Bill Clinton tells crowd 'We are all mixed-race people'

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Bill Clinton Tells Tennessee Rally All Have African Ancestry

The man sometimes half-seriously referred to as America's first black president offered some (perhaps ill-advised) commentary on America's real first black president this week.

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According to the New York Post, a paper with a well-known conservative bent, while campaigning for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday, her husband — former President Bill Clinton — seemingly downplayed the importance of President Barack Obama's race.

"The other thing I want to make a funny comment about is Steve Cohen's remark that I was just a stand-in for the first black president," Clinton remarked. "I'm happy to do that, but you know what else we learned from the human genome? We learned that unless your ancestors, every one of you, are 100%, 100% from sub-Saharan Africa, we are all mixed-race people."

Source: YouTube

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Clinton's point may have been well-intentioned and a little self-effacing, but he certainly seems to be mixing up the scientific reality of genetics with the modern social construction of race, a much more recent phenomenon. To put it another way, whether or not certain people are treated to a different standard according to their perceived race remains an extremely important part of society, regardless of whether all humans have much more in common genetically than they have differences.

"Race has never been much about skin color, or physical features, so much as the need to name someone before doing something to them," argued the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates in a 2015 essay on Clinton's unofficial label. "Race is not a sober-minded description of peoples. It is casus belli."

Complex called the remark "not-so-smart." Clinton should also have known better, seeing as actress Meryl Streep recently came under fire on social media for telling an audience at the Berlin Film Festival, "We're all Africans, really."

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However, the former president's night was not as full of gaffes as reported. Another comment Clinton made at the gathering about politics being "rigged because you don't have a president who is a change maker," widely interpreted as a dig at President Barack Obama, was actually followed by a compliment on how well Obama has done despite congressional opposition preventing him from actually being that change maker.

See images of Bill Clinton campaigning for wife Hillary Clinton:

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Bill Clinton tells crowd 'We are all mixed-race people'
Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2016 3/31/16 Former United States President Bill Clinton campaigns in support of his wife - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton - at the headquarters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 (AFSCME DC 37). (NYC)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEWTON, MA - MARCH 1: President Bill Clinton greets people at the Newton Free Library in Newton, Mass., during Massachusetts primary voting on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
RIVIERA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 15: President Bill Clinton campaigns for Hillary Clinton at Port of Palm Beach on February 15, 2016 in Riviera Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mychal Watts/WireImage)
MANCHESTER, NH - FEBRUARY 08: Former U.S. president Bill Clinton speaks during a 'Get Out The Vote Clinton Family Event' for democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Manchester Community College on February 8, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. With one day to go before the New Hampshire primaries, Hillary Clinton continues to campaign throughout the state. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, left to right, speaks as her husband Bill Clinton, former U.S. president, and their daughter Chelsea Clinton look on during a primary night event in Hooksett, New Hampshire, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Clinton congratulated Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, on his victory in her concession speech in Hooksett and vowed to battle on, saying she knows how to get results voters are demanding. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton embrace during a campaign stop Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Hudson, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 16 - Former President Bill Clinton reaches for a hand after a campaign event as he helps promote his wife, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
Former President Bill Clinton greets supporters at a campaign office for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ankeny, Iowa, Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Bill Clinton, former U.S. President and husband of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, center, takes a 'selfie' photographs after speaking at a campaign rally at Exeter Town Hall in Exeter, New Hampshire, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. After spending the first eight months of his wifes candidacy behind the scenes, advising and fundraising out of sight of voters and the media, the never-shy former president is upping his level of public engagement starting today. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 16 - Chelsea Clinton listens as her father, former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event as they help promote his wife, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 16 - Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a campaign event along with his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, as they help promote his wife, democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
MARSHALLTOWN, IA - JANUARY 15: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton greets guests after speaking at a campaign event for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at Marshalltown Community College on January 15, 2016 in Marshalltown, Iowa. Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates and their surrogates have been making appearances at events across Iowa to build support in advance of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. (Photo by Charles Ledford/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, right, stands on stage with husband Bill Clinton, former U.S. president, at the conclusion of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. With Vice President Joe Biden officially out of the presidential race, the nation's first nominating contest between front-runner Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders is gaining steam, according to a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former president of the United States Bill Clinton delivers his speech during a commemorative rally in memory of late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, at Rabin Square in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on October 31, 2015. The rally is part of commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of Rabin's killing by a right-wing Jewish extremist. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
Bill Clinton, former U.S. President and husband of Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, arrives to speak during a rally ahead of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Clinton's odds of winning the Democratic presidential nomination are now at or near an all-time high, according to prediction markets PredictWise, Pivit, and PredictIt. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Former President Bill Clinton greets a visitor to Newbo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, before speaking at a campaign stop for his wife Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton at the National Czech & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton wears a shirt reading "Bill for First Lady" before a speech by Clinton during a campaign event at Broward College, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former US President Bill Clinton hug after she officially launched her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination during a speech at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island June 13, 2015 in New York. Hillary Clinton announced Saturday she was running for president for all Americans, unveiling a progressive platform promising to promote equal opportunity and fight for a beleaguered middle class. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: People cheer after Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands on stage with her husband former president Bill Clinton after her official kickoff rally at the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan on June 13, 2015 in New York City. The long awaited speech at a historical location associated with the values Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined in his 1941 State of the Union address, is the Democratic the candidateÃs attempt to define the issues of her campaign to become the first female president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: People cheer as Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stands on stage with her husband former president Bill Clinton after her official kickoff rally at the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan on June 13, 2015 in New York City. The long awaited speech at a historical location associated with the values Franklin D. Roosevelt outlined in his 1941 State of the Union address, is the Democratic the candidateÃs attempt to define the issues of her campaign to become the first female president of the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2016 3/31/16 Former United States President Bill Clinton campaigns in support of his wife - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton - at the headquarters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 37 (AFSCME DC 37). (NYC)
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton makes remarks at the Hillary Victory Fund "I'm With Her" benefit concert for his wife, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, at Radio City Music Hall in the Manhattan borough of New York City, March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
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