Greater than the greatest
WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - August 6, 2020 - 12:00am

Forever etched in the memory of Filipinos is that one hell of a fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier dubbed Thrilla in Manila in 1975. A grudge match of a decider, each beat the other previously. Ali won by TKO he described closest to dying, and conceded Frazier is the greatest, next to him.

Ali went down in history widely conceded by boxing experts and chroniclers as world greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. But with imperfect record, he absorbed five losses against 56 career wins but is the first boxer to win heavyweight title thrice plus an Olympic gold. Time Magazine and BBC Sports named him athlete of the last century, accolades that reinforced his curiosity. If he is greatest, why everything good and superior is associated with white and everything bad and inferior is represented by black.

But he was greater beyond the ring, maturing from a trash-talking fighter to anti-war social activist, humanitarian and philanthropist, travelling the world as UN peace ambassador to bring food and medical supplies to war-ravaged communities. He maximized his greatness to inspire and fight for millions marginalized and discriminated against because of their skin color.

Discrimination does not discriminate. It is everywhere. It used to be most notorious in sports, but continues while there is color supremacy that succeeds only in arrogance, not athleticism. It took a Jackie Robinson to break color barrier in baseball, becoming the first black to play major league in 1947. The 1968 Olympics is best remembered for the black power salute of Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the podium after being awarded the 200m dash gold and bronze, to protest America’s racial discrimination.

Thanks in part to these athletes who used their popularity as platform for social change, the world slowly gained ground to redefine state policy and reshape human behavior to bring down barriers, although one part is pre-occupied with building and perfecting one – the motorcycle barrier.

Despite their iconic contribution to end color supremacy, it is here to stay, for as long as we don’t iron out our wrinkled paradigm of beauty and equality, among others. We are all guilty – black, white or brown. In fact, most brown opposed to discrimination feel inferior to the white but superior to the black. I don’t know why we are more fixated to bleach the skin than fixing the monster within. Being bronzed pronounces body contour that make us look thinner and feel stronger, athletes who wear dark have psychological edge.

That we are equally guilty also manifests in how we treat others. Introspect how we treat household help in the privacy of our homes. Notice how some Manilans deride Bisaya accent or downgrade the way other regions speak English as provincial accent, only for theirs to be segregated Asian accent by the West. Pathetic, we wear too much pride speaking a borrowed language. English-speaking countries have not perfected it either and instead damaged their own language. Our grammar is better. See, it’s a vicious cycle.

Just as those who resent imperial Manila also confuse urbanity with civility, thus condescend on rural people, especially from mountain villages, or better yet, the indigenous cultural communities. Civilization did not make us better persons. It only sophisticated our weapons of hate and destruction.

BOXING MUHAMMAD ALI
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