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18 Yale J.L. & Feminism 451 (2006)
Anything but a Hypocrite: Interactional Musings on Race, Colorblindness, and the Redemption of Strom Thurmond

handle is hein.journals/yjfem18 and id is 455 raw text is: Anything but a Hypocrite:
Interactional Musings on Race, Colorblindness,
and the Redemption of Strom Thurmond
Osagie K. Obasogiet
ABSTRACT. In December 2003, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a bi-racial
retired schoolteacher living in Southern California, revealed that she is the
illegitimate daughter of the late Strom Thurmond. Thurmond served as South
Carolina's United States Senator for nearly fifty years and was a passionate
segregationist during the Civil Rights Era. Washington-Williams's revelation
shocked many because few people outside South Carolina had expected
Thurmond to have a Black daughter. But this story is not simply about race.
Carrie Butler, Washington-Williams's mother, was a teenage maid in
Thurmond's parents' home when the then-twenty-two-year-old Thurmond had
sex with her. Both the law of South Carolina and the power dynamic between
Black women and White men during the Jim Crow era suggests that Thurmond
statutorily raped and/or sexually assaulted Butler. Yet, this aspect of the story
has been largely ignored; journalists reporting on Thurmond's Black child
focused on Thurmond's hypocrisy-that is, his readiness to preach segregation
while practicing integration of the most intimate kind.
This Article begins with a content analysis of news articles following this
story's break, which shows that journalists largely reported Washington-
Williams's revelation as a story of racial hypocrisy without fully discussing the
issues of rape or sexual assault. After legally and historically situating the
Thurmond-Butler relationship, this Article then develops a theory of
interactionality, grounded upon Kimberl6 Crenshaw's intersectionality analysis,
to explore how and why journalists missed this story. This Article argues that
a colorblind race ideology can at least partially explain this omission. By
focusing on race aesthetics without a deeper conversation about racism, and by
taking the potential rape and sexual assault out of their narrative, journalists
were able to partially absolve America of any lingering racial guilt or unease,
ultimately impeding any path towards genuine racial redemption.
f B.A., Yale University; J.D., Columbia Law School; Ph.D. candidate, University of California,
Berkeley. I am deeply indebted to Kathryn Abrams, Lauren Edelman, Ian Haney L6pez, Angela Harris,
Samuel Lucas, Camille Nelson, and Angela Onwuachi-Willig for their thoughts and support throughout
this project. A special thanks also to Jordan Elias, D'Lonra Ellis, Andrew Rosen, Aliya Saperstein,
Gabrielle Williams, and Peter Younkin.

Copyright © 2006 by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

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