Tuesday: Review: Paula Deen Scandal

What a sizzling topic this is in my neck of the woods, Conservative Central California.  I have never watched a Paula Deen show, nor am much of a cook, but I must be a party of one in my neighborhood.  No matter where I go, the folks in my area discuss the Paula Deen Scandal at every social gathering.

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Since I couldn’t sleep tonight I decided to surf the net for free and learn what all the brouhaha is.  Huffington Post has many articles about this delectable disgrace, including a slide show with videos that have shown on various TV shows.  I also used Twitter to  check out what is being said about her.  It seems like we have the Civil War ready to break out in financial support of removal of support for Paula Deen, who admitted to using racial slurs 30 years ago (when it was so acceptable?) 2013 – 30 = 1983.  hmmm 1983 – 20 = 1963  This year at our CCSS Conference we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 50 year March in Birmingham, part of the nation’s Civil Rights Movement.  I doubt that even 20 years after the March that issues of civil rights were thoroughly settled in Paula Deen’s state of Georgia.

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The folks that live around me are upset because the racial slurs took place 30 years ago and she is being held accountable for them.  I will admit that 30 years is a very long time.  Many people were not born 30 years ago.  Paula Deen was not one of them.  Thirty years ago Paula Deen was not as famous as she is now.  She could freely say almost anything she wanted to in a private setting with immunity, as most of us do.  Let’s do a little more math.  66 years – 30 years = 36 years old.  Paula Deen was not a child when she used racial slurs privately or publicly.  To most children at that time, she would have been considered an old woman.  My fourth graders asked me if I was old when I was 38 because I was always “forgetting everything.”  They sometimes accidentally called me “Grandma,” when I was student teaching at age 35.  My point is that even though she admitted using racial slurs 30 years ago, she would not have been exonerated as a minor.  She used them in a still volatile time, but she was not famous.

Matt Lauer pointed out that this entire affair was important because of the financial implications, and that is where the battle rages.

Stores removing Paula Deen from their shelves has at least a two-fold effect.  1)  If you dislike what she admitted to saying, you probably say, “Good for them.  That’s what she gets.”  Jessica Williams did a comedy routine on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart that I enjoyed.

2)  If you think it is silly for Paula Deen to be held accountable for something she said 30 years ago in private, you probably say, “I’m going to quit going there (for a while – until the next sale – or this scandal blows over).  I think I’ll go buy one of Paula Deen’s book.  That will show them.”

Paula Deen Signs Copies Of Her New Book "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible"

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I’m not even going to ask your stand in this issue.  You are welcome to leave a comment.  I’m not sure even how I feel about it, for several reasons, and I’ll tell you those.

  1. I am white.  I do not KNOW or UNDERSTAND how it feels to be racially discriminated against as an African-American person.
  2. I am 61 years old.  That is just five years younger than Paula Deen, and in the 60s, five years made a lot of difference, in the 80s – no difference.  We are Baby Boomers.  Our parents/grandparents were the prejudiced ones.  Right?
  3. I have said and done bad things in the past – some not nearly so long ago as 30 years which, to me, are much worse than what Paula Deen did.
  4. I grew up in Indiana.  Until not too very long ago I blamed South for “practicing slavery.”  I was proud that my ancestors fought on the “right” side of the Civil War.
  5. During my Civil War tour JUST two years ago, and during subsequent reading and study, I learned how the North profited from slavery just as much as the South by processing the cotton, by creating financial institutions controlled much of the money earned by Southern slave owners, and in many other ways were guilty of directly or indirectly perpetuating the institution of slavery.
  6. As a child, I heard my father and grandfather use the N word in private.
  7. I remember being with my grandparents when the newscaster on the radio announced the passage of the laws for school desegregation.  My normally calm, easy-going Grandpa was furious.  I was upset that he was so mad because I loved Grandpa more than just about anyone in the world.  Since I hadn’t heard anything on the radio which seemed so upsetting, I asked him why it made him so mad..  He explained that when I was seven, we had moved to a “good” school district so that my brother and I could have the best education possible, and now that was being undone by these “unfair” laws.  I felt disquieted about how my idol had reacted to the news.
  8. I remember when I was about 9, several of the neighbors on my street purchased the house on the corner so that an African-American family would not move there.  At the time I remember thinking, “I’m glad my parents didn’t take part in  that!”
  9. My mother and Grandfather were heavy, and had heart problems.  I never want to become obese even though I love sweets.  That means that cooking eating Paula Deen style may be tasty, but I don’t want to practice it.  My best friend’s daughter used to cook dinners for us.  She LOVED Paula Deen’s recipes.   I gained 25 pounds while we had the best dinners of my life.  I had to take some serious weight loss medication to lose it, and I will never let myself reach that weight again.

I haven’t said much when my friends and neighbors pontificate about Paula Deen’s situation.  I would hate to be in her shoes.  If I were famous, I’m sure that enough dirt could be unearthed about me to put me on the hot seat, and I would hate that.  I think I’ll stay under the radar.  I also think Paula Deen may suffer huge losses in future income, but she is 66 years old, and if she retired tomorrow, I don’t think her world would end.  A lot of income for a lot of people who work for her would permanently evaporate, though.  So the question is, will the Paula Deen Empire crash.  I think Paula will survive whether or not her business survives.    She has a tremendous support system.  I suspect that her corporation will also survive, but it will definitely change.  Right now it is hemorrhaging.  During triage tourniquets, and stitches will hold things together until she can rebuild.  She will suffer heavy consequences, but my guess is that she and her business will survive this hailstorm.

Bigger questions loom in my mind.   Will we Americans learn our lesson?  Will we continue to polarize ourselves, jump on bandwagons, and react like mobs?  Will there still be racial enmity in the United States?  I think Paula Deen will be just fine.  I’m not so sure about the rest of us.

Here are some articles I REVIEWED to write this editorial piece.