Oh, Paula Deen ….
What is wrong with people? Are we all just hell-bent on destroying ourselves? Maybe. And the latest high profile personage to hit the self-destruct button is Butter Queen Paula Deen, the multimillionaire face of Food Network’s home cookin’ empire.
Deen has been all over the news for the last week or so since a lawsuit brought by a former employee in 2011 came to light and Paula’s deposition has been made public. And whaddaya know: ole Paula comes off as racist as all get out. Actually, if you read the whole thing — find it online; it’s kinda unbelievable — the person who comes off the worst is not Paula, it’s her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers.
Deen’s first mistake was not firing his mongrel ass a long time ago. The second mistake (hand in hand with the first) is this ill-formed belief that family always comes first and everything else second — even when it’s family that’s going to bring you down. And third, and perhaps most importantly, Paula needs to get her ass up out of Georgia and get a perspective on the situation that’s not tinged with inbred Deep South racism.
You can talk a good game until you’re blue in the face about not being a racist, but when you’re a white woman referring to a group of African-Americans as “them” or cavalierly saying to someone in a public forum that people can’t see you standing by a black background because of the tone of your skin … that’s racist. Paula Deen may not think she’s a racist, but guess what? She is. And she needs to get some perspective on it.
Look, I know a little bit about this. I’m from the Deep South. What saved me is that I left. My grandfather, who I loved to death, used language that would curl your toes, but he was the least racist person I have ever known. He used that language because he was born in the Deep South in 1906 and everyone — black and white — of his era used language that we would never use today. Heck, listen to recordings of some of the greatest leaders of the Civil Rights era: they routinely used adjectives that no one would use today.
But here’s the thing: Paula Deen is not living in 1953 or 1963 — or even pushing the envelope of acceptability — 1973. She’s living in 2013. And no amount of butter or grits or cream can cover those actions up.
If Deen was smart, she should fire her PR team, fire her brother, implement proper workplace protocols against discrimination and stand in the public square and tell everyone that the “best dishes” she serves, she serves to everyone, always, without a hint of racism or sexism. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll forgive her.