Paula Deen has been all over the news. I see memes and comments from people in online forums about how she should be forgiven for something she said “30 years ago” (referencing her admitting to using the N word when robbed at gunpoint). As more and more surfaces about her, it’s clear her attitude towards race is not exactly up to date. Yes she was raised in a “different generation.” So were my parents. My dad is from the south. A bunch of my family still lives in the south. Are some of them racist? Unfortunately so. So what’s the big deal with Paula Deen?
This lady is all about her southern image and upbringing. She has worked up to a point of celebrity, a feat which surely wasn’t easy. I have to admit, I’ve watched her show and giggled, joking with my boyfriend about our dinner needing “more butter, y’all.” She isn’t just a chef. She’s a brand. Her brand depends on the support of big business who carries her show and products. Those big businesses (who also have their own flaws as many online discussions brought up) do not want to be associated with someone who appears to be racist. So there go some of her backers.
“But rappers use the N word all the time!” Okay. I’ve heard black people calling each other the N word, sometimes with good connotation, sometimes bad. Why is it allowed for them to call each other that word? Because they don’t have a history of enslaving another race and using the term to belittle and humiliate. As with other slurs, the word has been reappropriated to take the power from white society. Women have taken the C word and worked to turn the power away from men using it in a similar fashion. Do these words still hurt? I think so, but they are given as much power as one lets them. Not all black people get offended at the use of the N word. But some do, making it offensive as a whole to use that slur.
With Paula Deen, her attitude has not really conveyed much emotion beyond her own personal grief at losing so much. Even news anchors and experts talked about the lack of sincerity within her Today show appearance. She tried to justify her use of the word, but that means she doesn’t feel guilt about using it. Therein lies the problem. It also comes back to comments she has made more recently (see video above) that outline her dated view on race issues in America.
She can be seen as a role model because she is heavily in the public eye. I think it’s good that Americans are talking race issues in light of this whole debacle because it is something that isn’t resolved in our country. There are still people using racial slurs about our first black president. There are still far more minorities in prisons than whites. There are schools that only recently held racially integrated functions (http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3480720).
Paula Deen had a moment to make a stand against racism, but she chose to stand only for herself. I don’t feel sympathy for her or her crumbling brand.