Paula Deen has been fired from the Food Network after admitting she has used racial slurs and made racist jokes at her Savannah, GA restaurant. The admission came during a video deposition as part of a $1.2 million lawsuit against her and her brother, “Bubba Hiers,” by a former employee alleging sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Her comments were leaked by the National Enquirer, and Deen has apologized in three videos online.
First, a rebuke: Paula Deen is an idiot. Not only were her jokes insensitive and hurtful, but someone with her obvious business acumen should know better than to allow the flourishing of that type of atmosphere in a workplace. You are bound to get into trouble. And, judging by the lawsuit, her brother is no intellectual heavyweight either. Openly viewing pornography in front of employees? Passing around sexually explicit photographs? It is stunning to me. Exactly how stupid was it to think all of this was acceptable?
Deen and her representatives have attempted to blame her free use of the word “nigger” on her age and upbringing in the south. While that almost certainly has something to do with it, they should have understood that is not a good excuse. She’s a big girl now. She should have learned that attitudes have changed since she was young, and it’s no longer tolerable.
It’s been fascinating watching Deen’s fans react to her termination. They are outraged. Their comments have been varied, but one sentiment that I keep seeing basically boils down to this: black people call each other the “n-word,” so Paula Deen should be allowed to as well.
It’s a dumb argument. Gay people call each other faggots, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting when they hear it from a hate monger attempting to denigrate them as being sub-human. I’m neither black or gay, but I think they are attempting in some small way to reclaim the epithets; even trying to restore a modicum of integrity to it. I’m fine with that, even if I would prefer we limit use of the words altogether. As long as they are in use to the degree they are, bigots will continue to try to bring people down by using them. Besides, you may call your mother a bitch in private. You may even pick on your little brother. Neither may be the right thing to do, but wouldn’t you be angry or offended if someone else called your mom a mean name or started making sport of your sibling?
Still, I can’t help but see a nugget of truth in what the defenders are saying. There likely is some form of hypocrisy in all of this. Honestly, who among us hasn’t engaged in some form of name-calling with the intent of belittling another human being? I’m not proud of it, but I know I’ve done it. I’d be willing to bet at some point in your life that you have, too. It may not be to the level of calling a black person the “n-word,” or referring to a gay person as the “f-word” for some of us, but are we really going to start assigning levels of suitability to slurs? I’ve seen articles online referring to Paula Deen herself as a butterball. Comments on message boards have called her an old bitch and a cunt. Am I to understand those outraged by her racist comments think their own mean spirited and public diatribes are somehow acceptable? Well, I won’t. Because it’s not. It’s bullshit to think that, because someone has done wrong, that you are justified in engaging in the same type of behavior against them.
I’ll admit that in some ways I am disappointed in the Food Network’s decision to terminate their relationship with Paula Deen. Not because I don’t think she should have been punished. I do. I just hate the idea that anytime a public figure says something offensive they are immediately fired from their job, then thrown down the Orwellian memory hole by the self-righteous PC Police in an attempt to make them disappear. I didn’t like it when Bill Maher was fired from ABC, I didn’t like it when NPR fired Juan Williams, and I don’t like it now.
Then again, this isn’t the first shit storm she’s found herself in. Remember when she admitted to having diabetes, yet had no problem keeping that quiet for years as she raked in millions of dollars peddling fatty, buttery, sugary food? Her sociopathic tendencies have been very lucrative. But while she escaped from that incident with her empire intact, she has not been so lucky this time. She had her second chance already. Perhaps she didn’t deserve a third.
The Food Network ultimately had to make both a public relations and business decision when electing to not renew her contract. I understand that. Only time will tell if they stick with it. A&E eventually brought Dog the Bounty Hunter back to television after an “n-word” laden recording of him was made public. Perhaps the Food Network will bring Paula back someday too. Either way, she has no one to blame but herself.
The last word on this story has not yet been written. In the meantime, let’s take comfort from this video of Paula Deen being hit in the face with a flying frozen ham. Enjoy.