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Dismantling Paula Deen and her racism…

Dismantling Paula Deen and her racism…

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.

The Daily Beast extensively discusses the real reason why companies are dumping Deen:

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.

Daniel Luzer looks at “What Feeds Racism: The Problem With Paula Deen and Good Southern Ladies” in an article in Pacific Standard:

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.


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Sorry – fmendespinto is me.

Bill Dilworth


I agree with the linked article. The public shaming of Deen is a way for people to make themselves look/feel good for being so terribly progressive on racial while ignoring the actual problem (“I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, bigots, rednecks, Teabaggers, or even as this celebrity chef here…”) *That’s* the real cheap grace at work here.

Ann Fontaine

I am not out to “get” Paula Deen. I appreciate Paige’s clarity in explaining why the excuses are not germane to the issue. I don’t see anyone saying they are holier than thou. I see people trying to justify stuff that is not justifiable even when we do it ourselves. There seem to be a lot of assumptions about motives of commenters going around – which have no bases in facts anyone knows. I guess I don’t see why any of us should get a “pass” for being racist even though much of the time those of us who are white are unconscious about our actions (not talking about Paula Deen here). We should be called on it and “take” the confrontation and learn from it. I hope that is the road Paula Deen takes. As for Jesus- I seem to remember a few statements about “brood of vipers” and other names for people who take advantage of others and use people for gaining wealth and status. It was not all sweetness with our Lord. And he himself learned from the calling out by the Syrophoenician woman.

Jack Ryan

Brother Hudson – thank you for saying it so eloquently and to the point. Healing and reconciliation should always be the goal.

Paige Baker – your issue seems to be not with what Paula Deen said or did necessarily, but that she has not repented up to your standards.

Even though you also used racist language, you are the better person because you believe your repentance was more complete than Paula Deen’s. Your apologies were better. You are not as responsible because you are not a public figure. And apparently you have not been given as much as Paula Deen and therefore get to live with a lesser standard of behavior? That’s your moral high ground?

And what right do privileged white people have to forgive one of their own, when they are not the ones who are injured?

That’s like asking “what right do privileged white people have to condemn one of their own, when they are not the ones who are injured?” I believe you would answer the same as I “because racism hurts us all.”

I happen to believe that forgiveness is the first step toward healing and wholeheartedly agree with Brother Hudson’s comment. But healing does not seem to be your goal here, only condemnation.

Again, I am not taking sides. I do not condone Paula Deen’s actions, nor am I defending her. I am taking issue with people who only want to throw stones rather than work toward healing the divide. I would like to understand that mentality better.

Here in the Northeast where I come from, people of color are doubled over laughing at (mostly southern) white people tying themselves in knots trying not to look racist. (And I know this not by reading blogs but by actually talking to friends, family and co-workers of color.) They know why racism exists. And they know that what is happening to Paula Deen will do nothing to solve the problem. They recognize hypocrisy when they see it.

The root cause of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. will always be that some people think they are better than others.

Paige Baker

Thank you, Brian Davis and Tim Lusk.

Jack Ryan–The fact is that I am not a public figure. As I said, “To whom much has been given, much is expected.” (Luke 12:48) It is a sad fact that people in the public eye have a greater responsibility to guard their words and actions.

And I really wonder if you have listened to any of the voices in the African American community on this issue? The overwhelming response that I’ve read in the African American blogosphere is “Oh look. A Southern white woman says/does racist things and even the white liberals fall all over themselves to defend her. What a surprise.”

Whose side are you on, Mr. Ryan? Who deserves our sympathy and protection? Paula Deen or the people she hurt? It’s all well and good to “forgive” Paula Deen–but where does that leave the people she injured most? And what right do privileged white people have to forgive one of their own, when they are not the ones who are injured?

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