Opinion: Leave Paula Dean Alone

Yes, I’m African-American…and I no; I don’t agree that Paula Dean should have to potentially lose her economic livelihood due to her alleged use of the dreaded N-word years ago. A year ago, I didn’t even know who Paula Dean was. And that’s my point.

On a daily basis, I’m certain that the non-Paula Deans of America use the word. So too do other celebrities. So too do lawyers, doctors, politicians, police officers, your co-workers…and so to (sadly) do my fellow African-Americans. And their use of the word goes unnoticed not only by myself, but also the majority of Americans as well as those in the media…that is, unless it creates a headline. Because so many people without a doubt use the N-word, I am forced to wonder just exactly who’s life is so devoid of purpose that they have either the time or the interest to know just who is using the word on a regular basis?

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Dean being grilled by anchor Matt Lauer on NBC’s The Today Show as part of her attempt to set the record straight (as it were) insofar as her “real” personality and her side of the story. As I watched, I found myself asking, how do I know whether or not Matt Lauer himself used the N-word in private company? How do I know whether the woman who applied Dean’s makeup anticipation of the interview uses the word?

From what I understand, the allegations stem from a lawsuit by a former Dean employee—a white employee—who contends that Dean dropped the N-bomb to describes African-Americans in past conversations. One of the explanations I heard in Dean’s defense is that she used the word when she her some of her black employees use the word in talking to each other (something I myself cannot understand why my fellow blacks use the word toward each other. I chalk it up to a lack of teaching about the history of the black experience in America toward the current generation).

It’s simply too much of a burden to keep myself wondering whether or not “he’s” a bigot, whether “she’s” a racist, or whether “they” hate me. I have my own struggles, my own problems, and my own goals. And I definitely am not going to go around grilling my fellow Americans on whether or not they are tolerant of differences. Life is too short, and the mindset of another is simply too irrelevant an issue in my personal life to obsess over.

If you’re a bigot, that’s OK with me. Your outlook is just an opinion—albeit a very narrow and small one. If you are walking around here hating others because of your preconceived notions, that’s your cross to bear. Hating others is like taking poison, and expecting another person to get sick—it only hurts you. Paula Dean certainly found out, in an economic sense. However, I don’t think that a person who harbors resentments should have to pay for it by losing his/her economic livelihoods. There are worse people who commit far greater sins, but prosper quite nicely economically-speaking. Unless it creates a an actual (as opposed to perceptual) hostile working environment, directly interferes with the economic commerce of an entity, or negatively and directly impacts the lives of others, others should be allowed to express their opinion—good or bad—without censure or sanction. Because, the truth be told, the overuse of the word by my fellow brothers and sisters is far more unbearable to myself than when a Paula Dean uses it from a foundation of stupidity.

To cut off Paula Dean’s economic bloodline because of her questionable judgments surrounding her use of the N-word is to potentially cut off my own livelihood because of my opinions. Furthermore, to always say that “I’m offended” whenever someone says something that we don’t like is another way of saying, “Someone needs to control my feelings because I cannot control them. I need someone to always say kind and acceptable things because I’m not mature enough to handle something as inconsequential as a difference of opinion makes me ‘feel.’”


See also:

"Let's Talk About Race...Again! (...or, "Get Ready To Be Pi**ed Off...Again!")"

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Comments 6 comments

gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 3 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

Interesting piece. Many of us, with very, very, very few exceptions, say and/or think of racial and/or ethnic derogatory words from time to time. No, it is not right but it is done. Yes, I agree that Paula Deen should not lost her livelihood but should only be reprimanded. If people lost their livelihood because of a racial and/or ethnic word, the economy would grind to a halt. Think of Aaryn Gries, a contestant in Big Brother, who is fond of uttering racial, homophobic, and/or ethnic words.


cmjackson1 profile image

cmjackson1 3 years ago from Central New York

I just wanted to say that yes it does get exhausting explaining the difference in connotation between the use of the word "nigga" by young people today and the use of the word "nigger". If I hear someone in my company using the word I do know by the way they are using it that it is intended as a racial slur. It grates on my nerves to witness their ignorance or the blind hatred that I hear in it. As a white woman I am privy to hearing white people who openly throw the word around because they are in an all white circle of people and don't have to worry about offending someone. Well, I am offended.

Some who after I voiced my opinion would actually use the word that much more to get under my skin. In fact, I have been called a "nigger" lover by a couple of extraordinarily rude and bigoted people after voicing my thoughts. Fortunately I have only had the displeasure of being in the presence of the latter very few times in my life and since I am an adult I have the option to no longer make their acquaintance.

