Blacks Eye that John Kerry Guy

Clarence Page has an amusing yet thoughtful column this morning.

It’s not easy to be black. Just ask Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry. He recently expressed an unusual ambition. He wants to be the nation’s second black president. “President Clinton was often known as the first black president,” Kerry told the American Urban Radio Network last week. “I wouldn’t be upset if I could earn the right to be the second.”

I’m sure he wouldn’t. In fact, I’m sure Kerry would be tickled pink–or a few shades darker than that–to be America’s “second black president.”

In case you missed it, America’s “first black president” was Clinton, according to a satirical piece that Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, who was born black, wrote in a 1998 issue of The New Yorker. She was making a point about how Clinton’s hardscrabble Southern upbringing and his relentless persecution by conservatives had caused many African-Americans to circle their wagons around him as if he were an honorary soul brother.


[I]f Kerry wins the presidency, at least his wife would be our first African-American first lady. Theresa Heinz Kerry, whose ancestry is white Portuguese, was born and raised in Mozambique, and then joined the anti-apartheid movement as a college student in nearby South Africa. She may not be black, but she’s a lot more African than most Americans.

In the meantime, if her husband wants to develop the high comfort level that Clinton seems to share with black audiences, it won’t come cheap. Despite Kerry’s heroic Vietnam experience and close camaraderie with his fellow war veterans, Kerry is not widely known to be a contender in the Mr. Warmth contest.


I am one black American who applauds Kerry’s efforts to reach out to people of all colors who come from backgrounds quite different from his own. But I also offer a cautionary note: Be yourself. Trying too hard to be something you are not is decidedly uncool–and you don’t have to be black to know that.


FILED UNDER: Africa, Campaign 2004, The Presidency, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Moe Lane says:

    “But I also offer a cautionary note: Be yourself.”

    But what if he doesn’t know who he is?

  2. McGehee says:

    He can always be Al Gore.


    Wait a minute…

  3. Ursula says:

    To Clarence Page I say: “Amen My Brother.”