I've written on this same type of subject a few times, however Paula Deen has brought it to the forefront again. For anyone asleep this past week, Paula Deen was accused of, and has admitted to, using the "N-Word." She did it six years ago when describing to someone what she wanted for her brother's wedding. She also admitted to using it, I think, in a situation a little over 30 years ago. I'm not going into specifics of what she said, however she admitted to it when legal action was brought by a former employee. Now, in light of this, she has been dropped by the Food Network, Wal-Mart has ended their relationship with her, and (I believe) Caesar's has also terminated her.
Do I believe using this word is wrong? Of course, I do. In an interview with Paula Deen this morning on the Today Show, Matt Lauer asked, "Don't you know this is the most offensive term for African-Americans?" Well, yeah, Matt....we all know this, HOWEVER - I have always explained to my kids that, while using the word is wrong, it isn't only used to refer to blacks. As an aside...while I do find that specific word to be offensive, I refuse to be politically correct. I will not use the term 'African-American' because I have friends (that are 'people of color') that have said they are black. They have done their own research and gone back generations, yet still cannot find ancestors from Africa. One gentleman, a US Marine, went so far as to state, "I am an American. Period. I also happen to be black." I like it...but I digress. So yes, Matt, we know the word is offensive.....isn't it? Wait, I'm supposed to know that saying that word, the horrific, dreaded, anger-inducing N-word is WRONG? How, exactly, am I to know that? I suppose I should know it when, if used, a black person will politely tell the offender, "Pardon me, but I find the use of that word to be repulsive and morally reprehensible." Okay, I'll buy that. The problem is, I've heard the music of rappers and other certain blacks. I've heard them speaking to each other on the street. So what I'm to glean from this is, it's only a bad word when a white person uses it? It's okay for a black to use it, but not whites? Okay, I'm learning. Sadly, I thought the rules applied to all of us when it came to something as repulsive as this. Let's be serious, folks, either it is or it isn't - there is NO GREY AREA on this one. Trouble is, no one has the nerve to stand up and say so because you'll be labeled a racist. Personally, I cannot accept the double standard.
I'm also finding it difficult to agree with the corporations that, in situations such as this, distance themselves from people who have added a bit to their bottom line. Wal-Mart has the audacity to drop Paula Deen because of something she said six years ago? Wal-Mart? Don't I recall a few short years ago when they faced their own troubles because workers brought suit against them? Here's a quick news flash - dropping Paula Deen is not going to change anyone's perception of your corporation outside the most extreme individuals. It just won't. John Q Public, Mr Everyman (or woman) has a brain and will not be swayed by your termination of your relationship with Paula Deen. As a matter of fact, some of these companies might want to be careful - I've read quite a few comments of folks that will now boycott their stores because they HAVE dropped her. The people, in many cases, are supporting Paula - both blacks and whites. Her cruises, as a matter of fact, have doubled in reservations since this has happened. Again, we have brains - any action taken for something she said years ago, right or wrong, is not going to make any of us say, "Well, they kept Paula Deen after she made a racist comment. That must mean they are racist, too." We're a bit more intelligent than that and, in my opinion, you look hypocritical when taking certain actions based on your company's history.
Lastly, Paula made a comment this morning that I immediately revert to in a situation such as this. Show of hands - who has NOT made an insulting comment at some point? Whether it be an offensive joke, a racial slur, joking about riding 'the short bus', or others, I want to meet the person that hasn't done it. I'm not saying people are running around every day making these comments, nor do I think Paula Deen makes this a habit. I think most, if not all of us, have done it at one point in our lives. This does not qualify you, in my opinion, as a racist, either. A racist, to me, is a white supremacist. A racist, to me, are the blacks that want to see an end to whites forever. These are racists. Calling Paula Deen, or anyone that has made an inappropriate comment, a racist (or worse) is just not fair nor is it true. Lest you think I am a Paula Deen fan, I'm not. I think if I ate her cooking, I'd be the size of a house and, though I live in the south, think her southern accent is WAY over the top. My point, though, is that she is no more a racist for using that term one time six years ago than I am a race car driver because I got caught speeding. Yeah, I'm reaching on that analogy, but you get my point.
As I said initially, we know it's wrong to use the word because somewhere along the line someone said they found it offensive and it has a very negative connotation. My parents taught me that. I didn't need the courts to tell me. I do know, though, that I have yet to see a court case where a white person was able to sue someone of color, a black, for calling them 'cracker', 'honky', or....what else do they call us? Again, you get my point - I want standards and equal to mean just that - EQUAL. I'm not going to use the N-word and neither (I don't think) are many of you. The system is not equal, though, when whites are held to a higher standard than others. Again, living in the south, I know the Civil Rights movement isn't over, but it is damn sure close. Think back, my friends, to a time when we were growing up. It was just a few weeks ago that the 50th anniversary of Gov George Wallace standing in a doorway blocking the entry of blacks to the university was recognized in Tuscaloosa, AL. Now, when entering the mall, a doctor's office, a restaurant, or a convenience store, I will often hold the door for a black man or woman and think how, in our lifetime, we HAVE recognized equal rights. We've come quite a distance.
Do I think Paula Deen should have apologized for what she said? Absolutely. Do I think we've already taken this too far and cost the woman much of what she built on an unfair basis? Absolutely. Let's move on. In a few weeks this will be 'old news', yet will have had an indelible lasting impact on her life forever. If you disagree with me, try.....for just one minute...to put yourself in her shoes. Remember, we all agreed none of us are able to 'cast the first stone'. Think back to something you said 5 years ago. Would you want the good things you've done every day to hinge on a single comment? I can tell you from firsthand experience, life is far too short for us to live in that fear. I'm going to digress for a second, as well as wrap this up - I was listening to an English comedian the other day, Eddie Izzard, and he made the comment that he is agnostic. He was talking about the 10 Commandments and how we really didn't need them. He thought that the one rule sort of summed it up and covered anything and everything else. Ready for it? It isn't rocket science - The Golden Rule. Treat others as you wish to be treated. As he said, I think that kinda sums it up and, should we choose to live that way, we'd be fine. Be kind to each other. Is it really that hard? Times like this, I think we, as a world (not just nation) need to examine how we act. Stories like this, then, would be a thing of the past.
Until next time................