His name was Muhammad Ali. His name was not Cassius Clay.
He did not “transcend race”. He loved every part of his blackness, and fought for it his whole life. He viscerally and proudly embodied his black body and created beauty with his power. He is not yours to manipulate and fashion into a safe white fairy tale of the color-blind wonder of sport. If you cringe at the celebration of blackness and refuse to acknowledge that race matters, it is because your small mind cannot imagine a world in which looking race in the eye is not a tool for harm but rather as a remedy for the past and a way of expressing self-love and identity. Color-blindness is a privilege for those who have never had to deal with color.
If the only way you can talk about him is to start a sentence with, “Even though he was arrogant . . .” take his name out of your mouth. If the only way you can praise him is to qualify your “love” with, “I know he was a Muslim, but . . .” take his name out of your mouth.