“In reluctant defense of Paula Deen”

I believe the entire idea of civil rights is about making the world better. It is not about revenge.

You can choose one or the other, but you can’t have both.

From USAToday:

…Deen has been so nastily scapegoated over race that I’ve become a reluctant Deen supporter. That’s because as someone who grew up in a small Southern town, and who moved back after 30 years away, I know so many big-hearted but misguided older people like her, good people who could not withstand the scrutiny that has destroyed Deen’s career.Now, if Deen the restaurant professional has done what the lawsuit against her claims — that is, allowed her brother Bubba, who seems like a redneck lout, to abuse his employees — then she must be held responsible for that. These allegations have not been proved. Besides, that’s not what caused the Deen brand to collapse overnight….

…There is a reason Gone With The Wind endures as a pop culture touchstone, and these estate houses fascinate millions. How can so much beauty and grandeur exist entwined with such evil? That is part of the mystery of the Old South, and its tragedy….Deen, who is 66, holds to a moonlight-and-magnolias romanticism that is common among white Southerners of her generation. Yes, it is now in questionable taste, and yes, it reveals an impoverished moral imagination.

But this acute sensitivity is a fairly new thing in American culture….

…I think of the old white lady I interviewed two decades ago in my town. She was politically incorrect on race, and hopelessly innocent of her ignorance. But she was helping lead an ultimately successful charge to save a poor black church from a developer’s wrecking ball. It takes a Puritan to regard that woman as a simplistic villain.

What galls about Deen’s treatment is the puritanical zeal that cultural enforcers bring to bear on the complex realities of race, region and history. By implication, it says that all right-thinking people must drive anyone with Deen’s personal history and antique views out of the public square.

To demonstrate our racial righteousness to the media commisars, are we younger Southerners required to agree that our gray-haired kinfolks are irredeemably tainted? If so, forget it. We know better. We know these people, we love them, and in most cases we grant them grace, knowing that they too were twisted by the evil of racism, by a world into which they were born, and which — contra Mr. Faulkner — has passed and is passing away.

In a 1957 letter, the Southern Catholic novelist Walker Percy, who openly opposed segregation when that wasn’t easy for a white Southerner to do, conceded the wickedness of the peculiar institution, but warned that anti-racists could not win if they attacked “not only segregation, but (the Southerner), his people, and his past.”…

…It’s still true today. I hate the stain of racism that is an indelible part of my heritage. But those with untroubled consciences who insist that to hate racism requires regarding our family, friends, and neighbors, as moral lepers do not understand what honor and loyalty mean to Southerners.

Many of the same people who call for Deen to be ostracized are someday going to be in her shoes: I have no doubt that several of today’s politically correct attitudes are going to be tomorrow’s “how could you?” moments.

  • Consider the popular view that autism can be “cured” by simply identifying autistic children early enough to abort them before they’re born.
  • Or the easy way people denigrate the ‘rednecks’ and ‘white trash’ who live in ‘flyover country’.
  • Most of the people who think they are on “the right side of history” on the gay marriage debate are going to switch their position later, if I’m right and children’s rights becomes a thing in the future – but right now, children are reduced to mere property, to be used and misused on behalf of their parents’ political and emotional needs.

Maybe I’m wrong about all those issues – maybe it will be issues I myself, in my own bigotry and ignorance, never even stopped to think about.

How many black men does it take to screw Paula Deen? Let’s investigate: It will take four to lift her up onto the kitchen counter; one to serve drinks; two to fan her off with palm fronds; one to roll the camera; one to stuff her mouth with…baked goods so she can’t scream anything that might be “misconstrued” as racist….

from deliberatelyfunny

The Paula Deen downfall seems to have no floor. According to TMZ, the disgraced television personality has just fired her agent, following the loss of lucrative business deals with Walmart, Target, Caesar’s Entertainment, The Food Network, KMart, and her book publishers.

via djsdoingwork.com

We’re all insensitive jerks. All of us. Our positions on when we’re nice and when we’re insensitive is necessarily selective. We are guided by social norms – that’s why social norms exist. Anyone who thinks they are morally superior to Paula Deen because they grew up in a world where the new rules were in place from the start should become acquainted with the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I”.  (Update it however you like to make random chance, rather than God, responsible for your own good luck, but the point remains).

Watching Deen’s long fall is almost unbelievable. Judging by these swift, unforgiving actions by corporate America, there is nothing worse than what Deen did (said). That would include, for example, giving aid and comfort to the enemy in North Vietnam while American POWs were being tortured by captors in Hanoi, and while other Americans were still fighting and dying during the Vietnam War. This, of course, is exactly what actress Jane Fonda did before amassing her own exercise-based media empire.

