I’ve got a bone to pick with Toni Morrison.
For years she’s been getting credit for an honor that I deserve. She wasn’t the first person to write in a national magazine that Bill Clinton is actually a Negro. I was.
All that media coverage that quotes her 1998 New Yorker article in which she anointed Clinton our “first black President” omits a significant fact: When it comes to Negro-fying old Bill, she was merely following in my footsteps!
Six months before her piece came out in October 1998, I wrote in my column in TIME magazine that Clinton, “connects with blacks so strongly that some of us jokingly maintain that he’s only passing for white.” I didn’t have space to list all the evidence of Clinton’s true ethnicity: The fact that his mother smoked Kools to his marriage to a not especially good-looking white woman. But I practically called him The Spook Who Sat By the Door!
What more did I have to do? Shouldn’t I get the credit, not Morrison? I’ve suffered in silence over the years as my role in making Bill Clinton black was ignored, but those days are over. I’m reclaiming my mantle as the first to induct Clinton into the race so that I can be the first to kick him back out again.
He can’t play the race card against brother Obama (whom Morrison endorsed this week and whom I’m planning to vote for) and expect to keep his membership in what the fictional Pearly Victorious called the “Negro Profession”.
So from now on, think of Clinton as the first ex-black President. Bill Clinton, black-no-more.
Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.