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Does Paula Deen Deserve This Treatment By The Media?

Updated on January 10, 2014
Paula Deen and Oprah Winfrey
Paula Deen and Oprah Winfrey | Source

I will begin by stating for the record I could care less whether I ever see, or have seen her show on the Food Network. I do not watch shows like this one, but my wife will occasionally turn to it and watch if the recipe interests her. I might be aware it is on, but I may be reading a book or writing on my laptop or playing with our son while it is on and I can honestly tell you I cannot place a single episode of her show, nor a single guest host. I am not interested in this type of show.

What I am interested in is justice for all. Not just the wealthy, the people who have the money to make sure they are well cared for in the court system by hiring a top notch attorney to fight for them, but true justice for all. I know, I am a dreamer but I prefer to be that way as opposed to being a defeatist. Life's more fun that way. At least, to me.

I am unsure if Ms. Deen is receiving justice in her present situation. She is being persecuted for having admitted to using a derogatory term for an African American. Did she use this term? She has admitted to doing so, so I will accept her admission as a statement of fact.

But what of the media? What are they doing and is it really justified? I would like to look at this and put my two cents worth in.

For what it's worth, I believe that almost anyone brought up in the fifties and sixties heard and used this word. It was just commonplace in the area I grew up in and in the south as well to hear jokes about people of a different race, color, creed, religion, or country. This reached into the seventies as well before hitting the politically correct wall in the eighties. During the earlier time, people had little respect or tolerance for people they perceived as "different". People were referred to in a derogatory term far too often, and for someone of that time frame to say they had not ever said that word would most likely be an outright lie. Paula Deen admitted to saying it. She used it over thirty years ago, per her admission.

Now, have you ever heard of letting bygones be bygones? If we polled the entire United States of America today, at least those approaching fifty years old or older, and asked "Have you EVER referred to someone of another color or race in a derogatory term?" or "Have you EVER told a joke which refers to someone of another color or race in a derogatory manner?" what do you think the answer would be? Would the vast majority of the answers be yes? I believe it would.

That was another time. People still viewed others in a way which suggested bigotry was the standard, and for many it was. The country did not feel as we do today, that all are equal and as such deserve consideration for being equal. Hard feelings still existed from the segregation being eliminated in the sixties. Our parents used these terms, told these jokes as a way to further depress others. It was part of the culture. Was it right? Was it correct? No! But it was what it was at the time.

Have you EVER told a joke refering to someone else in a derogatory term?

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One of the films considered to be in the top ten funniest movies of all time is from that era. Blazing Saddles, produced by Mel Brooks and released in 1974 ranks as the #6 all time funniest movie on the American Film Institutes list 100 Years...100 Laughs. It won an award for Best Writing. It is full of derogatory terms for people of color, race, and creed. Primarily, it refers to people of African American lineage as the same word Paula Deen used, in a similar time period countless times.

AND ONE OF THE WRITERS IS OF THAT RACE/COLOR/CREED!!!

None other than Richard Pryor was a writer of no small part on the script. As a matter of fact, he declined the lead in it and focused on the writing aspect of the film.

And yet, even today it is considered a "Classic Comedy" and is shown on television fairly often. Sometimes cut, sometimes uncut. And yet no one holds Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor, or any other members of the writing crew accountable for using that term in that context in that time. Why?

I must say that even today, members of the African American race refer to one another in this manner. Sometimes for sport, sometimes in jest, sometimes in anger. It is acceptable for them to use it on one another but not for someone else to use it on them. Is this a double standard?

I do not refer to my White neighbors, friends or co-workers as "crackers, honkies, white trash". It is not who I am. About the farthest I go is to refer to myself and others as a Redneck. But to me, this reflects what Jeff Foxworthy stated as one who has a glorious lack of sophistication. Thank you, I resemble that remark. Not always mind you, but in my natural environment, I do not have the bottom buttons buttoned on my overhauls (yes I spelled that word wrong on purpose!). It's just more comfortable that way. Now, back to white racist terms: personally I do not know anyone who does do this, yet I do know members of the African American race who routinely call one another the very term Paula Deen used thirty years ago. And they do not, nor ever have in my presence gotten offended by its use. Why is it acceptable amongst themselves? Even today, stand up comedians of color refer to one another in this manner. And yet they are not called on the carpet for using it. Why?

I would like to relay a couple of personal stories now from that time frame. In the seventies, I played basketball for a local Boys Club team. We were a traveling team and played against other Boys Clubs in the area and also in some tournaments. We were a good team often either winning or placing second in them. Of the five starting members, four were black; I was the only white starter. and I jumped center. It was funny to see the other teams when we walked out on the court, and watch their faces as I walked into the jump circle.

