paula deen: cookin’ up controversy faster than melting butter

paula deenAt first I was horrified when I heard about Paula Deen and her purported use of racial slurs past and present. I don’t cotton to racism in any form, but now I have to wonder is Paula Deen partially a victim of the political correctness police in this country? A scapegoat for a conversation no one, let alone modern southerners, wants to have?

Face it the topic no one wants to discuss ever in this country is racism. And no matter what you say on the topic, someone is going to be pissed off or offended. Discussing racism is the ultimate no-win conversation.

Huffington Post: Paula Deen Fired: Food Network Cancels Show After Racism Scandal

By RUSS BYNUM  06/21/13 05:45 PM ET EDT AP

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Food Network said Friday it’s dumping Paula Deen, barely an hour after the celebrity cook posted the first of two videotaped apologies online begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.

The 66-year-old Savannah kitchen celebrity has been swamped in controversy since court documents filed this week revealed Deen told an attorney questioning her under oath last month that she has used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”

The Food Network, which made Deen a star with “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2002 and later “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2008, weighed in with a terse statement Friday afternoon.

“Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month,” the statement said…Court records show Deen sat down for a deposition May 17 in a discrimination lawsuit filed last year by a former employee who managed Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, a Savannah restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The ex-employee, Lisa Jackson, says she was sexually harassed and worked in a hostile environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs.

Some of you may be appalled that I have even verbalized this thought of Paula-Deen-as-scapegoat/scarlet lettered woman, but the thing that gets to me about anything involving racism is we are all appalled at even the thought of it, yet it is politically incorrect to discuss it?  How do we approach racism in modern society if we can’t or won’t talk about it? And are Paula Deen’s crimes so egregious that she should lose everything?  Does the punishment fit the crime?

I am Caucasian. Or white. Pick your term.  My genetic make up is Italian, Irish and Pennsylvania German.  Am I offended when I hear slurs like “Wop” or “Mick” or “Dago” ? Yes.  Hugely so.  I also don’t like it when Catholics (which I am) are referred to by slang like “Mackerel Snappers.”

But does it make get up and sue people every time I hear something ignorant? And face it, my ancestry faced much racial and societal discrimination in this country in times past and here we are supposedly the land of the free and a melting pot.  Don’t believe me?  Look up the history of the Irish and Italian immigrants.

Am I a huge fan of Paula Deen’s? Not really. Should she have known butter than to use the N word? Of course she should have, but wow, perspective here: this is an older Southern woman who grew up in the south around the time frame focused on by the movie and book called “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett which was made into a movie by the same name.

Does where and how Paula Deen grew up excuse bad behavior? No but it explains a lot. On one level Deen would have to comprehend that it would be career suicide to spew racial slurs, yet on the other hand have we turned into a people so unforgiving that she should lose everything? It is easy to cast blame, it is really difficult to forgive and was she supposed to lie under oath?

I understand why The Food Network did what it did (She and her brother Earl Hiers are being sued by a former employee for sexual harassment and workplace discrimination),  but is this a cut and dry topic or is it as a couple of writers I read today suggest, that there are other things to be considered?

Here is an interesting blog post on the topic:

But Not Yet: Poor Paula

By now, the whole world knows that Paula Deen is a racist. They know she used an ugly word and said some despicable things and holds some disgusting attitudes about African-Americans. She has lost her television show on the Food Network and has been roundly castigated in the media for what she said. If there’s anyone in this world that’s fit to hate right now, it’s Paula Deen. But, here’s the thing: if she’s a racist, so am I.

That last statement probably deserves a little explanation. Ms. Deen and her brother, Earl Hiers, are being sued by former employee Lisa Jackson for sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. While being deposed, Ms. Deen was asked by the plantiff’s attorney “Have you ever used the N-word yourself?”, to which she answered “Yes, of course”. I have to say, if someone were to ask me that same question, the only truthful answer would also be “Yes, of course”. Because I have said it. More than once.

While I grew up in the south, I didn’t grow up in an overtly racist home…Truthfully, my family has never seen any individuals different than ourselves…. In 1976, my grandfather was incensed when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, saying “Ain’t no nigger ought to break Babe Ruth’s record”….

Is Paula Deen guilty of the sin of racism? Yes, but that’s not why we’re pissed at her. We’re pissed because she reminded us (white America) that we’re not quite as progressive as we’d like to think. Because, when most of us read what she said, somewhere deep down in the recesses of our psyches, we agreed with her. When we read what she said about “ a bunch of little n—–s to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties” and how “in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around”, we smiled. And, when we read “Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that”, we said “Damn right, they would.”

There’s a feeding frenzy over Paula Deen as a result of what she said in that deposition and isn’t because what she said was wrong (it was). It isn’t because white Americans are truly invested in “justice for all” (we aren’t). This feeding frenzy is happening because it allows us to ignore the ugly things we think and say and do when comes those who aren’t quite like us. We’re worried about the speck in our sister’s eye so we don’thave to worry about the log in our own. And, until we deal with that log, our cries of racism will continue to ring hollow.