Why should I care you might ask. I am white. I grew up in a home with parents who were not raised to use that word. That doesn't mean that they weren't holding some prejudices as I discovered when I dated a black man, but that they respected the fact that for some people that is a very hurtful word. I have mixed nieces and nephews and I have had people a few that I knew personally to dare to openly discriminate against them. I know that it hurt them and it hurt me to be a witness to their pain. For that reason, the use of that word by other whites has become personal for me.

The woman who brought suit against Ms. Deen also has mixed nieces and nephews and she was offended by the use of it. I have read Paula Deen's deposition. It is not just the single use of a word that has been alluded to. The place where many of these allegations took place was in a restaurant run by Paula Deen's brother Bubb - Bubba's Oyster House. There were in addition to the allegations of racism and discrimination sexual harassment allegations as well. Some will say oh she is just a disgruntled employee trying to smear Paula's good name. Yes, she did say that she would keep her filing of the case quiet if a settlement was made, but the Deen family refused to pay one, so yes she went public with the suit. Even if she did not there is no way that a suit against a big celebrity like Paula Deen would be kept in the dark. Whatever reason that she had for filing a suit against Paula has become irrelevant.

The Rainbow/PUSH coalition initiated an investigation into both of Paula Deen's Restaurants, The Lady and Sons and Bubba's Oyster House. Employee interviews were conducted. Most of the employees were reluctant to participate because they were afraid than not only would their current positions be put in jeopardy but that they wouldn't be able to get a position with any other restaurant in the area.

The few who did interview one current and two former employees did volunteer that their were EEO violations in the workplace. For this yes, there should be some recourse or re-education for the Deens. Should she fall flat on her face and be stripped of her livelihood, probably not but, as a celebrity who's actions are in the spotlight, she should be more socially aware than this. The use of the word I'm sure could be overlooked, but the organizations and businesses that have endorsed her, can't afford to appear to condone those attitudes or discriminations in the work place. If they do they do


cmjackson1 profile image

cmjackson1 3 years ago from Central New York

I apologize I had an interruption and mistakenly hit the post comment button. As I was saying the people who run these organizations put their own livelihoods at risk by appearing to condone her employment practices.

The Rainbow Coalition is looking for her to make amendments to any employees she has wronged and to get some reeducation about EEO laws and to comply to them in her restaurants by adjusting her current employment practices and regulations. This means that Bubba won't be able to tell any of his employees that they have no civil rights in his restaurant. It is fine if the Deen family chooses to carry on with "Old South" attitudes and practices in their personal lives but in the workplace it is not acceptable and all minority groups should be able to expect that any workplace that they are a member of will provide them with an environment that is free of hostility and personal bias. My personal observation has been that the public is not seeing the whole picture nor are some of them willing to look beyond the headlines and personal opinions that are posted on social media sites. I just wanted to share my view with you. Thank you for that opportunity.


Dean Hater 3 years ago

I think that Paula Deen reaped what she sewed, and whatever happens to her is her own fault. It is not about her using the dreaded N-word. It is about the fact that she thought it would be a good idea to put together an antebellum plantation themed wedding, complete with black "servants". This is the 21st century. She should know how absolutely terrible an idea that is.

Also, let us not forget that she should be put away for slow genocide because of the culinary abortions she creates in the kitchen. Subjecting people to that deep fried poison is tantamount to murder.


Beyond-Politics profile image

Beyond-Politics 3 years ago from The Known Universe (beyond.the.spectrum@gmail.com) Author

Point taken. However, my point was that America is full of Paula Deans. On a daily basis, I'm sure many of these individuals caricaturize blacks and others in ways a lot more demeaning than holding an plantation-ear social dynamic "wedding." I'm something of a "health nut," so I'll have to give you the point of her un-healthy concoctions. But given how we African-Americans project ourselves in such negative ways on a daily basis--both in life and in "art" (music...or what passes for "music" today), I would say that Paula Dean deserves some consideration


Deen Hater 3 years ago

Oh, I don't deny the mass amount of things that others do daily that are much worse than what Deen said and did. I think perhaps it was just her time to fall, and this indiscretion was the one that tipped the balance.

For years, she made a fortune making and hawking food recipes that would give an elephant a coronary, laughing off questions of the consequences of eating too much of it, even after she contracted diabetes, which she hid from the public until it was economically appropriate (she started promoting the diabetes medicine she was using). Deen is the queen of bad judgement, and it finally caught up to her.

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