You know what’s pretty pathetic and sad? People who say and do racist things claiming they’re not racist. Take celebrity chef Paula Deen, for instance. This is a woman whose typical recipes consisted of something like chicken-fried bacon in heavy cream, and then, when it was revealed that she had diabetes, she immediately started hocking diabetes medication! Disgraceful. Deen has been in the news for the past couple of weeks because Lisa Jackson, a former employee of hers, is suing her and her brother Earl Hiers, affectionately referred to as “Bubba,” for racial and sexual workplace discrimination. Deen apparently said, regarding what sort of birthday party she wanted her brother to have: “well, what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts and black bow ties, you know, in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around. Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.” If Deen really said that, it’s indefensible. That didn’t stop her from going on the Today show with Matt Lauer, who asked her simply “Are you a racist?” She denied it, then blathered on for a while about someone evil trying to take her family’s fortune, and concluded by admitting that she had, in fact used the word “nigger” to describe black people in the past. Since then, pretty much all of her endorsement deals are drying up: Wal-Mart has cut ties with her, as well as Smithfield hams, and her two shows on The Food Network have been pulled. That’s not surprising. It’s what any responsible company would do…what surprises me is that such a despicable person ever gained such prominence to begin with.
Then there’s the added behavior of author Anne Rice to think about. Rice, best known as the author of The Vampire Chronicles, leaped to Deen’s defense, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, unless it’s the fact that they’re both from the South. Rice tweeted “I have never heard of her until today, and wow, this looks like a crucifixion.” She went on to say “It’s so easy to persecute an older, overweight, unwise, crude, ignorant woman who may very well be a good person at heart who has achieved a great deal in her life. So easy to vilify her and hate her and try to destroy her life. Woe to anyone today who is not slender, young, clever and politically correct.” Anne Rice is right. It is easy to vilify Paula Deen…really easy. Not because she’s overweight, or older, or not politically correct. In the deposition for her lawsuit, Deen admitted that she has also in the past made inappropriate remarks about “Jewish people, black people, gay people, and rednecks.” Gee, did she leave anybody out? People are getting on Deen because she’s a bad person. It’s bad people that make these sorts of comments, and have these sorts of views. They shouldn’t be in the public spotlight; their attitudes belong to the past, and they rightly should be shunned. Rice says Deen may very well be a good person as heart. I just don’t see it. It’s the same thing as Jodi Foster sticking up for her buddy Mel Gibson, saying that he only infrequently says wildly antisemitic things, when he’s had a couple drinks too many. We should never, ever make excuses for these people. That time had passed. A person like Deen, when asked point blank if she is a racist, says she isn’t. Maybe she even believes it. If so, it’s because she doesn’t really understand what racism is. She doesn’t understand what’s acceptable and what isn’t. She comes from a mindset where this sort of thing is so endemic that I’m sure she didn’t think twice when she made most of these comments…that’s why it’s up to the rest of us to tell her she’s wrong, and to enforce that by taking away her endorsements and TV shows. As for Anne Rice, I’ve lost whatever respect I ever had for you. I know for a fact that you aren’t “unwise, crude, and ignorant,” and that a person of your intelligence should know better than to try and defend this sort of behavior. But if this is really the way that you feel, then I guess you’re not as smart as I thought either.
What must be understood is that racism is still alive and well, and whenever it is brought to light in such a public and visible way, the rest of us must attempt to purge it, so that future generations hopefully will deal with less and less of it. And for anyone, Deen included, who says things like, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, etc, to you I say this. I have never in my life, in public or in private, said anything even remotely on par with the vile, hateful things that have come out of your mouth. This woman made herself easy to vilify, all right. I’m glad that the majority of people seem to agree with me on this matter, and weren’t afraid to call her out on her most grievous errors. Let her now reap the benefit of this, which is, hopefully, a lesson well learned.