I couldn’t help noticing that in the same People magazine issue that features a Deen cover story (“Inside Her Fall”), actress Winona Ryder offers readers a list of her favorite books. One happens to be “My Life So Far,” a memoir by Jane Fonda. Ironically, Random House is Fonda’s publisher. Another Ryder must-read is “Scoundrel Time,” a memoir by writer Lillian Hellman, who admired and even shilled for Stalin, the Soviet dictator who killed some 20 million people.

Fonda and Hellman, however, make public-square-approved bedtime reading.

from conservativeread.com

Consider the following exchange at a site called changelab:

Okay, I know this subject has been beat to death but I need to go there one more time. Why? Because Paula Deen’s crying, pleading, borderline belligerent I is what I is, and I’m not changing play for forgiveness mirrors the way that too many white people react to accusations of racism. And that reaction is no small thing. It’s one of the obstacles to ending interpersonal racism which, as we know, is the justification for institutional racism and the perpetuation of racial inequality.


7/5/13 at 11:11 am

What kind of evidence can you present to show you are not racist?


6/28/13 at 11:28 am

I find it interesting that this is prefaced with “for white people who want to be good allies.” Doesn’t that imply that white people are the only ones who can be racists? Is that comment itself not racist? As long as I am posting, you tell white people what not to do, and I think the advice offed has some merit, but the only advice you have for what they should do is admit they are racist and learn from it. That also assume or pressumes they are racist. What if the white person is not racist and someone accuses them of being racist (or are you assuming all white people are racist…which is of course racist)? What should that nonracist person do then? Do they admit to being racist just because they are white? What if their family immigrated to the US in the 1990 (equality had been granted to all minorities, laws were in place, the world was well on its way to change), they came from a country where slavery had not existed, they were raised in a multicultural neighborhood, they have reached that final level of equality, apathy. They really don’t care what color someone’s skin is or what religion they practice or even their sexual orientation. They just don’t care (truely liberated mind). But they do something that offends someone. Lets say they go into a store and ask to see the manager and the person they ask is a minority and that person is offended because they believe this white person has decided that because they are a minority they cannot be the manager. The person calls them a racist. How are they supposed to react to that? By saying, “You are right, I should have assumed you were the manager.” The charge of racism is undefendable. The accusation is the crime. The advice being offered here is 1. Don’t be upset that someone called you a racist even if you think that is the worst thing anyone could ever call you, 2. Don’t try to offer evidence that would illustrate you are not a racist. 3. Don’t admit it but then say it was because of the way you were raised because you should not be influenced by your surroundings, 4. don’t justify your actions because they are racist (which we determined they were when someone said you were racist). Just admit you are a racist because after all you are white and someone has told you that you are racist. Let’s change the lable and see if the advice still holds up. Obviously this isn’t going to be a perfect analogy because by their very nature analogies are not the thing we make them analogous to. Let’s say someone calls you a whore. 1. Don’t be upset someone called you a whore. 2. Don’t try to defend yourself by explaining that you have only slept with two people in the last three years and you were raped once. 3. Don’t say that where you come from a place where dating 4-5 people in the same year does not make you a whore. 4. Don’t justify having sex with someone because you were drugged or it was date rape or you were young or this is the way everyone in your community acts. When someone calls you a whore just admit you are a whore and learn from it.

I am all for getting people to stop being racist, I am all for providing advice to help everyone open a dialogue and learn from experiences. But to say when somone calls you a racist don’t talk back, don’t defend yourself, don’t disagree just admit you are a racist, doesn’t sound like good advice. Offer me advice on this: Someone just called me a racist, but I am not a racist (accept those observations as facts), what should I do?


6/29/13 at 12:24 am

todd: you pulled a couple of classic moves that well meaning white people often do when confronted with what people of color feel about uncomfortable situations having to do with culture clashes and bigotry.

1. you made it about you. you basically broke rule #1 of this blog post and complained about being a white person beset upon by charges of racism or bigotry. it would have been better to just read the article and respond in the context of the article, instead of focusing on yourself and your whiteness.

2. you took up the most space on this page as a commenter. i realize that we all can get carried away and want to delve into our deepest feelings when we communicate in forums like this, but it was simply too much. be more aware of what this space is for.

3. you made a false analogy and compared being called out on bigotry to being called a “whore.” sexism and racism are not the same thing and should not be equated. being called out on your prejudices or your bigotry is not as simple as being called a name. it’s about your BEHAVIOR and how you’ve treated someone, based on racial prejudices.

you need to read this blog article again, because you clearly did not get it.


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