Sally Hemings of the 21st Century

Shonda Rhimes is probably the most hated black woman in America right now, since this time last year she has kept us all on the edge of our seats, flying by the seat of our pants waiting and watching to see what happens next with Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Fitzgerald Grant (Fitz) (Tony Goldwyn) on the hit show “Scandal”.

For the past two seasons loyal viewers or “Gladiators” have been on an emotional rollercoaster as we watch to see which way the torrid affair between Liv and Fitz will go. I will be the first to admit I am “Team Fitz”, despite the nature and the scandal of their relationship I want him to get the girl he is so in love with. timthumbWomen are quick to express their disdain for infidelity but glue themselves to the television every Thursday. I was scrolling my Instagram newsfeed during the season finale last week and came across and interesting comparison. Olivia Pope is the modern-day Sally Hemings.

Sarah “Sally” Hemings is rumored to have been the slave mistress of President Thomas Jefferson and that he fathered at least four of her six children. Do I dare say that the comparison between the two affairs is valid? After analyzing both (although one is completely fictional and scripted) I would have to agree there is a valid argument.


Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson~ The Original American Scandal

The question comes, how can we as African-American women accept the relationship (or affair) between Liv and Fitz but have a disgruntled opinion on the relationship between Jefferson and Hemings? An affair is an affair and the anger and disdain should be the same across the board. Is it the fact that “Scandal” is written by an African-American woman (Shonda Rhimes) that makes the difference? Or is the fact that Olivia is a well-educated woman in a position of power that makes it acceptable for her to be the “Leader of the Free World’s” whore? (Pardon me for being so forward). Miscegenationis a term that was coined in the 19th century to describe the mixing of races through marriage or intercourse. Historically, “race mixing” between black and white people was taboo in the United States. So-called anti-miscegenation laws, barring blacks and whites from marrying or having sex, were established in colonial American  as early as 1691. Of course over many years, interracial relationships become less and less of an issue, film and television alike show us interracial relationships regularly and we have no problem. But the stigma of a black woman sleeping with a married (white)  man casts a shady cloud over our culture as a whole and in some people’s minds sets us back a century or two. I wonder would blacks have such a strong opinion on the matter if the cast of “Scandal” consisted of an all white cast or one where the main characters were both black. Unfortunately that’s not the case,  Kerry Washington portrays the role of a woman who is the main whore to the President (a white Republican) is it safe to say she is Sally Hemings reloaded? This is not the first time we have seen such portrayal of our women, Tyler Perry’s movie “A Family that Preys” cast Sanaa Lathan as a married woman who was sleeping with the head of the company she worked for who was a married white man. Halle Berry won an Oscar for her role as Latisha Mosgrove in Monster’s Ball where she got buck wild with a white man.  Recently the OWN Network has released advertisement for a new show “The Have and the Have Nots” in which again a black woman is portrayed as whore sleeping with white men in power. 20130426-haves-and-have-nots-first-look-2-592x333I am not one who is going to stop supporting “Scandal” nor will I jump off the “Team Fitz” bench, but I do agree that at some point African-Americans  have to stop accepting the portrayal of stereo-types in television and film, regardless of who is behind the scripted lines.





” I HAVE A FULL PROOF METHOD FOR CONTROLLING YOUR BLACK SLAVES. I guarantee every one of you that, if installed correctly, IT WILL CONTROL THE SLAVES FOR AT LEAST 300 HUNDREDS YEARS. My method is simple. Any member of your family or your overseer can use it. I HAVE OUTLINED A NUMBER OF DIFFERENCES AMONG THE SLAVES; AND I TAKE THESE DIFFERENCES AND MAKE THEM BIGGER. I USE FEAR, DISTRUST AND ENVY FOR CONTROL PURPOSES” ~The Willie Lynch Letter The Making of a Slave ~1712

Are we still bound by the curses of those who tried to oppress us?


One thought on “Sally Hemings of the 21st Century

  1. T.C says:

    Once again LL this is a great artical. However it was my understanding that the scandal(no pun intended) between Jefferson and Hemmings was that he dined his children by her. I too have heard the rumblings about the show. I think that folks need to chill out. Karie Washington is the first black actress to lead a prime time drama since the 70’s. I personally love the show! And the reason is, that it shows high powered people in a very” regular person” situation. They are not regular folk but we can relate to there situation. It’s all entertainment we need not lose sight of that. Washington has a personal life that seems like she as an individual could be held up as a role model. But nobody’s talking about that. I read a magazine artical that called Shondra Rhymes the most powerful women in television!!! That’s deep! Should that not be what’s celebrated or at least be included in the conversation. All the constructive criticism sounds like hating to me. At least in your article you admit to being a fan of the show. Most will not do that or admit how well put together the show is.
    Some of the same folks that hate on scandal was the same folk complaining when BET was running Roots. Saying that they don’t want to see no more slave movies. Lost on them was the love stories. The drama. The triumph. The struggle. They just see beatings and broken English. Not the story, not the message. But there will always be nay sayers. Once again cuzz great article

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