An Idea: Recalling Clinton, Morrison

Johann Hari doesn’t like the Clintons (nor do I, as it happens, even though I am personally responsible for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy):

The idea that Clinton was “the first black President” was always implicitly racist: so screwing around, riffing well in speeches and liking fried chicken makes you black now?

I guess that depends on which idea of Clinton as first black President he is referring to here, and I have seen Clinton described casually as the ‘first black president’ in various places, but I don’t imagine that was what Toni Morrison had in mind when she wrote about the idea:

African-American men seemed to understand it right away. Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and bodysearched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear “No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and–who knows?–maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.”

I fear I should apologise in advance for the title of this post.

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