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Donald Trump’s Tweet About Muhammad Ali Is Whitewashing At Its Finest

Donald Trump’s Twitter is making headlines again, this time for a seemingly innocent tweet — a rarity for the real estate mogul turned politician.

Last Friday, Trump took to Twitter to pay tribute to the late Muhammad Ali, who passed away earlier that day at 74. What’s angered some on social media is the contradiction of Trump, who is known to tap into Islamophobia for political gain, honoring the boxing legend, who was a devout Muslim.


Related Story: This Is What Being Black At A Trump Rally Looks Like

His question to Obama featured above is one of a string of Muslim bashing that has been characteristic of the Trump campaign since he entered national politics.

When each tweet is placed next to one another, they appear contradictory — Donald Trump asking Barack Obama to furnish the name of a Muslim, sports hero while at the same time using the words “great champion” and “wonderful guy” to describe Ali … a Muslim sports hero.

Maybe this is just your average case of political strategy. After all, we are in an election year. As such, it’s custom for candidates to devise ways to identify with a particular constituency of voters.

Thus, if you’re Donald Trump — a candidate who has used racists and xenophobic fears and sentiment to advance his political ambition, who is forced to point to a single African-American supporter at one of his rallies to prove his credentials with the Black community — paying tribute to Muhammad Ali plays to the crowd and offers a way to offset the more incendiary remarks you’ve uttered about Blacks and Muslims.  It’s whitewashing, at its finest.

Still, Ali was a Muslim. He worshiped the same Allah, read the same Koran, and attended the same mosque as all the other Muslims. Yet, for Trump and other white mourners across the country, the man called “the greatest” stands above reproach.

How? Why?

Here’s my suspicion. It begins with the conviction that in America, racism and white supremacy work in the strangest way. The logic of white supremacy demands white people celebrate or obliterate people of color when it’s convenient for their own narrative of American (“white”) dream.

Starting out from this premise suggest that it’s perfectly fine for Donald Trump to contradict himself because in his mind — the mind of the white imagination — no such contradiction exists.

Donald Trump and the whites who believe he will lead them to the “promised land” don’t see Ali as an African American or a Muslim, but a rich, successful American, who pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. And if it’s inconvenient to remember that Ali was Black and a fierce critic of the treatment of American Blacks or that he’s Muslim or he criticized anti-Muslim rhetoric, leave it out. So long as whiteness remains the center.

Nothing else matters. Not truth. Not rationality. Only the white center.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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