But to listen to my teammates in practice! "Yo, N-----, give me the ball!" The N word flew around the court between them more often than the ball was passed between them or compliments were handed out for a good shot! I was "Yo, Honky!" and I was not offended in the least. It was good natured teasing, and I knew they appreciated my play on the court. But if someone walking by had heard our language!!!

It was expected. It was accepted. It was part of the times.

The other story is a reflection of me at the time. It is one of, if not the most humiliating moment of my life. It created a need in me to change and change for the better. A "coming of age" moment, if you will.

I had been working overnights at a job for some time and just been brought to days. I was young (21 years old), I was brash, irreverent and enjoyed a good joke as much as the next guy. One was told to me at work. I thought it was funny and told it to the Quality Inspector who came along a few minutes after I had heard it. He walked away chuckling. I thought I was funny.

The person who originally told me the joke came back by about ten minutes later. He cautioned me to not tell that joke to John, as he was married to a black woman.

I had told the joke to John. He was my Quality Inspector. I felt horrible. My thoughtlessness had led me to tell a racist joke to a person who was married to someone of that race. I felt humiliated beyond belief.

He came back by later to check on my work. I apologized profusely to him, begging his forgiveness. He laughed and told me not to worry about it, that it was a funny joke. I later met his wife, and have even worked with her. A more lovely lady I have rarely had the honor to meet.

That moment changed me from one who was free to hear and tell jokes to one who chose not to relay those jokes to any other. I grew up.

Source

We as Americans have grown, and continue to grow as we age, both as a country and as people. Things which were acceptable have become unacceptable, and things which were unacceptable have become acceptable. Intolerance of another person because of race is wrong, and will continue to be met head on, fought as it should be. Mixing of the races was wrong (to some) but has become mainstream, acceptable. As it should be. What matters is what we are within and what we are with others. What color we are should never enter into the equation.

Recently a television advertisement came under fire because of a perceived racist tact. A white mother and black father have a beautiful child together. Someone in the media felt this was improper and the ad should be pulled. Why? It is a reflection of what our country has become. Why would someone find it offensive?

As we have grown, we evolve our way of thinking. But as we evolve, some choose to hold others accountable for what was said before. Sometimes decades have gone by and still some want to hold others accountable for what was said. We cannot use our morals of today against the past. It does not work. We can only hold others accountable for the here and now, and the future. If we choose to persecute older Americans for their mindset of thirty, forty, fifty years ago we will not stop until they are dead and unable to defend themselves.

Paula Deen has done some great work for a lot of people. She is, was, and will continue to be Southern Born, she cannot change that. She was brought up in a time which saw people of color persecuted, forced to sit in certain locations, drink from certain water fountains, attend certain schools. She had no hand in creating that environment. She simply lived in it. Granted, she used a word that, by today's standards, is if not criminal then not thought highly of. But it was accepted at the time. We cannot place our current manner of thought on a time which no longer exists. To do so is the very height of ignorance.

Do you forgive Paula Deen for what she said?

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Paula Deen has apologized for what she said those many years ago. She has admitted to using the term, and is sorry for it. She advised she looks at all people as equally today. So should we all. If someone was wrong and admits to being wrong, we should forgive and forget.

But because she is A) White, B) a Television personality, C) Rich, D) Southern she does not get the benefit of being forgiven. She has become a target for hate groups across the country. Why? If that one thing was the worst thing she ever did, and that was over thirty years ago I would say she is doing pretty good at being a good person. How many of those who are casting stones are virtuous? Are without sin, without wrongdoing? How many of them have ever referred to a homosexual in a derogatory manner, or referred to a child as being something less than complimentary? How many of them are attempting to bring down Paula Deen because they are jealous of her success, not because she is a racist?

We could tear this country apart, bring it to its' knees if we wanted to hold everybody accountable for every single real, perceived, or imagined slight that may or may not have ever been projected on someone else. People, we have bigger fish to fry than this. We have people going to bed hungry every day; we have people who cannot afford to go to the doctor in order to get well; we have people who are well and fit enough who choose to sit on their fannies and not work while expecting the rest of the country to pay their way in life; we have politicians so out of touch with reality that they cannot even comprehend how bad this country has become; we have rich and famous people throwing their good fortunes away on drugs and alcohol. And we have media persons doing their utmost to put out the next big story at someone's expense in order to make another buck or two.

We are a country who talks the talk about goodness for all while refusing to walk the walk to help one another. The time has come to stop talking and start walking. Allow others their mistakes. This did not harm anyone permanently as a murderer or rapist might; it was a word uttered in the time and context that was if not appropriate then more understandable.

Sticks and stones

May break my bones

But words will make me rich!

I pray this is not what all of this is about but I have to wonder. If whoever broke this story was about healing and moving on, then it would go away. But if it is about retribution and making money off of someone else, then it will continue to play to the masses. I for one choose to no longer be a part of the masses. Ms. Deen admitted the use, and asked for forgiveness. To me, none need be asked for. If she has learned over the years that that word was not acceptable and uttered it no more, that is good enough for me.

