The morning after Muhammad Ali died, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the times he called himself “pretty.” A corner of the Ali Center in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, is dedicated to Aliâ€™s prettiness. Boxing then as Cassius Clay, Ali would brag about his good looks and fighting prowess. Heâ€™d say (bellow) things like, â€œIâ€™m loaded with confidence! I canâ€™t possibly be beat! I done had 180 amateur fights, 22 professional fights, and Iâ€™m pretty as a girl!â€ It was trash talk, certainly, but also, at that time, the exhibit reminds visitors, you just didnâ€™t hear of black people calling themselves pretty. They werenâ€™t supposed to have confidence in their looks; there was too much evidence to the contrary. Granted, Ali displayed black folksâ€™ colorism in calling Joe Frazier â€œblack and ugly,â€ but his braggadocio caught white supremacy with its gloves at its side and delivered left hooks that, while they couldnâ€™t deliver a knockout, did keep black people off the ropes and in the ring.
As he is laid to rest,Â we live to fight another day.