reasons. Photo courtesy of abc3340.com

 

Musings, based what has been happening in this country, on what seems to be a nadir on relations between races, cultures, and ethnic groups in this country with no end in sight.

 

Like seemingly every other black male of African descent in these United States, I have been the target of negativity solely based on my skin color.

I have been called the “N” word, particularly as a young boy in Riverside, CA, where the then-rural community I lived in (Woodcrest) featured numerous Caucasian folks of European descent from places like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

I have been denied jobs solely because of my skin color, notably when I was in my early 20s and a lady, upon laying her eyes upon me and giving a less-than enthusiastic reaction after such an enjoyable conversation on the phone, told me that the job I was seeking had already been filled.

I have felt ostracized in various places throughout my adult years.

And I have been the target of racial profiling as I was stopped by the police in Santa Monica, CA, where I lived for over twenty years, on at least four occasions, being handcuffed during one of them in front of my house due to me fitting the description of a stalker;  if I didn’t show them my ID, I probably would have spent a few years in jail for something I did not do.

So when I heard about the latest killings of unarmed black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana and what was apparently a retaliatory strike in Dallas with the lives of those five cops being snuffed out by Micah Xavier Johnson during a Black Lives Matter protest, my thoughts were varied…

 

 

Something that will hopefully induce hope: Cat Stevens’s (now Yusuf Islam’s) classic song “Peace Train”

 

 

First:  None of this was anything new as African-American men have been unnecessarily killed by authority figures for as long as African-Americans have existed in America.

Second:  Those cops who murdered Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in the Minneapolis area, like pretty much every other cop who has committed similar acts before, will not be charged with any crime and will essentially get off free and clear.

Third:  It seems like race relations have plummeted and are at their lowest point in decades during Barack Obama’s presidency, as statements and efforts from conservative whites, in politics and elsewhere, to discredit our 43rd Commander-In-Chief have abounded.

Not to mention the rise in racist incidents at colleges like the universities of Oklahoma and Missouri.

Fourth:   As I have written in an article on Hubpages.com, despite the efforts and labors of icons like Martin Luther King and the advances that the Civil Rights Movement produced, there remains a certain amount of self-separation between races and ethnic groups due to cultural differences, a natural desire for people to interact based on what they have in common, and a notion that differences often breed discomfort, which breeds distrust.

I remember writing that no matter how many “I Have A Dream” speeches are made or how many times “We Shall Overcome” is sung, you can’t force a racist – in any color – to not be one.

You can’t force someone who thinks folks of different races are inferior, created to be subservient and who need to be “in their place”, to feel differently.

And you can’t force someone – black, white, Latino, or Asian – who vehemently frowns over racially mixed couples to suddenly embrace them.

 

white-and-black-preschool-girls1

Why can’t we all get along like these two sweet little girls? Photo courtesy of blackyouthproject.com

 

Fifth:   This is something that has been in my mind for a while.

Based on all the current protest marches and confrontations between (mostly) white police and (mostly black and Latino) demonstrators, not to mention the riots that have resulted after incidents like this in the past,

I cannot help wondering if we are on the brink of a second Civil War.

A war not between the states, but a war between the races.

Judging from the comments I have read in articles regarding race that I have read online and the various statements from conservative whites (and African-Americans like Stacey Dash), one may well think such as I can’t help feeling that all it would take is one riot,

One skirmish between blacks and police that gets out of control,

One instance of some conservative white person who may be among some anti-Black Lives Matter counter demonstrators, who says the wrong thing and is attacked and (probably) killed by folks who are fed up, triggering an all-out brawl,

And you may well have the first battle of a race war, a Fort Sumter in a sense.

I also can’t help wondering if a hundred years from now, the dreams of racists will come true and America will be separated on the basis of color due to an impasse, the leaders conceding that the longtime racial animosities will never be solved and – like a divorcing couple or the Hindus and Muslims during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 (much to Mahatma Gandhi’s dismay) – the best solution being a formation of separate countries.

Of course it’s my sincere hope that this scenario will never come to pass, but…

Sometimes it’s a little difficult to be completely hopeful based on these recent and ongoing racial incidents and unrest.

However, I do know this:

Killing police officers will not do anything to stop racial profiling and murder of blacks by law enforcement.

Neither will rioting as if that were the case, attacks on people of color would have ended nearly 100 years ago.

I’m honestly not sure what the answer is – besides love and loving one another according to what Jesus Christ commands – but…

As Marvin Gaye once sang, war is NOT it.

I suppose that’s all I have to say about all of this, at least for now.

 

Group of diverse teenagers standing together and smiling for the camera. Horizontal shot.

