Strom und Drang
From the Department of Delicious Irony we get news that the late Strom Thurmond, the perpetual Senator from South Carolina who died in June, had fathered a child out of wedlock with a black teenager. That child, Esther Mae Williams, is now in her sixties, and for the first time in a life of secrecy she is publicly acknowledging the identity of her daddy.
Discovering that a man of upstanding morals has been very naughty is nothing new. We half expect our leaders and exemplars to succumb eventually to lust and venality, if only to prove their humanity. What’s noteworthy about Senator Thurmond’s long-hidden dalliance is that he made a career as one of the last and most outspoken segregationists. He was “Old South,” a pillar of racial separatism who spoke forcefully of the need to keep blacks and whites in their respective places — far away from one and other. (He changed his mind later in life.) Old Strom even had a secret sobriquet for Negroes. He called them “Freds”.
Pundits are comparing the Thurmond revelation with the news that Thomas Jefferson was diddling Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves. To us, Strom’s antics are even more deliciously, poetically wonderful. Racist morons will surely find a way to interpret the Senator’s “mistake” as another instance of the dirty soiling the clean, or some such nonsense. But we’ll continue to believe that this latest episode of wayward desire is further evidence that the power of human attraction is more compelling than any spurious theory of race.