September 25, 2017

More than taking the knee ~ 50 years ago

Taking the knee wasn't an option fifty years ago and it took great courage to stand up to racism, militarism and capitalism in America.

"My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America.... and shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail."

Fifty years ago at a US Armed Forces station in Houston, Texas, a twenty-five year old stood beside twenty-five other young men called to the draft. When his slave name of Cassius Clay was called out, he refused to respond. He said no to the American War in Vietnam, was sentenced to five years in prison and deprived of his livelihood. He was Muhammad Ali.

At the time, all those years ago, he had few friends indeed. Ridiculed and vilified by people in power, in the media and in the government, Ali went on to speak out against war, racism, poverty and injustice. In plain language and without regard for the consequence.

"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs? . . . If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to twenty-two million of my people, they wouldn't have to draft me. I'd join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. We've been in jail for four hundred years."

Fifty years later and not much has changed in the US. Take the knee. Take to the streets. Remember the courage of Muhammad Ali.  And when the time comes, and in the Excited States that time will come: "Just take me to jail."

Copyright 2017 by Jim Murray.

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