Litmus Test

It has been instructive watching the various reactions to the Paula Deen tragicomedy.

On one hand are the folks–including a number of “known liberals”– who see the Food Network’s decision not to renew her show as an excess of “political correctness.” Others, of course, have been far more judgmental.

Most people have reacted without bothering to go beyond the superficial. Had Deen only admitted to using the “N” word a couple of times in the past, it might be legitimate to find the response disproportionate. However, the admission came in the context of a number of other behaviors; the lawsuit in which she gave the deposition alleges long-standing workplace bigotry, including requiring black and white workers in one of her restaurants to use separate restrooms. A story in the New York Times quotes Deen herself about taping a TV show in which she was going to make a hamburger she called a “Sambo” sandwich, but was overruled by the producer. She was also quoted justifying other behaviors by “explaining” that “most jokes” are about Jews, black and gays. (If the lawsuit allegations are accurate, all of these groups were objects of her workplace behaviors.)

Some people who defend Deen are simply unaware of this backstory. But for others, that defense clearly has a personal element. Many of the comments on Facebook and emails sent to Food Network display the very ugly and persistent underside of our multi-cultural society.

We have a very long way to go when it comes to race. And the election of an African-American President has just exacerbated that very jagged social wound.


  1. Sheila; thank you for the background informationon Paula Deen’s dismissal, I had mixed feelings believing she had only lied about using the “n” word a few times in the past. This additional information puts the story in a totally different perspective. I initially compared her “misfortune” to Mark Furman’s denial of using the “n” word during OJ’s trial. He also had more information in his background regarading racism but Judge Ito’s star-struck lack of control over that trial added fuel to the fire. Her bigoted comment regarding jokes about Jews, black and gay reminded me of jokes making the rounds years ago about “what do you call a man with no arms and no legs…blah, blah, blah”? Two weeks ago my son showed me a brief internet film about an old friend of his, Kent Bell, who was born with no arms and no legs. Kent graduated from Howe High School; he lives alone with only part-time assistance and works as the official time keeper at the University of Florida. Google his name and select for a lesson in humility for any of us who repeats bigoted jokes.

  2. Well at least Paula’s cook books and recipes will remain a favorite at Tea Party, Klan and evangelical church basement dinners for many years and they will be on sale at the book stores.

  3. People should read the deposition. She really got what she had coming. And you didn’t even mention her proposal to throw her brother a “southern plantation style” wedding with all middle aged black men catering in white tuxedos with black bow ties… You know like you saw in the Antebellum south. But she didn’t, because someone would have misconstrued that. Smack my head.

  4. Ray R Irvin :
    Well at least Paula’s cook books and recipes will remain a favorite at Tea Party, Klan and evangelical church basement dinners for many years and they will be on sale at the book stores.

    Paula Deen is a big Obama supporter, you tool.

  5. What Paula Deen did is not excusable. She knew better–she certainly does now! It was ugly. What’s being said here on Sheila’s blog is turning even uglier!

    Paula is a survivor. The kerfuffle will eventually die down. It still isn’t excusable; however, she will make it. That same divorcee with two small boys to raise alone will make it. Whether it be selling lunches in brown paper bags to local workers, which is how she began, or whatever else she may do–Paula will make it!

    Now, y’all clean it up, y’hear? Don’t make me stop this car!

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