Time Warped

Time Warped
American Daily
by Jonathan Pait

The recent revelation of Essie Mae Washington-Williams that she is the daughter of the late Senator Strom Thrumond of South Carolina has caught the attention of the national press. All around the country reporters took what the AP fed them, changed a few words, added a local connection and passed it on to the public. The responses to the media hype are interesting, not so much for what they illuminate about the man or his daughter, but for what they reveal about us.

First the facts. Essie Mae Washington-Williams was brought into the world as the illegitimate daughter of 22-year-old Strom Thurmond and young 16-year-old, Carrie Butler. Strom was the son of a prominent family. Carrie was the young, black maid who worked in his parents’ home.

What we don’t know is the nature of the relationship. Was it consensual? Did the young Thrumond force himself upon the young girl? The bottom line is that we do not know the answer to those questions. Speculation doesn’t shed much light on that unknown aspect of the story, but it certainly turns the spotlight onto our own prejudices.

I am pleased to see this piece. The author, Jonathan Pait, was also the PR director at Bob Jones University (BJU) when, in the fall of 1998, I started taking them to task over their “interracial” dating/marriage ban. For the record, even though BJU was talking out of both sides of its institutional mouth while making excuses and lying about the origins of its “racialist” nonsense, I never held any personal animosity towards Pait in the exercise of his official duties. That said, he did publicly defend a policy built on prejudice, deliberate distortion of Scripture and lies. I am happy, nonetheless, to see him tackling this topic with regards to Thurmond. Pait also has a weblog available here.

One comment

  1. Time WarpedJonathan Pait, 12/22/03

    Jonathan Pait’s response to the revelation of Strom Thurmond’s mixed-race (as opposed to “black”) daughter is one of the most sensible I’ve read. There is certainly no evidence that Thurmond “raped” the mother of his child. It is more likely that the young girl was flattered by the attentions of the handsome son of her town’s most prominent white family.

    Many commentators on this issue have attempted to redefine “rape” as sexual relations in which the female is legally and socially “inferior” to the male. This redefinition was also used to describe the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings controversy. By that definition, nearly all marriages would have to be defined as “rape,” since it was only recently that a husband was denied the legal right to take his wife by force if she refused him.

    It should also be remembered that the light-skinned “mulatto elite” of the South were created by men like Strom Thurmond who provided support for their mixed-race offspring. Richard Mentor Johnson, the ninth vice president of the United States (1837-41), introduced his quadroon daughters into society and married them to white men.

    David Dickson, a wealthy planter of Hancock County, Georgia, left his entire estate to his daughter by a slave woman. Amanda America Dickson, born in 1849, was never treated as a slave but as her father’s very pampered only child.

    John Robert Jones of Harrisonburg, Virginia, a retired brigadier general in the Confederate Army, publicly recognized, loved and financially supported his mixed-race children. For this “dishonorable” behavior, he was cast out of the pantheon of Confederate military heroes.

    1/6/2004 12:22:49 PM

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