Are we all mixed race? Why Bill Clinton's right, but also very wrong.

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Aging white people can't seem to stop trying to claim people-of-color status.

On the heels of Meryl Streep asserting at a film festival that, "We are all Africans," former President Bill Clinton told a rally in Tennessee on Friday that "we are all mixed-race people."

Of course, on a purely scientific level, both are correct. To Meryl's point, the "Out of Africa" theory that homo sapiens originated somewhere around Ethiopia remains the dominant theory of human origins, although recent findings have raised questions about when this event (or events) occurred. There also appears to have been human interbreeding with Neanderthals, who did not originate in Africa.


As for Bill's comments, genetic testing has revealed that, indeed, many people are an amalgamation of different ethnicities. Among presidents, for instance, evidence has been found suggesting Thomas Jefferson may have had a Jewish ancestor, and that Abraham Lincoln may have had extremely distant ancestors from Central Asia. (No genetic tests appear to have yet been performed to verify Toni Morrison's joke that Bill Clinton was America's first black president).

The separate and more important issue here is what is implied by the pairs' assertions.While they presumably hoped to be interpreted as making well-meaning statements about diversity, one could also read them as meaning minorities don't have as much of a right to be speaking out as much as they are about issues they currently face. And that is very wrong.


It's the same debate found in the "Black lives matter" vs "All lives matter" argument. No one disputes that all lives matter. But as a very well-spoken Reddit user recently explained:

…When a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate—young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Older white people: Please refrain from making such comments in the future.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.