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Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr.

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Scandal Revisited: The Rhetoric of Miscegenation in Sally Hemings and Olivia Pope

Posted: 10/09/2013 10:15 am

Last Thursday, October 3rd, millions of viewers with great anticipation watched the Season Three premier of Scandal. There were many twists but it exposed head on the ongoing adulterous affair of Olivia Pope and President Fitzgerald Grant.

This great scandal is resolved so it seems by old video footage of the inebriated Jeannine Locke referring to Fitz as "freakin hot." Such a video was so compelling that the press instead of believing that Fritz had sexual relations with Olivia Pope, a black woman now believes that it involved Jeannine Locke as the President's mistress. I know that American public thought they saw something new but another Scandal in my opinion similar yet juicier than this over two hundred years go involving President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

In 1802, journalist James Thomas Callender published in the first in a series of articles claiming that the author of the Notes of Virginia, that vehemently opposed race mixing kept one of his slaves as a mistress for nearly two decades and was the father of her numerous mulatto children. According to Callender their affair began while Heming was a teenager in Paris. Like with President Fitzgerald Grant, Jefferson's enemies seized on this scandal and disseminated them widely in their own newspapers.

This is what gets me that Callender's claim was refuted by his contemporaries believing that he lied and the entire tale was a fraud inaugurated and perpetuated for the most despicable political purposes. All were outraged not at Callender's claim that Jefferson was a fornicator, but by the assertion that his partner in fornication was a black.

This is found in an alleged affair he had with Maria Cosway, a white woman that he met in Paris whom he fell deeply in love. In describing her newspapers called Jefferson's sexual relations as illicit "love making" but in stories of Jefferson with Sally Hemings she is known as "Black Sal," and his association described as a "vulgar liaison."

It is quite interesting that those who wrote on Jefferson were willing to dismiss adultery, infidelity as shown in the actions of Fitzgerald Grant to his wife Mellie. The scandal even for most of the viewers does not involve adultery and in the case of Jefferson but in the possibility that the writer of the Declaration of Independence actually fornicated with a slave woman and fathered a number of legally black children.

Even in 2013, the beautiful and articulate black lawyer, Olivia Pope would rather be dismissed as not even associated with the President for another white woman to protect the standards of American racial purity. The sad reality of the television series Scandal, which I am an avid fan is in exposing really how far out of touch we are to the historical realities that have been present since women first came on the shores of North America which devised a system in showing that the greatest taboo in a land where social responsibility equated as power especially in the office of the President and racial purity go hand in hand.

 

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