Paula, Please, No More Apologies!
Paula Deen is dishing out apologies lately like new recipes for mass consumption. But, unlike the good ol’ southern comfort food she’s famous for her apologies are falling flat and leaving a bad taste in listener’s minds. Dial it back, Paula.
It’s not that I don’t believe Paula Deen’s recent apologies weren’t genuine. They seemed heartfelt, even if a bit over the top, to me. But we’ve seen Drama Queens begging forgiveness before; remember the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart and the Bakkers?
Ms. Deen has a lot to be sorry about, not the least of which is the overwhelming backlash from using the n-word, an extremely derogative and offensive term that should have ceased being used decades ago. And, of course, there are the consequences to her financial empire which have been constant over the past few weeks, during which she’s had lucrative ties severed by her largest business partners.
It’s great that her family has stepped up to support her as this is definitely a time when her loved ones may be the only ones to help her get through this. That’s what families are for, and hers is at the ready. But it’s not the intention of her apology that is suspect in my mind; it’s more in trying to understand where her use of that word came from. Her sons state that they were not raised in an environment where that kind of language was regularly used, yet the word resided comfortably enough near her conscious memory to have slipped out at an inconvenient moment.
The Fight for Civil Rights
Remixing America's Ingredients
During its rise the South developed slavery in America, and the mistreatment of non-white human beings over time grew into an extremely contentious issue resulting in an uncomfortable racial segregation. For a few centuries in the South that mindset was everyday life, the law of the land, and generally expected. So a family reared in that aspect could be forgiven for, very rarely and by accident, reverting to language from a previous period.
However, the most staggering changes in racial perceptions and U.S. law have occurred in the past 70 years, brought about by an understanding American public who eventually turned out en masse to address the issue. Blood was shed and lives were sacrificed to finally achieve a society based on equal rights for everyone, regardless of race, religion, and politics. We’re still working on it.
So how is it so easy to forget all that turmoil and revert back to using a downright mean and ugly reference that stirs up memories of worse times, even as a mistake? I don’t know. I was raised to see no color, to believe everyone comes into this world with equal rights and should be treated as such, and my childhood friends and acquaintances included all kinds of people. I could never forget the vicious fight for Civil Rights, much less accidentally dredge up a word like that without alarm bells sounding in triplicate which would, of course, cause me to ultimately refrain from using it (along with feeling bad for even having thought of it).
That’s what Paula’s persistent apologies bring to my mind; that somewhere back in her upbringing there’s something that explains her utterance (as much of an explanation as can be) but also allows her to understand how ugly it was. And she’s really sorry she re-experienced it for even a second. And so are we.
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What's your impression from Paula's apologies?
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The American public prefers actions to words (although it’s hard to tell when we’re so complacent about our disruptive Congress) but not actions involving only multiple apologies. As heartfelt as they are, they become more unbelievable with each reiteration. And this is an issue imbued with deep, complex, emotionally sophisticated tension that can elicit a raw, and even violent, reaction from some. Let’s avoid that and move on for now.
Ms. Deen, time has proven itself to be the most practical way to overcome obstacles and rise up again after a beat-down. Use this time to reflect on how the n-word and all it reminds us of is completely unacceptable, and how best to comport ourselves in our daily lives utilizing tolerance and respect. Then, come back and see us sometime soon with a wonderful new country comfort recipe for our souls, giving us an opportunity to welcome you back. We want to forgive, Paula, it’s just hard to forget. But we can.