Catching Bad Santas Saddam and Strom
December 21, 2003
This holy holiday season is meant for inspiration. This year, itís more about revelations.
We found Strom to be bad and Saddam looking bad (we already knew he was bad).
As he underwent his first American dental exam, Saddam looked like an Iraqi bad Santa caught for the holiday. Instead of coming down a chimney, he came out of a hole, bearded and dirty, showing cowardice and bearing a list of his evil elves.
Then, came the news about Strom, our South Carolina Santa who gave us federal gifts over many holiday seasons. He went peacefully into his gravesite hole without being caught - until now. We found that Strom had his own cowardice and a list of black relatives.
Instead of her daddy revealing to us that he was her father, Essie Mae Washington-Williams had to tell us herself.
She had the DNA on her side if not her daddy.
While Strom was saying that, "all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes," he had already fathered Essie Mae, a mixed-race child. Her mom was a teenage black maid in Stromís house. Strom was 22, her mom was 16. We can only hope that there was some romance involved. But, as the New York Times has noted, it was a time in the south "where white men saw access to black women as a coming-of-age ritual."
We rejoiced at Saddamís capture because it was a clear victory of good over evil.
There was no joy in Strom being caught.
Is this not a victory of truth over lies?
Yes, but Stromís family is embarrassed which has subdued the news of truth in South Carolina.
One family member hopes that her black relative is "coming out for the right reasons." Is not the truth enough?
Another Thurmond family member says that she cannot welcome Mrs. Washington-Williams because "It's too much to accept right now."
How can a black relative be such a heavy burden?
It all comes down to traditional southern racism.
We can debate in theory about race relations in this country, the need for affirmative action programs and for an MLK Day in Greenville County.
However, here, we have an example of real racism in what one of the news reports calls the "royal family" of South Carolina.
Over its history, racism has triumphed over truth in South Carolina.
Strom was famous for his constituent service but public service cannot only be about giving people what they want.
Strom had an opportunity to rise above these common services by being a true leader who could have confronted racism by telling his own life story. Yet, he just went along with the racism of the times.
South Carolina has honored Strom by putting his name on public schools that would not be accepting his own grandchildren if he had his way.
There are statutes and plaques and honorariums galore respecting the legacy of this man.
Unlike Strom, the people of this state should not miss an opportunity to confront and deal directly with its racist past.
In the same way that the confederate flag was taken down from the statehouse capital, the statue of Strom should be taken down. Instead of the visionary pose shown by this statue, we now know that Strom was more interested in maintaining political power than in telling the truth.
Instead of leading his constituents to support civil rights, he fought against civil rights for his own blood relatives.
He was willing to pay hush money and to live a lie to stay in power for almost 50 years.
Is this a man to honor?
We need to topple the Strom statue.