The Paula Deen Controversy

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Attitude
Tags: , , , , , ,

Paula DeenHas there been a single major newscast in the past week that did not talk about the current Paula Deen controversy?  Not that I can recall.

For those of you living under a rock, she has been in the news for revealing in a deposition that she used a racial slur – the so-called “N-word” – 30 years ago while being robbed with a gun at her head.  Since that revelation, she has lost her television show, many corporate sponsorships, the right to continue with her buffets in numerous casinos, the right to sell her branded products in several major retail stores, and I’m sure others will jump on the train in the days to come.

Enough, already!

Use of racial slurs is, of course, wrong and nobody can justify using them today.  Please understand, though, that to ask any 66-year-old woman such as Deen who was raised in a very different culture decades ago if she has ever used a racial slur is a ridiculously unfair question.  I’d like to make a note of everyone who is criticizing her for something done 30 years ago so I can go to those holier-than-thou critics when they are 66 and ask if they have ever done something, especially something that was condoned in the culture in which they were raised.  Nobody on the face of the earth could stand up to such scrutiny.  No one should be held to a standard of perfection for decades (or for days, for that matter) – nobody!  Not a single person reading this post could withstand that level of examination.  I know I couldn’t – not by a long shot.  Does that mean I’m a horrible person unworthy of carrying out my profession?  No, and neither does it mean that with Deen.

One of the frustrations with this selective crucifixion of Deen is how none of her critics are directing the same outrage at unlimited, regular use of the word in rap and hip-hop music.  What’s the difference?  If the word is offensive and unacceptable, then that standard applies to all, not just to certain people you’re inclined to stereotype and crucify while giving others a pass.  We have a word for that – hypocrisy.

A biblical story comes to mind – the one where some holier-than-thou types brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery.  She wasn’t caught 30 years prior – this was fresh news.  There was no doubt of her guilt.  Nobody condoned the behavior.  But how did Jesus respond?  To the accusers, He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).  Eventually, the accusers so eager to stone the woman walked away one by one, starting with the oldest.  The oldest were well aware of the sin in their past.  The younger ones took a little longer to realize they were guilty in their own ways.

Jesus didn’t excuse the woman’s behavior, either.  He told her plainly, “go and sin no more.”  So he spoke equally to all in the incident, clearly telling the guilty party to stop the behavior while also telling others to cease their unwarranted self-righteous condemnation.  That’s a message we need to hear again in this Deen controversy.

Deen has apologized and I have no reason to suspect that the apology is anything but completely genuine.  I accept her apology at face value and think it’s time to put it behind us.

Hypocrisy is an ugly thing.  We cannot hold people to a standard of perfection that we do not assume for ourselves, crucifying people because at some point in their decades of life they did something wrong or stupid.  Culture changes.  People change.  We learn, grow, and move on.  There are too many people in glass houses throwing stones right now and I’m tired of it.

Forgive and move on. You may well need that same forgiveness some day.

[Edited on 6/29/2013 to include the following addition: Several have rightly pointed out that the legal issues currently confronting Deen are not from what was said 30 years ago, but due to far more recent accusations.  Fair enough.  We’ll let that play out in the courts to see where the truth lies.  If a consistent pattern of racist or illegal behavior is proven, Deen deserves the legal consequences.  My beef as expressed in the above post is that in the majority of newscasts I have heard, the bulk of the media attention has been given to the fact that she admitted to “ever” using a racial slur.  That question and the self-righteous, hypocritical  response to her answer are where I take issue.

For a similar perspective, see http://johndobbs.com/2013/06/27/hey-paula/]

Comments
  1. Dana says:

    very well put Jeff. thank you

  2. Judy Anders says:

    It seems to me the “bottom line,” the real issues, is why would our legal system and news media embrace an issue that is clearly based in hypocricoty and could only inflame emotions? What good could possibly come from such public drama? Do we all not face enough stress and pressure from current, universal life challenges without throwing into the mix a stimulant to turn one against another? Reminds me of the grulling experience people go through when being considered for nomination for somekind of “public” office. “Will the perfect person, please stand up.”

  3. John Everitt says:

    Jeff, well-said! I have been struggling with my thoughts about this. People of a certain age from the Deep South have all used the N-word at some time during their lives. She apparently doesn’t use it today. I found Matt Lauer’s behavior and treatment of her to be way worse than anything she did 30 years ago.

  4. Jennifer Terry says:

    Jeff, very well said. I am stunned that this because national news. We have all done and said things in our lives that we regret and wish we could take back. I feel extremely sorry for Paula and wish that the media would stop blowing this out of proportion and allow her and her family to move on from this ridiculous mess.

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