Commentary: Morgan Freeman’s Misguided "Mixed-Race President" Quote

The legendary Black actor made a silly mistake when he said Obama isn’t a truly Black president, because fewer and fewer truly Black Americans exist.

Morgan Freeman is one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood, and for good reason: He’s handsome in the way we expect wizened and wise old men to be, he’s got an eminently soothing voice, and, above it all, he’s a hyper-talented thespian. Kudos to Freeman for rising to the top of his craft. Where Freeman tends to falter, however, is when it comes to talking about race and politics.


Back in 2005, Freeman caused a stir when he called Black History Month "ridiculous." "You're going to relegate my history to a month?" he said on an episode of the iconic news show 60 Minutes. "I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history." Besides saying we should scrap Black History Month, Freeman went on to say that talking about race is what keeps bigotry alive. He said he’d prefer if people called him just "a man" instead of "a Black man," and that the only way to defeat racism is to "stop talking about it."


Naturally, the backlash to Freeman’s statements were immediate, and he later said his quotes were taken out of context. You might think this experience would make Freeman hesitant to go running his mouth about race in any more interviews. You’d be wrong.


In a new interview with NPR, Freeman said that he takes issue with people calling Barack Obama our "first Black president."


"First thing that always pops into my head regarding our president is that all of the people who are setting up this barrier for him … they just conveniently forget that Barack had a mama, and she was white — very white American, Kansas, middle of America. There was no argument about who he is or what he is. America’s first black president hasn’t arisen yet. He’s not America’s first black president — he’s America’s first mixed-race president."


Freeman’s hesitance to call Obama the first Black president is fine if that’s his choice on the matter. But as long as we’re splitting hairs, it should be noted that it’s going to be mighty hard to ever elect a Black president who isn’t, as Freeman calls it, "mixed race."


The fact of the matter, according to geneticist Mark Shriver at Morehouse College, is that the majority of African-Americans (58 percent) have at least 12.5 percent European blood. What’s more, nearly 20 percent of Black Americans have at least 25 percent European blood in their veins, meaning about a fifth of Black people have the equivalent of one white grandparent. And, as more people see less of a problem with interracial dating and marriage, as studies show they do, Black children with healthy quantities of European blood are being born all the time.


It’s simple: You can no longer call a Black person definitely Black and a white person definitely white, because that’s not how life works. After centuries of interracial relationships, what exactly composes a person’s bloodline is difficult to parse based on looks alone, and that’s OK. It just might come as a shock to people like Freeman, who, despite the fact that he had two so-called "Black" parents, is probably filled with European blood. Going by his calculations, perhaps we should start calling Freeman "Hollywood’s preeminent mixed race actor," — just to cover our bases, of course.


The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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