Number of commentators on the reactions to Paula Deen:
Catholic priest Jim O’Shea’s essay in The Huffington Post suggests that Deen is an easy target to make people feel better about racism:
And so what makes me angry is knowing how many ‘good people’ want to go to sleep believing that everything in the world of ‘race’ is ok — as long as people like Paula Deen are fired for using the n-word. But the troubling truth is that the eradication of the n-word is not the magic bullet, and Paula Deen is not the enemy. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t even matter. What matters is the systematic and cruel sets of conditions we ‘good people’ continue to allow to exist that willfully marginalize whole segments of the black community for life.
For some reason, we just can’t sleep well knowing Paula Deen is cooking, but, damn it, we seem to rest just fine as another generation of young people of color is left behind. God, we should really be angry at that.
Within a week, all of it—well, almost all of it—has melted away. Giant corporations that were happy to plaster Deen’s face on their products and stock their goods in their store have run away. Political correctness run amok? No. It illustrates a larger truth. In 2013, no national brand, in any industry, can afford to have an association with a person who expresses racial animus, or who taints a company with the stain of racial animus. It’s just not acceptable. It is OK for endorsers and business partners to be gamblers (Michael Jordan), convicted felons (Martha Stewart), or adulterers (too many to name). The commercial culture will tolerate multiple divorces, trips to rehab, and all sorts of boorish behavior. You can even recommend that people eat really unhealthful diets. But the hint of racism is simply a deal-killer. No questions asked.
But here’s the deal. Even today, what is acceptable in one part of the country is unacceptable in another. And it is definitely the case that a history of racial insensitivity—especially a recent history of racial insensitivity—can stop you from being a national public figure. So Deen is commercially viable, just not on the national stage. To survive, she’ll have to revert to being a niche figure. You can prosper and remain rich by appealing to a small sliver of America’s vast population.
Deen’s alleged racism turned out to be a little complicated. Her book sales, oddly enough, are up. Some who knew her rushed to argue that she really wasn’t that bad. As one black woman who supported Deen explained to the New York Times: “I get it, believe me. But what’s hard for people to understand is that she didn’t mean it as racist. It sounds bad, but that’s not what’s in her heart. She’s just from another time.”
And that’s because racists can still be really nice people. And not just nice as in well dressed and has good table manners. Racists, it turns out, are often actually nice, as in caring and generous…
Paige Baker, writing at Wormwood’s Doxy makes it clear that no one should give Deen a free pass or excuse her racism. The blogpost addresses many of the excuses to “Give Deen a break”. Here’s one:
The fact that I’m blogging about Paula Deen’s dramatic fall from public grace, rather than the Supreme Court’s abominable decision in Shelby County v. Holder on the Voting Rights Act (VRA), doesn’t mean I don’t care about the VRA. That will be a boots-on-ground involvement for me, involving contacting elected officials, attending Moral Monday protests, etc.
But here’s the thing—it is the Paula Deens of the world who make that invalidated section of the VRA so important. It is the everyday, casual racism of people like her—and those who defend her—that is the bedrock on which legislatures across the nation will build voting roadblocks for people of color.
To sum it up: If you care about the VRA, you damned well better be calling Paula Deen—and any other person in your life, including yourself—out about racist speech and behaviors, because those are the manure in which systemic racism grows and thrives.