Glenn Kessler’s Tim Scott “Fact Check” Devalues and Dismisses the Black Experience as Lived in the South and the Washington Post Should Apologize

Glenn Kessler is the “fact checker” at the Washington Post. Kessler’s grandfather and great grand father were some of the founding executives of Royal Dutch Shell. His mother “helped women in that era of feminist awakening confront a society dominated by men” and his father was an executive for Procter & Gamble.

Kessler, in the age of “white privilege” has a pretty privileged background, which makes it remarkable that he is seeking to “fact check” the story of a black man whose grandfather was a sharecropper in South Carolina. Kessler is using a fact check to assassinate the character of Senator Tim Scott this morning after word came Scott would deliver the Republican response to Joe Biden’s first state of the union address.

Scott’s great-great-grandfather was able to own farm land after the Civil War, instead of share cropping for white people.

According to property records, Lawrence Ware purchased at least 147 acres in 1905 and 23 acres in 1918. In this period before World War I, some enterprising Black people began to buy their own farmland, resulting in a peak of Black farm ownership before the worldwide conflict and the boll weevil devastated cotton markets, according to a 2008 history of Black farmers.

Scott’s great-grandfather then carried on the work and Kessler helpfully points out that Scott’s great-grandfather was literate. But Scott doesn’t focus on his great-grandfather. He focuses on his grandfather. Scott’s quotes are about his grandfather being illiterate, dropping out of school at an early age to work on a farm, and going off to World War II.

My grandfather “suffered the indignity of being forced out of school as a third-grader to pick cotton, and never learned to read or write. … Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime.”

— Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), speech to the Republican National Convention, Aug. 24, 2020

That was the reality for a lot of black families. The generation right after the Civil War was often able to acquire land and education, which Jim Crow laws began to whittle away at. Schools in the south declined in a separate but “equal” way. White resistance to black land acquisition rose and often times families had to use probate courts to keep on to land. It was during the period of Scott’s grandfather’s life that southern whites, through legal and illegal means, sought to roll back the fortunes of black families and we can see that in Scott’s family story.

In fact, my last case as a lawyer was of a black family in South Georgia that amassed land and kept the probate case alive for 100 years to keep the land from being sold, under pressure, to white people.

Kessler’s fact check is oblivious to all of that. It assumes Scott, by virtue of his great-great-grandfather’s land acquisition, means Scott has a rosier, better life story in his family than other black people. Kessler attempts to separate Scott’s story from the story of black Americans in the South through Jim Crow.

For a newspaper that relentlessly lectures Americans on “systemic racism”, etc. you would think a grandson of Dutch oil executives and white privilege would avoid doing that.

But then, as we are seeing, the real racists are the elite white wokes who decide a black life must fit a particular pattern to be legitimate and must be delegitimized if it does not fit that pattern.

Kessler and the Washington Post should apologize for this. It attempts to tell counter-programming to Scott’s life as lived based on public documents, not lived experience, at a time “separate but equal” was a standard and equal never was. Kessler fails to bring out that context in his rush to play gotcha.