Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paul Deen and the N-word

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Unless you've been living under a rock at some point in the last few weeks you've probably heard about the Paula Deen scandal.

While I do watch a lot of shows on Food Network (Mainly Barefoot Contessa, Giada, and The Pioneer Woman) I've never really been a fan of Paula's show. That being said I also don't have any personal problem with the woman, she's never done anything to me and I have nothing to hold against her.

From everything I've seen there seems to be two sides to this debacle. Those who are relishing in her downfall convinced of her racist ways and those rallying to her defense. This post is not about me giving my personal opinion of the Butter Queen. I've never met her and she's never done anything to me but I do find use of that word completely and utterly abhorrent. People are not allowed to use it around me in ANY context. This is more my commentary on the arguments and the use of the word itself.

I've seen comments such as I'm sure she didn't say anything worse than the higher-ups at food network have said themselves only they didn't get caught, this is just a witch hunt. Okay first let me say that this is pure speculation. Paula admitted to using the word. Yes she also tried to down play it's significance and has insisted it is not proof that she's racist but she did admit to using the word. Not once has she denied it. All she's ever said in her defense is that she was misunderstood. She's personally admitted to everything her and her brother were accused of.

There was also the classic It should be just as bad for black people to be racist but no one goes after them.  Okay sure but have you seen any court depositions that accuse Sunny (the host of Cooking for Real) and her family of making derogatory statements about white people, or suggesting that all white people host a family function reminiscent of  the days when said white people were slaves to black people? No? Oh that's right because the Civil War freed BLACK people.. silly me I forgot that little caveat. I agree racism is a disgusting, backwards, and hurtful thing, no matter who it's from but I can tell you right now that no one is going to ever attempt to suppress my husband's right to vote. No one cracks jokes about our family being strung up due to the color of our skin. The argument is irrelevant and is nothing more than an attempt to down play real racism. It's just as ridiculous as saying we shouldn't prosecute wife beaters until we hunt down every woman who's ever hit a man. The old "but everybody's doing it" excuse is tired and invalid and doesn't solve a damned thing.

Last but not least there was it was said in private, it was never meant to hurt anyone, whatever happened to free speech. I'll tell you what happened to free speech. What started as something that was meant to empower people and give them the right to share their views without fear of persecution has been turned into a weapon and a joke. Yes you have the right to say whatever you damned well please, as does the KKK, the WBC, and Fox News. However when what you say incites more anger than inspiration and tears people and the society at large down rather that build up don't be surprised when you meet some reprisal. I have every right to walk into a public forum on Easter Sunday and scream that they stole the whole holiday from pre-Christian religions but they also have every right to boo me away. Not only that but not everything she said was in private. It was said in the work place. That is not in private, and she said herself that she can not personally determine what someone else may find offensive. That's why if you have any doubt you should keep your mouth shut. She chose not to. Food Network and Smithfield are making the choice not to associate with her brand anymore as they clearly can not trust her to personally determine what makes for appropriate speech. She can say whatever she wants but that doesn't mean anyone has to provide a platform for her.

I am not black. Have never been, nor will I ever be black and admittedly I have no close black friends to trot out as proof of my non-racism as seems to be the favorite tactic of white people. However I am a woman, I'm of a minority religion, and financially I'm considered lower-class so I do know something about being stigmatized. Really it's nothing more than the perpetuation of the belief that  bullying is okay.. and it's not. I don't care who you are, how you were raised, where you grew up or how old you are. Bullying begets more bullying and to say that it's okay for some people to say some things about some people based on this or that factor does nothing more than gray and blur a very clear and black and white issue. You are accountable for what you say and no amount of tears can take back ignorant or hurtful words.

If you like Paula Deen, good for you that doesn't make you a bad person. She still has a personal website, products, books and recipes. Go to those sites, buy her books, cook her food, get a couple pounds of butter in her honor, just remember that your personal feelings about the woman do not make what she said okay and does not obligate any corporation to condone her actions because really just letting it go because she's "sorry" or because someone else somewhere might have said something similar would be to condone her words, the feelings associated with those words and the actions of the time in which those words were considered appropriate.

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