Over at ThinkProgress, Alyssa Rosenberg makes a series of stellar points about how the fixation on Paula Deen's past misadventures in the world of race-relations may eventually prove to be her salvation, as "an industry that’s grown up to support celebrity rehabilitation, and to exploit celebrity downfall," gears up to deliver its own brand of celebrity penance.
And how might that penance be delivered? Well, as Rosenberg notes, there are extant rumors that the folks who produce "Dancing With The Stars" may offer Deen a chance to paso doble her way to racial transcendence. As Rosenberg points out, DWTS provides a massive "likability engine" that offers "participants a framework to attract supporters and to leverage their personalities against those of other minor or shamed so-called stars." The dancers work hard, bruise their bodies and offer tearful takes on how much they've learned and grown from their experience. It's actually about as close as you can come to a Calvinist ballroom dance competition.
Now, I have a feeling that Deen may opt out of the Dancing With The Stars route to absolution, but that's hardly the only way to make your way through the game of infotainment penitence. In fact, I'm happy to lay my marker down right now and predict that Deen might follow in the footsteps of Lance Armstrong and throw herself at the mercy of Oprah Winfrey, who persists as pop-culture's ultimate confessor. (Frankly, if Deen's "handlers" haven't considered this option, then they are probably not very good handlers.)
Regardless if my prediction comes to pass or not, Deen will ultimately find ironic solace in the fact that everyone is mostly fixated on the fact that she has used racially charged language. Let's go back to Rosenberg:
Deen’s accusers haven’t just suggested that she used ugly words. They’ve alleged that she created a broadly discriminatory environment, and that she asked them to work for free. An investigation by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition into Deen’s employment practices suggest that many workers in Deen’s businesses have had good experiences, but also that many of them fear retaliation, and that some feel there’s an environment of racial discrimination in promotions and raises. Those allegations are significant and important, and deserve just as much attention as Deen’s language. But they’re also less shocking and sexy, and less easy to dismiss as a somehow-forgivable relic of the past than Deen’s use of ugly words or antiquated sense of aesthetics.
Right now, the fact that we are overly fixated on the "shocking and sexy" part of l'affaire Paula Deen is the best thing that Deen has going for her. There is the sort of racism that involves the casual use of slurs, and then there is the sort of racism that literally plucks money from a person's pocket, and it's too bad that the latter version doesn't shock us more.
Racism is not a naturally occurring condition. It is learned behavior, and for that reason, I think that it's proper to believe that one can atone for it. But in Deen's case, atoning for the language still leaves us with the workplace discrimination and the hostile work environment and the wage theft! We should remember that stuff, and not let Deen dance past it.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
Why People Care More About Paula Deen’s Language Than How She Treats Her Employees [Alyssa Rosenberg]
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Also on HuffPost:
Morning Of June 19: National Enquirer Reports On Racist Statements
On the heels of Paula Deen's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paula-deen-racist-comments-n-word-caught-on-video_n_3467287.html" target="_blank">finishing butters announcement</a>, the National Enquirer claims that it has obtained video of Paula Deen <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paula-deen-racist-comments-n-word-caught-on-video_n_3467287.html" target="_blank">making racist statements</a>.
Afternoon Of June 19: HuffPost Obtains Paula Deen's Deposition
And confirms <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paula-deen-racist-comments-n-word-caught-on-video_n_3467287.html" target="_blank">remarks</a>.
Afternoon Of June 19: #PaulasBestDishes Trends On Twitter
Mixing <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paulas-best-dishes-twitter-reactions-allegations-of-racism_n_3467877.html" target="_blank">recipes with racism</a>.
Evening Of June 19: Food Network "Monitors" The Situation
And <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/20/paula-deen-food-network_n_3471453.html" target="_blank">releases a statement</a>.
Afternoon Of June 20: Questions About Her Future Surface
Is her career <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-racist-comments_n_3477536.html" target="_blank">doomed</a>?
Evening Of June 20: Deen Gets Skewered On 'Daily Show'
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/daily-show-paula-deen_n_3477924.html" target="_blank">Type II racism</a>, y'all.
Morning Of June 21: Deen Bails On The Today Show
The program was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-today-show_n_3477825.html" target="_blank">supposed to have the exclusive</a>.
Morning Of June 21: Matt Lauer Was Not Happy
Nor was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/today-show-paula-deen-cancellation-matt-lauer_n_3478187.html" target="_blank">Al Roker</a>.
Afternoon Of June 21: Deen Issues THREE Different Apologies
Things got a little <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-apology_n_3479279.html" target="_blank">messy, and sad</a>.
Late Afternoon Of June 21: Food Network Drops Paula Deen
Her contract was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/paula-deen-fired-food-network-cancels-show-after-racism-scandal_n_3480517.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">set to expire</a>.
Evening Of June 21: Paula Deen Fans Erupt On Food Network Page
They are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/food-network-facebook_n_3480903.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">not happy</a>.
Sunday, June 23: More Allegations Arise
It's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/23/paula-deen-scandal-continues-employees-tell-rainbow-push-alleged-discrimination_n_3484607.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">not over</a> yet.
Monday, June 24: Smithfield Drops Dean
Other companies still <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/paula-deen-smithfield-endorsement-over-company-drops-deen-in-wake-of-racist-remarks_n_3495314.html" target="_blank">mulling their future</a> with Deen.
Tuesday, June 25: Paula Deen Cruise Adds Extra Date
Fans are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/paula-deen-cruise_n_3499047.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_hplink">standing by her</a>.
Wednesday, June 26: Caesars Drops Deen
They are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/paula-deen-caesars-entertainment_n_3503411.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_hplink">re-branding her four buffets</a>.
Wednesday, June 26: Deen Gives Emotional Interview
There are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/paula-deen-today-show_n_3501825.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_hplink">a lot of tears</a>.
Wednesday, June 26: Walmart Drops Deen
The world's largest retailer said it will not place "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/26/walmart-paula-deen_n_3505258.html" target="_blank">any new orders beyond what's already committed</a>."
Thursday, June 27: Novo Nordisk Suspends Deen Partnership
The company originally stood by her, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/paula-deen-novo-nordisk_n_3509855.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_blank">no more</a>.
Thursday, June 27: Target Drops Deen
Not <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/target-paula-deen_n_3510753.html" target="_blank">too many left</a>.
Thursday, June 27: QVC & Deen Taking A Pause
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/27/qvc-paula-deen_n_3512942.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">From the CEO</a>: "We all think it’s important, at this moment, for Paula to concentrate on responding to the allegations against her and on her path forward."
Friday, June 28: Kmart, Sears, Walgreens Phase Out Deen Products
Domino effect <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/sears-walgreens-paula-deen_n_3516532.html?utm_hp_ref=@food123" target="_blank">here</a>.
Friday, June 28: J.C. Penney Drops Deen
No more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/jcpenney-paula-deen_n_3517744.html" target="_blank">Deen merchandise</a>.
Friday, June 28: Publisher Drops Paula Deen's Newest Cookbook
Even though it isn't out yet and it is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/28/paula-deens-new-testament_n_3518997.html" target="_hplink">number 1 on Amazon right now</a>.