Cassius Clay Jr. claims that the white race is obsessed with guilt about the Negro, and in order to prove his point he puts on a performance, a sort of one-man happening, in which he plays all parts including sound-effects man:
"A house is on fire, pretend. You're sleeping next to your partner. [Sound: snoring.] You open one eye, and you see the house is on fire. Your partner's still sleeping. [Sound: snoring and whistling.] And you see this hot lava and this burning two-by-four is getting ready to fall on your partner, and you get out of the bed. You run out of the house without waking him up!
"When you get outside, you say [clasping hands and looking skyward], 'Oh, Lord, what have I done wrong? I was so selfish and greedy, worrying about myself until I forgot my partner inside. Oh [wringing hands], he's probably daid, the house caved in. [Dramatic pause.]
"And then he comes out just in time and he looks you in your face!
"Right then you feel he's supposed to kill you. You know what you'd do if somebody left you in a burning house. Right then you feel he's supposed to hate you because he would have a right to hate you. And he says, 'Man, why didn't you wake me up? Why did you let me stay in that house? [Shouting.] The house was on fire! Man, you were gonna let me burn! What's the trouble with you, bub?'
"Right then you'd take the defense. You'd say, 'I didn't know, I didn't mean it. Don't kill me!' You feel like he might kill you.
"Well, that's what white Americans are like. The house's been on fire for 310 years, and the whites have let the blacks sleep. The Negro's been lynched, killed, raped, burned, dragged around all through the city hanging on the chains of cars, alcohol and turpentine poured into his wounds. That's why the Negroes are so full of fear today. Been put into him from the time he's a baby. Imagine! Twenty-two million Negroes in America, suffering, fought in the wars, got more worse treatment than any human being can even imagine, walking the streets of America in 1966, hungry with no food to eat, walk the streets with no shoes on, existing on relief, living in charity and poorhouses, 22 million people who faithfully served America and who have worked and who still loves his enemy are still dogged and kicked around."
Cassius Clay's attitude on race is a tortured confusion of truth, half-truth and untruth based on hatred and distrust of the oppressing whites and pity and compassion for the victimized Negroes. He claims to believe literally that all whites are devils and challenges any "whitey" to prove otherwise. He is firmly dedicated to segregation, and he believes that God, or Allah, is on the side of the black man and will cause the downfall of the United States before the end of the year.
All these beliefs grew inevitably out of his own pride and his reactions to early indignities suffered at the hands of white people in his home town, Louisville. They were reinforced by simple lessons in hate learned at his father's knee and by advanced lessons in hate learned at the feet of his surrogate father, Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Black Muslims. And they were buttressed intellectually by certain unfortunate social truths about white Americans and their relations with other races.
As in many other matters involving the heavyweight champion, how he could keep his intensity hidden for so many years is a mystery. Until the change in his draft status fanned some of his anger and made him reveal himself, at least slightly, Clay's public image had been that of a naive young man who was being led to parrot antiwhite remarks but who, underneath it all, loved mankind, whites as well as blacks. Every time he took an antiwhite step, such as his move to divert theater-TV revenues into the Black Muslim hate group, his close admirers explained that Cassius meant no harm. "Cassius love all people," said his mother. "He's just that type of person." And Aunt Coretta said, "How Cassius could wind up with people like the Muslims is just one of those things you can't comprehend. But I really know that Cassius isn't like that. Any white man that walks up the street now and says 'Hello, son,' he'll shake hands with 'em and have words with 'em."