He was, of course, friendly to Black correspondents – in­deed, interviewing Muhammad was often their apprentice­ship. With no other famous Black man were they likely to receive as much courtesy: Ali answered questions in full. He answered them to microphones for future radio pro­grammes and to microphones for reporters with tape re­corders, he slowed up his speech for journalists taking notes, and was relaxed if one did not take a note…

Topics went by. He spoke of Africans learning the tech­nology of the world. “Usually you feel safer if you see a white face flying a plane,” he said. “It just seems like a white man should fix the jet engine. Yet here they are all Black. That impressed me very much,” he said. Of course when he was most sincere, so could he mean it least. In a similar conversation with friends, he had winked and added, “I never believe the bullshit that the pilots is all Black. I keep looking for the secret closet where they hide the white man until the trouble starts.” He winked, as if this remark need have no more validity than the previous one.

Norman Mailer: “The Fight”.

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