Oh, Paula Deen. Oh, oh, oh.
The internet is eat-up (haha!) with different versions of her apologizing to what boils down to everyone in the world for making racist comments and, oh, I don't know. Hurting people?
I've never been a Paula Deen fan. In a way, I admired the way she took basic southern cooking and turned it into an empire. She's a character. I don't know if she's a great cook. By the time you get to her level in the food world, you're certainly not the one creating recipes any more than you're designing the furniture your company sells. (Furniture? Yes.) But she's a Southern woman, as am I, and so I've certainly been aware of her success if nothing else. I mostly knew that she'd invented a recipe for a hamburger which included a Krispy Kreme doughnut, bacon and a fried egg and that alone was enough for me to know that I wasn't going to be buying her cookbooks or watching her show.
I found it a bit skivey when it turned out that she had Type II diabetes and didn't talk about it until she'd secured a relationship to be the spokeswoman for a pharmaceutical company. It was certainly her right not to discuss her medical history or problems but it was somewhat suspect that she did begin to talk about it when she figured out a way to make money on the whole deal. I wasn't the only one who felt this way and she took a lot of flak for that one.
But you know- this is America and everyone has the right to make obscene amounts of money in any way they see fit for the most part. So Paula didn't bother me and I didn't bother her.
I know I'm not perfect and neither is Paula Deen and I never expected her to be and who cares what I expect anyway? BUT when I started reading about her words at a deposition in which she had to testify as part of a lawsuit claiming sexual and racial workplace discrimination in a restaurant owned by her brother and it started out like this:
Lawyer: Have you ever used the N-word yourself?
Deen: Yes of course.
that was just enough.
Of course? Of course she's used the N-word? What in hell does that even mean?
I am a southern woman. I'm a few years younger than Paula but that means she's had even more time to become enlightened to the fact that you don't use the N-word. You just don't do it.
Then there was this quote about jokes:
They usually target, though a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don't know. I can't, myself, determine what offends another person.
Really, Paula? You can't determine what would offend another person?
I'm sorry. That's fucked up. And to even start to think about using black waiters dressed as slaves at a plantation themed wedding for your brother? Really? Because you admitted you did that. You discarded the idea which, hey! Points for you! But the fact that you even considered the idea makes me squirm.
I'm fucking upset. This sort of shit has got to stop. I watched an old video of Ms. Deen discussing racism in the south and she talked about how after the slaves were freed, her great, great grandfather shot himself because he couldn't run his farm without his black folks and I'm sure that's true. She also made the point that there may actually be less racism in the south because black folks (she kept using that phrase) are such an integral part of life.
For white people.
And THEN, she brought out an African-American man and introduced him as her "son by another father" and talked about how much she loved him and stated that "color ain't got nothing to do with it" but somehow, color had everyfucking thing to do with it and she was just using that man to prove her I'm-not-a-racist-point and it was demeaning to him and she didn't see that and I've been seeing this sort of shit my whole life and I'm tired of it.
Look. This shit goes on all the time. Hell, I don't even realize the extent to which it goes on but sometimes I get a little peek into those murky depths and when I do, I am shocked and sickened. Believe me, Paula Deen is not that much different from a lot of Southern women of her age and skin color and culture and that, THAT is the problem. It is not acceptable to use the N-word, I don't care how comfortable you are in the company of the people you're tossing the word around in. I don't care how much you love black folks. I don't care how famous you are or how much money you have. You can't do it. Because guess what? Slavery is dead. Oh, its poison is still part of the sickness of this country and always will be but slavery itself? Gone. And African Americans don't just take this crap lying down anymore. They hire lawyers! They bring lawsuits! They expose your racist ass. As they damn well should.
And to think that you can then make a video (or two, or three?) begging your "fans" for forgiveness and promising to "learn and grow" from this experience and to even begin to hope that you will be forgiven is ridiculous. If you're sixty-six years old and you haven't learned already that certain words are insulting and if you can't tell what will or will not offend other human beings, then the odds are pretty good that you're not going to now, either. And your fans may forgive you but guess what? The Food Network won't and you are going to be out of a job. Which is just fine with me because I'm fed-up (pun intended) with the way you perpetuate a certain stereotype which may, in fact, be used to judge me.
I'm white. I'm a woman. I'm southern. I cook beans and greens and biscuits. My great-something-grandfather ran a plantation too and yes, I'm sure he had slaves. I will carry the blood-guilt of that for my entire life and so will all of his descendants and there is no way to make reparations for it but I can treat my fellow humans with respect whether they are black or white or gay or straight or differently-abled and I can know that it's wrong to tell jokes which use any of these factors as source of humor. I live in a house that was probably built by slaves and every day of my life I remember and acknowledge that and send out a silent and useless (to them, at least) thank-you to those men who, with their backbreaking enforced labor cut by hand the beams of heart pine which still so solidly support the very walls of my existence.
And I would no more think about using the N-word than I would think it was appropriate to eat a damn hamburger on a Krispy Kreme doughnut and I have the sense to know they are both sickening, one to the body and one to the soul and the less of either in this world can only be an improvement.