04/11/2015 23:24 SAST | Updated 05/06/2016 00:58 SAST

Watch Muhammad Ali's Perfect Response To 'Not All White People Are Racist' -- In 1971

Saying not everyone is racist doesn't make racism go away.

So often reaction to people of color who call out racism, be it police brutality or job discrimination, is the "not all white people" argument. Like "not all men," this defense is used to derail conversations about racism by reminding people of color that some white people are "good," and that not all white people are actually racist. It's a frustrating argument because it completely dismisses the lived experiences of people of color, and oversimplifies how racism actually affects us.

In a clip from a 1971 interview on the British chat show Parkinson (above) that's now gone viral on Tumblr, boxing icon Muhammad Ali perfectly explains why the existence of some "good" white people isn't always enough:

There are many white people who mean right and in their hearts wanna do right. If 10,000 snakes were coming down that aisle now, and I had a door that I could shut, and in that 10,000, 1,000 meant right, 1,000 rattlesnakes didn't want to bite me, I knew they were good... Should I let all these rattlesnakes come down, hoping that that thousand get together and form a shield? Or should I just close the door and stay safe?

Allies are obviously appreciated and vital to stopping racial injustice, but Ali's words are still a pretty powerful reminder of the reality of being black in America. It's pretty amazing, if unfortunate, that over 40 years later his words still resonate. 

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