Culture, Life, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Politics, Racism, Social Commentary, The Resistance

Float like a Butterfly

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest athletes of our time, but his opponents extended far beyond the boxing ring. We too can be the champions of the battles we fight each day if we are adaptable and courageous.

Being a black Muslim in the 1970’s produced its own challenges in the forms of racism and Islamophobia. One of the characteristics that made Ali so remarkable was his ability to stand firm in his beliefs, regardless of who was opposing him. If you look up any video today, you’ll see ferocious confidence in his self-expression.

Being unique today requires tremendous courage to challenge the status quo. Heroes are scarce in our generation because most of us have been taught to limit our critical thinking for a paycheck; by fitting into society like a standardized cog in a machine. Ali found courage within himself and became an individual. You can also cultivate this courage for self-expression.

In nature, a butterfly is able to float because it is light, agile and curious. On the other hand, a bumble bee has similar capabilities but different mindset: workers that’ll defend the queen and hive with their sting. Humans however are not restricted to any particular pattern, because self awareness allow us to change our perspective when presented with new information.

When Muhammad Ali’s saying, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was also a comment on how humans can adapt their nature. We can be light on our feet and observe like a butterfly, but change and strike with purpose like a bee. We are not restricted to nature’s patterns, but to recognize and change them requires self-awareness and that courage deep inside you. Adapt, and you will overcome anything.

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Racism

I Don’t Buy Cars From Mexicans, Said the Indian

It was one of those birthday nights when the bartender violates your debit card so badly, she returns it to you with a Band-Aid by the end of the night. I was driving home after a friend’s birthday celebration, and forgot to fill up gas that morning. I pulled into a nearby gas station and walked in to pay since the card reader outside wasn’t working. I looked around the store for the attendant, and a middle aged Indian man emerged from the back of the store. This guy was a cookie cutter Indian attendant you find at almost every convenience store, fully loaded with bad grammar, strong Indian accent and never at the front of the store when you walk in. This attendant came in a special “Deluxe Indian Package” wrapped in curry leaves and sealed with turmeric paste.

I knew I should have filled up gas in the morning as soon as he looked at my debit card with my very Indian name on it. “Aaaah, Rajendra! What part India you are from?” he asked in broken English as he kept grinning through an open mouth containing bad teeth. He took my money and looked outside at the pump where I was parked and asked “You have a Toyota car? I am looking for the car you know?” he explained, “How much you sell your car for? What is the mileage?”

I wasn’t sure if I was buying gas anymore, or selling my car. His change in conversation was as random as the thick gold chain he was wearing. While I explained to him that my car wasn’t for sale, another group of Hispanic people pulled up to fill gas. They had a “For Sale” sign on their well-maintained Honda Civic. I told the attendant that he should inquire with them, to which he responded “Oh they are Mexican. Dirty people. They drink the tequila with worm in it. Disgusting people, no values.”

“Yeah that’s true,” I agreed. “I can’t believe how Mexican people can eat that stuff. But anyway, let me purchase these two hamburgers and this bag of beef jerky. I don’t know why beef tastes so good!” His eyes bulged out from behind his thick glasses. “You eat beef?! What kind of Indian are you?” he yelled at me. I swiped my debit card, collected my receipt as quickly as I could and headed for the door. But not before turning back to say, “The kind who doesn’t sell his car to disgusting Indians.”