Saying “N****r” shouldn’t get Paula Deen fired

**I try hard not to speak about current events as anything but an observer, but this one has just become out of control. So this week I want to comment on the Paula Deen debacle and lend some clarity.

Warning, there maybe some language in this post that could be considered offensive.**

I have a guilty pleasure, cooking shows. I love “the Food Network (FN)”, “Top Chef” and others. I have learned so much that has served to advance my cooking skills. Paula Deen has been among the host that have given me a better understanding of Southern culture and cooking. I was initially surprised as the next person to hear of Mrs. Deen’s comments, use of the word “Nigger” and subsequent firing by the FN and other sponsors. What further concerned me was the instant “I support Paula Deen” Facebook pages and multiple post showing support for a women who used a word that, as a society, we have considered repugnant for many decades (though in my humble opinion not long enough). Additionally, I began to laugh when I read post from my friends comparing Deen’s situation to movies that say “Nigger” or “nigga (not that this word is much better)” a ridiculous amount of times (e.g. Django Unchained). I truly believe that Paula Deen should not be fired for admitting that she called someone a nigger 30 years ago but you should really read the deposition for yourself. The whole thing is now out and it is a pretty long read and damning read, here are some of the highlights (lowlights) and why I believe she was really fired.

  • She was accused (in a lawsuit) of only hiring only Caucasians to work in the front of the restaurant:

“Bubba [her brother] and I, neither one of us, care what the color of your skin is or what is between your legs, it’s what’s in your heart and in your head that matters to us.”

  • The transcript mentions employee complaints about Deen’s brother looking at pornography at the restaurant during operating hours and forcing other employees to look at it as well. In direct response to questions about this, Deen said:

“I know all men in my family at one time or another, they’ll tell each other, ‘look what so and so sent me on my phone,’ you know. It’s just men being men.”

  • In response to questions about whether or not she’d have a problem with her brother looking at porn at work, Deen said:

“If somebody sent him something and he pulled it up and looked at it, no, I would not persecute him for that. … Bubba, I don’t think, would ever do that if he thought there was somebody in the room that he — it would insult.”

  • She did respond to a question about when it’s acceptable to use the N-word and Deen said:

“We hear a lot of things in the kitchen. Things that they — that black people will say to each other.  If we are relaying something that was said, a problem that we’re discussing, that’s not said in a mean way.  What about jokes, if somebody is telling a joke that’s got —It’s just what they are, they’re jokes.”

The continuation of this line of questioning is rather disturbing.  Even Macklemore and Eminem understand that in today’s America there is not a nice way to call a African American a nigger, yet Deen proceeded to find that medium.  This her response to the lawyer asking her to give and example of how to use the word nigger in a nice, joking way after she state that she could:

“That’s — that’s kind of hard. Most — most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. Most jokes target — I don’t know. I didn’t make up the joke, I don’t know. I can’t — I don’t know.”

There is not a nice way to tell a joke with the word “nigger” in it, trust me I have heard my fair share and not one of them is funny.

  • The most repugnant part of the deposition was Deen’s description of a “[pre] Civil Wars style Southern plantation wedding” she wanted for her brother.  She was reportedly inspired by a restaurant with nicely dressed, middle-aged black waiters dressed up as slave caricatures. When asked by the questioner in the deposition whether the race of the waiters mattered, Deen said, “Well, that’s what made it.”  the very suggest that slaves could be a quaint scenic touch at a wedding is deplorable to say the least.

Listen, if you really want to please go and read the whole deposition .  After i did I came to the to the conclusion that as a private company I would not want someone who acts in the manner that she has and continues to defend it to represent my company.  What about forgiving and forgetting? Honestly, I am all for forgiving but I also understand that we all must deal with the consequences of our actions (good or bad) and unfortunately we must let Mrs. Deen and her brother walk that path.  She is a public figure and she has to deal with this publicly.  If you want to talk about the numbers of celebrities, actors, pastors, politicians of all races that make stupid comments I will submit that you are deflecting from the real reason for her release and ask you to please read the deposition.

