If Bill Clinton is still fair game, then why not Thomas Jefferson and Strom Thurmond?
Yes, white women, get mad. Feel the outrage. Push for full-throated accountability and reflection across the nation. Even if it means you need to reach as far back as 1992. But why stop there?
If America is truly to reckon with its horrendous past of powerful men using their offices and influence to oppress women, start with the men who sanctioned it in the first place. Start with America’s favorite son. Its Founder. Thomas Jefferson.
Send a message to the world that America has never been morally right.
Yes, Sally Hemings, a black woman. Thomas Jefferson’s slave. He owned her. Even if you are in the camp that believes they were lovers, did she have the ability to leave him? Could she say no? She was property. And though some may counter that the law of the land at that time made it legal, who wrote the laws that oppressed her? Does it make sexual assault better that the assaulter helped create the nation and system of patriarchy that denied Sally any rights? And is it really moral to hide behind immoral statutes that should never have existed in the first place? Finally, in terms of Sally’s silence, this is no mere case of someone not believing her. To whom could Sally report her truth?
If we sympathize with Monica Lewinsky as a young, impressionable intern, who could accept or reject freely, can we not sympathize with a young slave having no decision at all?
Or is it acceptable because Thomas Jefferson is dead? Does death make one less a predator? Because Clinton is alive and Jefferson is dead, that means America will never atone for its greatest sin? For those of you not following, that would be slavery. Which America carried out under the guise of “the law of the land”. Laws that powerful, sinister white men wrote to protect and justify their destructive peculiar institutions.
Though Bill Clinton is out of office, his legacy lived on through his wife, famous daughter, foundation, much of the leadership of the Democratic Party that embraced him. As well as powerful social influencers like Gloria Steinem and Maxine Waters who defended him, whom girls still look up to. Though Hillary Clinton is incredibly smart, I don’t know that she would have made it to the 2008 and 2016 presidential campaigns without his coattails. Just being honest. Part of Clinton’s legacy is good, but as we see, some of it rots with the mold of patriarchy and good ole boy payola.
In the same vein, Jefferson is gone, but his degradation of humans defined and molded America. From bedding Sally Hemings to keeping slaves, his hypocrisy set the example for many other powerful men to emulate. James Callender tried to alert citizens of the time to Jefferson’s hypocrisy, but many brushed him aside:
IT is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, keeps, and for many years past has kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves. Her name is Sally. The name of her eldest son is Tom. His features are said to bear a striking although sable resemblance to those of the president himself. The boy is ten or twelve years of age. His mother went to France in the same vessel with Mr. Jefferson and his two daughters. The delicacy of this arrangement must strike every person of common sensibility. What a sublime pattern for an American ambassador to place before the eyes of two young ladies!
-“The President, Again,” published on September 1, 1802, in the Recorder
Americans’ willingness to conveniently overlook Jefferson, set the morals and values in place that drove America for centuries. Oppression and subjugation without apology became the American way. While president after president, who inherited Jefferson’s legacy, wagged their hypocritical finger at the tyrants of the world. It was America’s way as the U.S. fought off Santa Anna, Adolf Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. This convenient subjugation was America’s way as it allowed many Bill Clintons to thrive unchecked for centuries, in the name of American domination and global hegemony.
If Bill Clinton and Al Franken must atone for what they did in the past, why shouldn’t America?
The Jefferson descendants should issue a formal apology to the Hemings. And the United States Congress should issue a formal apology to the black race, signed by the President.
It’s the same principle. Purity. Absolution. It’s not just about the apology. It’s about accountability and healing. For everyone. Not just white women.
Until America can deal with the elephant in the room – its hypocrisy on sexual and racial oppression – any apology from anybody is nothing more than window dressing.