By Rachel Birdsell
Oh, Paula Deen. Bless your buttery little heart. You are getting dropped faster than a hot, flaky biscuit. The Food Network doesn’t want you, nor does Wal-Mart, Caesars or Smithfield Foods. I guess that’s what happens when you say racist things, and then try to turn it around and claim that you’re a victim. Paula admitted to using the N-word, but then clarified that it was 30 years ago and she had a gun to her head when she said it. But, Paula isn’t being judged for something she said 30 years ago no matter how much she tries to deflect to that. She’s being judged because of the complaints of racism and sexism a former employee is bringing against her and her brother, complaints that have been echoed by other former employees. She’s being judged because in her deposition, when asked about her use of the N-word she said, “My children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. As well as I do.” And when asked if it was okay to use the word in a joke, she hemmed and hawed and ended with “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”
Paula is also being judged because in her apology that wasn’t an apology on the Today show, she made sounds like she was crying, but no tears could be seen. Maybe her tear ducts are clogged with butter and brown sugar. Maybe she’s only sorry because she got caught and a large part of her income is swirling around the drain. Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, she said that “someone evil” was out to get her.
Some people are trying to defend Paula by saying, “Well, she’s a 60-something Southern woman. She grew up in an era of racism. What do you expect?” Here’s a newsflash for you: Not everyone in the South is racist. There were even people who lived in the South 30 years ago who weren’t racist. I’ve lived here for almost 30 years and I have known many people here that aren’t even slightly racist. By trying to excuse Paula by saying she’s racist because she lives south of the Mason-Dixon Line is insulting to southerners.
I’ll admit that I hope Paula goes away and doesn’t come back. But more than that, I hope that we can all learn things from this debacle. I hope this incident instigates open, honest discussions about racism. I hope that people will see that it doesn’t matter if someone’s skin is a different color than theirs. I hope that people who are racists will realize that they can change, and then I hope that they will change. In her Today interview, Paula said, “I is what I is and I’m not going to change.” I say that if people are unwilling to change, they’ll never grow, and if you don’t want to grow, what’s the purpose in living?
Rachel Birdsell is a freelance writer and artist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org