You are on page 1of 4

The goal of this paper is to use two theories to interpret significant developmental moments/stages of Muhammad Alis life from

the 1960s to the early 2000s. There are instances where certain events early on in a persons life impact that persons psychology drastically for the rest of their life. Ali was no exception. One such instance occurred in a restaurant during the Jim Crow era and will be viewed through the phenomenologicalhumanistic view. The second theory will explore Alis Internal View of himself regarding his religion using the theory of self-realization from a humanistic viewpoint. This paper will conclude with a summary section to bring everything together and explain why the specific theories were selected. Racial prejudice cannot be understood completely without understanding the subjective experience of someone affected by it. That is what phenomenology is about; it looks into how people privately experience their own world. Under the Jim Crow system every restaurant, hotel, and movie theater in the entire South was either closed to Blacks, or had segregated sections for them. In a restaurant in Louisville, a young Ali (then Cassius Clay) wanted to see whether his Olympic Gold Medal would afford him a chance at equality and freedom to eat at this particular place. He was still refused because of the color of his skin. The more I thought about it, the more I began to see that if that medal didn't mean equality for all, it didn't mean anything at all. Ali continues, I wanted that medal to mean that I was my own man and would be respected and treated like any other human being. Continuing in line with this theoretical conception: Ali reminiscing, What I remember most about 1960 was the first time I took my gold medal off. From that moment on, I have never placed great value on material things. What really matters is how you feel about yourself. If I had kept that medal I would have lost my

pride. Over the years I have told some people I had lost it, but no one ever found it. That's because I lost it on purpose. The world should know the truth - it's somewhere at the bottom of the Ohio River. (Ali, 2004). The above quotations are examples of personal experience describing what he personally felt at the way he was treated in a very selfdescriptive way in line with the phenomenological spirit. The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did when he was twenty has wasted thirty years of his life. The aforementioned quote by Ali would be incomplete without a great example to give it substance. In a much earlier interview he gave to David Frost, Ali was quoted saying that: I really believe that all white people are devils (ITV 1968). He has since come to recant that saying, Anybody can be evil. Its the mentality, not the color[1] (ITV 2002). The Self-Actualization process is demonstrated in a remarkably succinct way by Ali, around 30 some odd years later. Ali expresses traits that prove him to be a man of involved in a journey of self-discovery, self-improvement, and what he would call his own spiritual evolution. Alis religion of Islam played a tremendous role in the shaping of who he is and the impact he had on the world. It goes to show in yet another example of a self-actualized person when he refused induction into the U.S. military, saying I aint got no quarrel with those Vietcong. Here, he chose to denounce adjustment to society, not what he personally believed. He stood his ground and asserted his rights on the grounds of his religious beliefs: my religious beliefs were not compatible with the responsibilities and expectations of a soldier in combat. I didn't agree with the reasons why we were in Vietnam in the first place, but most especially I couldn't see myself trying to injure or kill people whom I didn't even know, people who had never done any harm to me or my

country. (Ali, 2004). This shows that Ali was and is a man that appears very true to himself: He was ethical, autonomous, and honest about his own feelings, which are all without question marks of an actualized human being. The phenomenological-humanistic theory is especially useful in getting in the head of Muhammad Ali. There is no better way to understand where he is coming from than from revealing his own writings describing his own personal experiences. Since Ali is such a religious/spiritual man, it tied real well with the ideas of The Meaningful Life and/or Self-Actualizing ideas under the humanistic conceptions as well. These subjective/internal descriptions expressed in the body of this paper showed how Ali dealt with prejudice (white only restaurant) as well as governmental coercion (draft) at that time. He exhibits qualities that fall under the list of Maslows Self-Actualizing people and that in turn would suggest Ali to be according to Maslow a healthy personality. He was man enough to say when he was wrong (calling all white people devils) and his decision to not be drafted was his right and he was right.

1. "MUHAMMAD ALI: THEN AND NOW" (1-hour, INT'L VERSION) - 2002 Muhammad Ali -Then And Now (Documentary with David Frost) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMchcGU4gU4 * About 28 min and 30 seconds to about 32 minutes and 25 seconds 2. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/muhammad-ali-refuses-army-induction Apr 28, 1967: Muhammad Ali refuses Army induction