This post really made me think.  However, another thing that has been playing out on the Main Line between an Ardmore neighborhood and Iron Hill Brewery has also made me think about this issue or racism that is still an elephant in most rooms that people are afraid to discuss. In this thing between a historically minority neighborhood and a generally respected business that has a couple of Chester County locations it was inferred if not said outright (paraphrasing from reports of said meeting) at a local meeting that this neighborhood didn’t want yuppies from places like Gladwyne drinking beer and driving through their neighborhood and how is that not ugly? How is that not considered racist on the face of it’s twisted merit? Is that attitude ok?

See what I mean? Is it ok for some folks to say some things but not others? What is racism today?

The Anti Defamation League website defines racism thusly:

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another….Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one    person by another — or the belief that another person is less than human — because of    skin color, language, customs, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the    basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations,    and legal codes.

Racism is hate and hate takes many forms.  But is Paula Deen the only person guilty of racist behavior in the form of racial slurs? Or much like Martha Stewart Martha-Stewart-Jail(who I am definitely not a fan of) when she went to jail following an insider trading scandal, is Paula Deen similarly another perfect scapegoat?  Part of me always felt that although Martha deserved what she got that she received more harsh treatment than a lot of men had because she is a strong woman who has seen a lot more success than a great percentage of men.

I am not going all Gloria Steinem and am not burning my bra but I can’t help but wonder about all those helpful double standards that exist.  It’s like the debate of strong opinionated women being called bitches versus the treatment their male counterparts receive.

The other thing that bothers me about this whole Paula Deen controversy is Food Network firing Paula Deen affects all the people who worked on her shows too.  I mean let us get real, will they simply absorb all those people into other areas of the cable giant?  That would be a negative.  And of course on the heels of Foot Network’s decision comes Smithfield Foods (the ham people) dumping her and rumors of Chester County’s QVC about to do the same and what happened until waiting to see how this court case turns out? ( I will note that I am only discussing the racial slur aspect of the Paula Deen case.  If her brother is proven to be a sexual harasser I have absolutely no pity or understanding there – pervs in the workplace are the worst , inexcusable, and utterly disgusting.)

USA TODAY: Wickham: Forgive Paula Deen for epithet, but not butter

DeWayne Wickham,   12:12 p.m. EDT June 24, 2013

Why fire her for telling truth under oath? Pushing fatty foods was her real crime.

So in my humble opinion as a woman who was raised by parents not to see color and as someone who has a wide range and array of friends of many nationalities and ethnicities it seems to me that Paula Deen’s troubles and the extremes of points of view we are seeing as a result, is that we are long overdue on an honest and open conversation about racism AND political correctness. I hate racism. I hate discrimination.

I don’t know.  Maybe I am shooting at rainbows and unicorns here, I just don’t see this whole thing as cut and dry.  After all do we remember how we treated Japanese Americans as well as Italian Americans in this country in World War II ? Where many Japanese had reparations made post World War II (Japanese and Italians were thrown into internment camps, had their property seized and were subjected to crazy surveillance in Canada and the US), Italian Americans and Italian Canadians did not receive such reparation.

Humans can be amazing and humans can be cruel and stupid.

Thoughts? Here are some things to read:

Time: Viewpoint: The Food Network Should Give Paula Deen Back  Her Job / People of her generation can neither change the past, nor  completely escape their roots in it

By June 24, 2013

Paula Deen grew up in Georgia. In the fifties. Her world was the one depicted  in The Help, in which black people’s status as lesser beings was  casually assumed. So, who is really surprised that she has used the N-word  in her life? It would be downright strange if she hadn’t, and we can assume the  same of pretty much any white Southerner of a certain age (not to mention more  than a few Americans of other regions).

And yet the Food Network has fired her after revelations that Deen has been a  normal person of her time and place. Even though she has leveled no fewer than  three public apologies. The reason is the unique status of the N-word.

(MORE: Paula  Deen Begs for Your Forgiveness, For Something)

In modern America, we really have only a few genuinely profane words, and the  N-word is one of them……..This taboo status, then, is why Deen is being fired for what her fans are  decrying as “just using a word,” and also why Deen in her videos steps around  even saying what she said. Yet this restraint on her part is also an  indication that she, like most Americans, has gotten the message. Crucially,  getting the message doesn’t mean becoming superhuman. Changing times cannot  utterly expunge all traces in her of the old South’s assumptions. Old habits of  thought linger, like eczema and asthma….People of Deen’s generation can neither change the past nor completely escape  their roots in it… They can apologize and mean  it, as Deen seems to. They also deserve credit for owning up to past sins, as  Deen did candidly when she could easily have, shall we say, whitewashed the  matter.

The taboo on the N-word, and associated attitudes, is appropriate. It’s  certainly smarter than the goofiness of the 1800s when the terms white and dark  meat emerged to avoid the possible sexual connotations of referring to breasts  and thighs. However, we’re less smart when we turn taboo enforcement into  implacable witch hunting, which is not thought but sport.