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    • Mr Archer profile image
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      Mr Archer 20 months ago from Missouri

      Thank you shanmarie; I agree. Forgive and forget. Unfortunately there are a large number of people who were never insulted or harmed by actions form a hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago who feel it is acceptable to act in a manner that is not in the forgiving mode. I don't understand that mentality: if it wasn't you, or your parents who went through the horrible times from years past why are you demanding retribution for it? Leave the past in the past but learn from it. Take care, Ma'am.

    • shanmarie profile image

      shanmarie 20 months ago

      Excellent point. People should be forgiven - rich, famous, or otherwise. People can and do change. If someone readily admits to having been wrong in the past, then in my opinion, that person shows great character strength. It takes both humility and courage to admit mistakes, but those admissions can also be inspiring and empowering to others. This is old news by now, but it is still a very relevant point. Celebrities continue to be treated in similar fashion when they admit to both current and past mistakes. Change is the key word here.

    • Mr Archer profile image
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      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      Thanks Cheyenne. The 30 year incident is her admitting to saying it that long ago. Nothing from more recent, mind you. This is a created situation to gain someone money at another's expense, I fear.

      Did you know "jerry" rigging is a deragotory term against Germans? Jerry - Gerry - German? Yup, it's always something as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say.

    • Mr Archer profile image
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      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      I fear you are correct Poolman. That card gets played and it trumps any other card in the deck until it is removed from play. Thanks for stopping by and blessing to you and yours.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      I think this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. First of all, why should someone pay for something today that was done 30 years ago! Shoot, if that were the case, I'd be in a heap of trouble.

      I do watch Paula Deen's show. I just love her to death. She has had several black guests and cooks side by side with them, jokes with them, touches them and just has a good old time. She obviously has no prejudice today. And why have they waited 30 years to bring this up? Is there nothing going on in today's world that needs the attention of the media and the people of the United States?

      This whole situation is unfair if you ask me. Paula Deen as nothing to apologize for. She has made restitution thru the years and should be left alone. Shoot, you know the saying 'jerry rigged'? Well, that's not the way I grew up saying it and still say it today. Does that make me racist? No, it does not. And neither does it make Paula Deen a racist.

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      Old Poolman 4 years ago

      The Media is under heavy attack for the lousy reporting of the news regarding this failing administration. The more air time they can get with a subject as stupid as this gives them an excuse for not reporting "real news."

      They will never miss an opportunity to crucify someone for hours and hours of air time if it draws attention away from their failure to factually report important issues.

      Many of their viewers are not up to speed on current events, but they all understand the race card when it is played. Give them a racial issue to rant about and they will bite every time.

    • Mr Archer profile image
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      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      Bill, thanks for stopping by and reading this. I just am getting tired of seeing people crucified for what I deem are little things, speed bumps on the highway of life. I don't condone saying this word, or anything that could hurt someone in any manner, but really, to hold someone accountable for this from that long ago is silly. She isn't a Nazi or a war criminal but the media is trying to convice us she is as bad as one of those type of humans. Get a life and do something positive for crying out loud people!

      Phoebe, glad you could stop by as well. I realize the lawsuit is current, but some of the actions represented are far in the past. And now it appears as though the person who started the lawsuit has not been entirely truthful about the allegations. One, that she never heard Paul Deen say the n word in her presence, and two that she was supposedly hurt by the word she may or may not have heard because she has a niece that was bi-racial. But it has come out that this niece, which was originally portrayed as being of African Amercian descent is in fact of Hispanic descent and she has not seen or spoken with this niece for five years. How can a word you never heard about African Americans harm you for a child who is not African American? Sounds a little strange to me.

      As I said, there are bigger fish to fry, so let's get with it people! Help one another, don't work to tear us down.

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      Phoebe Pike 4 years ago

      You see, the media has twisted the facts... it's not just about her using the "N-word" like so many articles claim, but rather the lawsuit is actually fairly current. Apparently, though it has yet to be proven, Paula wanted black waiters in white tuxes at her brother's wedding. The caterers claim she wanted the Old Southern style of slaves... surely that was misunderstood? But then the suit always claims that at her restaurants anyone who was "black" was required to use the bathrooms in the back. There were many other details left out as well.

      I'm not sure which side to believe, but either way, she is bound to lose a lot of money and her fan base might crumble should enough evidence surface.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mike, there is no doubt this is a double standard, and I would venture to guess that those who are writing about her have done the same thing. We love to cast stones, and the bigger the person the larger the stone. Dean's actions didn't even warrant a shrug from me. Was she wrong? Sure! Is she alone? Not by a mile.

      Great points well worth considering by everyone.

      blessings my friend

      bill