As I began I really meant what I said, I do not think she should be fired for calling a robber a nigger 30+ years ago while working at a bank but I the more I dig I see a national and cultural conversation that need to happen, especially within the church.  I think another blogger said it the best when she said, “If our country ever wants to heal from the racism of our past, [we have] to stop denying that it’s still an issue. We need to own it. To step up and start a national conversation about race. That starts by being honest.”

Honestly, these are just my thoughts and opinions, what say you?  I look for ward to the conversation!

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About Jon Nelson

I am just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody [Christ Jesus]!

Posted on July 2, 2013, in ...from Jon, Black History, HUP, Life, Politics, Slavery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. As a child when the world tried to defame a certain race, religion, etc. my parents would always tell me that ‘trash comes in all colors and types’ and you can’t call them by derogatory names. Yet the judgmental Christian attitudes still permeated our household. It wasn’t until after college that I was able to break many of these molds and learn how to see people as Christ does. I think sometimes parents confuse and mix up the ‘stranger danger’ childhood lessons and stereotypes. Listen to this. It’s a country music attempt at addressing this conversation.

  2. At first my initial response to the Deen Debacle was shock, not condoning her actions, but still shock that people were reacting so harsh. In Hollywood people are in a spotlight and they make all kinds of mistakes, some are very large mistakes, but somehow we seem usually to over it and move on. Remember the horrible things a drunk Mel Gibson fired off, but to this day many still go see his films and that I know of there are not any studios poised on moral high ground that refuse to work with him. So I felt FN and retailers dropping someone so quickly, that let’s face it has made them tons of money was a little harsh. But as more and more came out especially about the slave themed servers at the wedding it seemed to permeate a great deal of her character. This was not something that only happened a long time ago but part of who she is currently. So I can see why her supporters would flee. I do want to however address something that is awkward to discuss. There is a double standard in the race issue. Words like this are NOT OK to use no matter what color your skin is. They are always hurtful, always demeaning, and always (given the attitude by some that if your skin happens to be a certain shade it is ok to say these things) causing further racial segregation. As a caucasian kid growing up in New Mexico I was a target of racism because I was white rather than hispanic. I was the little white boy who sometimes had to run home from the bus to avoid getting hit or having rocks thrown at him merely because he was white. We cannot pretend that racism is something we no longer have to deal with it is very much alive and well. It is handed down by family, by culture and by media. People are always going to have some form of prejudice, we make assumptions based on what we have been told and experience, we compartmentalize things, and make assumptions based on those snap judgements, which actual is not entirely bad, it is part of nature. It is a part of survivalism to perceive a possible threat and avoid or neutralize it, we owe our survival as a race in part to it. But how we choose to react to a prejudice thought that may come into our heads based on what we have learned through experience or even been told and how we make these groupings together is vastly important. We have to choose to not let mere race be one of these factors and we need to eliminate any factors that contribute to these notions. When we support chef’s, or musicians or actors who make this their practice we are contributing formation of racial prejudice in the current and future generations. I urge you if you think using any slurs is appropriate to reconsider. Even if you consider yourself a member of the group the slur is generally aimed at, it does not give you carte blanche to use it, it only help to further segregate our nation and world. Hopefully this made sense and didn’t offend, I assure it was not intended too, but racial issues tend to be an issue where it is easy to transcend past a line where others are comfortable.

  3. I think that if she is willing to step up and repent we as Christians need to make sure we don’t eat our own. God can even use this to bring her to Christ. I pray it does.

  4. Hey Jon, I have an article I wrote, not related to this article directly, but I was intrigued by what you said here. My article is too sensitive to publish for the whole internet (and my thoughts aren’t that well informed anyway), so it is password protected and private. I wonder if you would be willing to read it? If so, email me and I will send you the password.

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