I'll Say This for Strom ThurmondHe was no hypocrite. Most commentators on the revelation of Strom's illegitimate child, like Anna Quindlen, are criticizing the late racist for hypocrisy -- advocating segregation and fighting "miscegenation" on the one hand, while fathering a child with a black woman on the other. I think calling him a hypocrite lets him off the hook too easily. Hypocrisy, to be sure, is a great sin, but Thurmond's were greater still. From where I sit, his fathering a child with his family's black maid was perfectly consistent with his avowed racial views. He viewed the maid as his property, his to do with as he pleased. It was not uncommon, in the antebellum South, for slave owners to rape their female slaves. Yet it was this culture that spawned the anti-miscegenation laws struck down in Loving. These laws did not make Southerners hypocrites. They were consistent with a view of Blacks as less than fully human -- they could be used sexually, but they could not have equal rights in marriage, or in anything else. In the South, old ways die hard. Thurmond's fathering of a child with his maid was par for the course for a Son of the Confederacy.
Nor is it inconsistent with Thurmond's racial views that he supported his child. He was, above all, a politician, who loved being a member of the Senate. To have Ms. Washington-Williams revealed as his child could have done his career serious harm. He simply preempted that possibility. Strom Thurmond was despicable man, but he was no hypocrite.