Group of diverse teenagers standing together and smiling for the camera. Horizontal shot. Love this shot, too! Photo courtesy of ojaialano.wordpress.com

 

 

 

REMEMBERING MUHAMMAD ALI: A Tribute To “The Greatest”

Boxing gloves and a message sit amongst flowers at a makeshift memorial to Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday, June 4, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Boxing gloves and a message sit amongst flowers at a makeshift memorial to Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday, June 4, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Muhammad Ali died Friday at age 74. (AP Photo/David Goldman) Photo courtesy of macaudailytimes.com.no

A MEMORIAL TO ONE OF THE GREATEST ATHLETES OF THE 20th CENTURY,  (certainly) THE GREATEST BOXER OF ALL TIME, AND ONE OF THE GREATEST HUMAN BEINGS EVER.

 

To be completely honest, there’s not much more that can be said about this great iconic legend that hasn’t already been said in the days since his passing.

As for a personal remembrance, a year and a half ago on this blog I wrote about my encounter with Muhammad Ali in 1996 at a bookstore in Santa Monica, CA, where he was promoting a photography book featuring images from his boxing career that his photographer put together.

Seeing Ali in the flesh would have been thrilling enough if it wasn’t for the fact that just before he was scheduled to leave, he pointed at me and waved me over to him, shaking my hand and asking me if I “rumbled”, probably because I was (and still am) a big guy.

Everyone knows about Ali’s winning the heavyweight championship three separate times, as well as his stance against being drafted into the army and shipped off to fight in Vietnam due to him being a Muslim and a conscientious objector, costing him not only his crown, but his boxing license as he was not allowed to fight for three years.

Everyone knows about his epic upset of Sonny Liston in 1964, his “Rumble In The Jungle” in Zaire (now Congo) with George Foreman , and his three even more epic brawls with Joe Frazier, including the 1971 “Fight of the Century” and the 1975 “Thrilla In Manila”.

And everyone knows full well about his humanitarian efforts in the years since his retirement in 1981 as he battled the Parkinson’s disease that was ultimately the main factor in his death.

 

Ali.14-1024x806

Muhammad Ali’s (perhaps) biggest single moment: Lighting the Olympic torch in Atlanta. Photo courtesy of pressherald.com

 

As well as perhaps his biggest single moment, lighting the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies in Atlanta in ’96, which incidentally happened just a few months before I got the thrill of my life (to date) in meeting him.

However…

There’s always been one aspect of Muhammad Ali that hasn’t been as noticed as it should have been, that not as many people have pointed out over the course of his life and career:

His sense of humor, as Ali was, in my opinion, the funniest athlete who ever lived.

 

 

A video from YouTube.com of Muhammad Ali’s interviews, speeches and various smack talk that showed just how funny he was.

 

 

Every time I watched film of him saying “I’m young, I’m strong, I’m fast, I’m pretty, and can’t possibly be beat!”,

Every time I heard Ali call Liston a “big old ugly bear”, saying how he was “…too ugly to be champ! The heavyweight champion should be pretty like me!”

Every time I heard Ali call Frazier a “gorilla” , punching a toy version of one while crowing, “Come on gorilla, we in Manila!” at a pre-fight press conference,

As well as call Foreman a “mummy”,

Every time I heard one of Ali’s poems and make outlandish statements in interviews,

I just cracked up in laughter.

In fact, Ali’s personality and sense of humor reminded me of someone else who had a similar personal chemistry and humorous nature, someone who I was very close to in my youth:

My grandfather, whose birthday, while not nearly in the same year, coincidentally fell in the same week as his.

Indeed, I’ve always felt that if boxing hadn’t worked out for Ali, he would have made a great stand-up comedian alone the lines of Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, doing comedy routines at places like the Apollo and the Comedy Store.

 

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A triumphant moment in Ali’s career: Knocking out George Foreman in 1974. Photo courtesy of newslocker.com

 

Being the great all-around human being that he was, it goes without saying that the evening of June 3rd was a sad one for me; I was grateful that I was able to report the news of Ali’s death on my social media pages as soon as it was announced, as he certainly deserved that.

Ali’s funeral is schedule for this Friday, June 10th, in his hometown of Louisville, KY.

I obviously won’t be there, as I plan to watch it on whatever TV station is covering the proceedings, but I’ll make a concerted effort to keep my sadness to a minimum as I want to celebrate Ali’s tremendous life.

No one deserves it more.

I’m positive that Allah had two words in greeting for the champ as he entered Paradise that June 3rd evening:

“Well Done.”

I’ll now take this moment to say this…

May you rest in peace, Mr. Ali, sir.

Meeting you that time in Santa Monica was the thrill of my life.

I hope you will and Joe Frazier will bury the hatchet once and for all up there.

