I don’t know if Paula Deen is a racist. Here is what I DO know. She was fired from her job and lost all of her endorsement deals because she admitted (told the truth) in a deposition that she used the N-word many years in the past.
This deposition reads like the questions were compiled by a tabloid magazine editor.
“What are the names of your son’s past girlfriends?”
“What are their addresses?”
“Was your ex-husband an alcoholic?”
“Did he ever hit you?”
“Why did you divorce your ex-husband?”
“What are the addresses of all the places you’ve lived since you popped out of your mother’s womb?”
“How much money did Paula Deen Enterprises net last year?”
You have to get halfway through before there are any real questions to speak of. From my reading, what is obvious is that Miss Deen is a very busy woman who lost a daily, hands- on knowledge, which she likely once had, of the operations at both her and her brother’s restaurant; especially her brother’s restaurant. She hired people to manage things. Not all of those people got along. Some of them, including her brother, appear to be ignorant, petty, fallible people. Some, namely Ms. Deen’s brother, and to some extent, Miss Deen herself, do not understand that you cannot be a “real” person in the workplace. If you are a coarse, loud-mouthed, good-ole-boy, you had better check it at the door. This should not be news or rocket science. Unfortunately, I’ve worked for a number of these types of people in my lifetime. I did not sue them. Most of us do not.
It is equally obvious that Miss Deen is loyal to her brother and does not want to believe that he is a “bad” person. He might NOT be a bad person. But she is just as likely to have overlooked some of his foibles which she should not have if she wanted to be a savvy business woman. If half of what the attorney deposing Miss Deen is saying about her brother is true, then Miss Deen’s brother is none too bright and is a boorish buffoon to boot. Most of us would not choose him as a close friend. The reality is, however, that we do not get to choose our family. And let’s face it, many of us have blinders on where our family is concerned.
If you have read the deposition, you also have learned that Miss Deen, herself, has a crude sense of humor regarding sex. I have one older female friend that has this same sense of humor. She sends me emails that she also sends to other people; some of them she has forwarded from others. I assume there are a lot of old ladies out there that like to joke about sex. While it is uncomfortable for me, it does not define my friend’s entire character; it speaks more to the era in which she was born and raised.
When Miss Deen says “of course” in response to a question about whether she has used the N-word, that should not shock anyone. If so, I suggest it is “fake” shock to make a point. Miss Deen is almost 70-years-old and grew up in an area and time where that word was heard and/or uttered on a regular basis. I know. I spent the first 16 years of my life there (1965-1981). I have family and friends that live there still. As a child, we used to call each other (white children) the N-word. We didn’t know any better. Once you do, you STOP!!!!! And that ought to be the end of that. If you are not going to allow people to change and if you are not willing to accept their apologies, then you are going to create more conflict. And quite frankly, if you are one of those people in the lynch mob, you don’t really care about the process of moving away from bigotry, you are just interested in being angry and punishing. I have seen victims of violent crimes more forgiving of the criminals than many are of Miss Deen.
As I said, I still have family that lives in the south. I have heard them say many cringe-worthy things. But I love them nonetheless. Does that make me somehow guilty by association? But let’s be real. I have lived most of my life in the northern U.S. I left my small hometown in the north for a LONG, LONG time because I heard the N-word way too often for my taste in addition to the same disrespect aimed at women in general, regardless of skin color. This is the NORTH. So this is not just a southern problem. Northerners are much sneakier in their racism.
Regardless – North, South, East or West – most of us are not forced to have our least proud moments excised from our lives and crudely stitched together and put back out there as who we ARE. Read the Paula Deen deposition, all 149 pages, like I did. Then come back and let’s talk about how Miss Dean deserves what she got.
I shudder to imagine what someone could ask me in a deposition where I would be forced to tell the truth (because I am an honest person) and have it all put out there in the media. I haven’t done anything unlawful, but I’ve sure made my share of stupid mistakes and said some pretty ignorant things. I was young once. But if I was forced to be deposed because of something my family said or did and then crucified for telling the truth, I would be ready to go to war.
Here is another thing. Having read the deposition in its entirety, I am mad as heck at the media pundits, bloggers, and people who comment about this situation because either they haven’t read the deposition or they have and are trying to slant it to make it look worse. Shame on them.
For example, from Jezebel:
When Deen was asked if she used the N-word, she replied: “Yes, of course.” Then she was asked why in the world she would say something about wanting to hire black cater waiters to pretend to be “slaves” at an old-school Southern wedding. She responded by saying that she got the idea when she was at an event with black cater waiters, and is also just generally a racist.
“The whole entire waiter staff was middle-aged black men, and they had on beautiful white jackets with a black bow tie. I mean, it was really impressive. That restaurant represented a certain era in America… after the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War… It was not only black men, it was black women… I would say they were slaves.”
Here is the unedited manuscript. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, start at page 125 and go to page 134. You decide if there was intent to make Miss Deen appear more bigoted by the way her answers were spliced together above as well as the headline.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really curious about where this restaurant is that Miss Dean thought was so unique and awesome with its black waiters in white sports coats and black pants. Because if the fact that she found it charming is enough to get her sent to the front of the unemployment line, the restaurant itself should be closed and the owners sued for some sort of discrimination. For that matter, Hooters should be closed down for discrimination and for their marginalization of women. But women are fair game for exploitation through demeaning portrayals of antiquated stereotypes. If the fact that Miss Dean used the N-word in private should get her livelihood taken away, then the fact that Rush Limbaugh is a serial name-caller should get him kicked off the air for eternity (one can dream). And why did Karen Finney get to call Republicans crazy crackers and then get her own show on MSNBC? These are not frivolous questions. We have to ask ourselves in all honesty why we are willing to put up with the ones but not the others.
I am not trying to excuse the blatant racism that is on display in this country. I will even agree that much of it comes from the south (the overt kind) which has been especially highlighted since we elected a black president – twice. I don’t know what the answer is to mending this rift between the north and the south which has been there since the end of the civil war, but I doubt it is going to be accomplished by persecuting an elderly white woman. You can make people scared to speak their mind, but you cannot change what is in their hearts by threatening them.
There is still slavery in this country. And that slavery is political correctness; even to the point of retroactive political correctness. If you use speech to intimidate in an effort to keep a group of people from a job, a home, an education, the ballot box or any of the basic necessities or rights to life or if you use speech to harass, then it is speech that is not protected in my opinion. But if it is speech that merely offends, even grossly offends, then it is part of being an American, even if what we hear is distasteful. We have the option to make our distaste known via our pocketbooks, letters to the editor, and calls and emails to our representatives in government, etc. I suppose that, on some level, The Food Network, WalMart and Target have exercised this right, but I think they were VERY hasty and were likely “forced” (were slaves) into that position because so many people (the media) over-reacted or purposely slanted the situation. Jumping on every insult and infraction as if it is DEFCON 1 will only lead to more and worse Xenophobia. Further, what The Food Network, etal. did was to take away the general public’s ability to react appropriately on its own to Miss Deen’s deposition. All this brouhaha might make for a good headline, bump up ratings for a while and sell a few more newspapers, but it does nothing positive in terms of building bridges and healing wounds.