Bill Clinton Was Happy to Be a Stand-In for the 1st Black President, Says We’re All ‘Mixed-Raced People’

Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele
Former President Bill Clinton, husband of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speaks during a rally at Manchester Community College on Feb. 8, 2016, in Manchester, N.H.
Don Emmert/Getty Images

To be fair, it was black Americans back in the 1990s who had President Bill Clinton walking around thinking he was the nation's first black president.

During a stump speech in Memphis, Tenn., for his wife Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Clinton touched on that idea when the congressman who introduced him did so by referencing that joke, the Huffington Post reports.


"The other thing I want to make a funny comment about is [Rep.] Steve Cohen's remark that I was just a stand-in for the first black president," Clinton said jokingly. "I'm happy to do that," he continued, delighting in the idea—as he has before—that he was once thought of as the first black president.

And then, in an apparent attempt to make a point about how we Americans are all more alike than not, he brought up how all humans are mixed-race and descended from ancestors from Africa.

"But you know what else we learned from the human genome? We learned that […] every one of you are 100 percent, 100 percent from sub-Saharan Africa, we are all mixed-race people," he said.

That may be true, but race—the social construct we've created to distinguish people along ethnic lines and the amount of melanin in their skin—is still very real. It has real implications. It dictates the kind of life you'll lead and certainly how you'll be perceived on earth. Which ultimately dictates your upward mobility. And so, that we're mixed at the genome level doesn't really matter on a practical level.


People don't walk around thinking of other people at the genome level.

I'd advise Clinton to leave talk about how we're all mixed race out of his speeches when he campaigns for his wife. They probably won't serve her campaign any good.  


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Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.

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