Give Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, and John Wooden my personal warm regards.

And if you see my grandpa, tell him hello from me and my family, and that he is very much loved and missed.

 

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One of the most legendary images of Muhammad Ali: Standing over Sonny Liston, exhorting him to get up after his “Phantom Punch” in the midst of their fight in 1965. Photo courtesy of gossiponthis.com

 

 

 

 

The State of Race in America (From The Point Of View of Little Old Me)

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Image courtesy of martinlutherkingday2014.blogspot.com

 

 

Not that my view is all that important as I’m not Henry Louis Gates or Cornel West, and am definitely not any kind of sociologist or expert,

But being that today IS the day we celebrate the legacy of the most famous Black American of African descent in history, a man whose name, along with Mahatma Gandhi, is synonymous with the terms “Peace”, “Unity”, and “Racial Harmony”, I thought it would be a good idea to give my one cent as to how things are between Caucasians of European descent and people of color in these United States.

So here goes…

 

Unlike what I suppose so many others will do today when writing about this topic and the man who we are celebrating today, I’m not going to state any  “I Have a Dream” quotes.

Or any quotes for that matter save for the three I’ve posted in this article’s pictures; there are a zillion other sites, TV shows, and the like where one can get that.

Or visit any elementary school around this time of year, as even the most conservative schools in the reddest of states put together a Martin Luther King, Jr.  assembly or something of that nature, mentioning how the black folks in Montgomery, AL wouldn’t use public transportation for a year in the mid-1950s because a seamstress refused to be moved to the back of a bus one evening.

Along with playing that “Dream” speech in their classrooms.

I’m also not going to say what so many people say around this time, how “We have come so far, but we have a long way to go.”

First of all, considering all the crap that’s been going down lately, that needs to go without saying.

And second of all, people have been saying that for fifty years, yet…

In quite a few ways, I’m convinced that it’s safe to say things have not only have a long way to go, they’ve gotten worse.

Just ask the families of those poor young African-American kids who were murdered by the police.

Or those actors and directors who were snubbed by the Academy Award nominations for the second consecutive year.

Or the students at the University of Missouri and many other colleges who were not only called “Diggers” with a capital “N”, but who have endured “microagressions” – merely a fancy word for “slights” – ever since those institutions of higher learning allowed blacks and other people of color into their halls.

Or the Today show’s Al Roker, who was not only recently passed over in getting a taxi, but that taxi’s driver admitting that he passed Roker over for a white man because of his skin color.

 

 

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All of the world’s as well as America’s racial/cultural issues would be solved if this statement was universally embraced. Image courtesy of eslkevin.wordpress.com

 

I’ll even dare say that I reckon there are plenty of folks who, given the attitude of certain whites – you should read the comments from various online articles focusing on racial issues that I have checked out; they sound as if they were written by members of the Ku Klux Klan, or at least people who sympathize with them – see these times as not unlike the America of the 1950s and previous decades as far as how whites regard blacks are concerned.

Why, one commenter of an article I read today mentioned how he was for segregation, and that he didn’t want to do business with blacks and felt he shouldn’t be forced to, calling it a matter of freedom.

That seems to be the mentality of far too many people, though it’s tragically true that a racist can’t be forced to not be one or to accept someone else whose skin color or culture is different from his as an equal.

Which in my view was the one flaw of the Civil Rights Movement; that it seemed to be the opinion that whites would learn to wholeheartedly love people of color if enough marches, protests, and speeches were done and enough laws were passed.

That if African-Americans were allowed to use the same bathrooms, go to the same schools, eat in the same restaurants – and all the rest – as whites, then those Caucasians would naturally see the error of their racist ways and happily accept all blacks as complete equals.

It’s true that plenty of whites have done exactly that.

But it’s also true that more than plenty of whites have not.

Which is why I state that the Civil Rights Movement had a flaw.

It’s easy for me to say that all of this has left me with a sense of defeat in that true racial harmony will never be a reality not only in America, but throughout the world; check out what’s be going on not only with the current anti-immigration sentiments in Europe but, as the ultimate example, the Apartheid era in South Africa, which was more blatant in its bigotry in that for 46 years, that “separation” policy was in that country’s constitution while American segregation was never federal law, but confined to state and local laws.

But that is a bit too simplistic for me to rest my complete convictions on.

As for the future of race relations and the chances of true racial love and harmony in this country, which Dr. King based his life’s work on, I have just five words in regards to that:

 

I HONESTLY DO NOT KNOW.

 

I don’t know what else to say, except to trust God that it will all turn out well.

As Malcolm X once said, “..It takes God himself to solve this racial problem.”

 

 

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Image courtesy of adanyd.hostoi.com