The Paula Deen situation has resulted in commenters in blogs, posts, and tweets clashing into two camps: those who want her folksy presence off the air quicker than you can say "another stick of butter," and loyalists who are indignant that the Food Network fired her, and who insist that a lady of a certain age who grew up in the pre-civil-rights South should be given some slack even though she admits to using the N-word and to professing an interest in black, slave-like servers at weddings.
As in so many cases nowadays, the social media reaction is a story in itself. And a harsh and unforgiving look, once again, at our deeply divided culture.
Apologists insist that despite the toxic revelations (and her other secondary problems including an admitted tolerance of porn), they really truly know that Paula is a warm person who had it tough for many years and really did apologize sincerely, and who deserves repentance.
"First-amendment rights" are mentioned, reflecting once again the lack of understanding of what those rights are. Yes Deen admirers, blue-eyed Paula can say what she wants in her syrupy southern accent. But y'all, a company does not have to keep her employed if they don't like bigotry seeping into their brand like caramelized sugar on a pecan donut.
And Paula Deen, a woman who did not inform viewers of her diabetes while she prepared and extolled fatty, carbohydrate-laden foods -- and then came clean in order to take money for promoting diabetes medication -- has already been tainted by many as a greedy hypocrite who can't cook her way past a lard can. For many years, Deen and her sons and brother and husband have made a bundle by adding caloric recipes into the country's consciousness, to the detriment of many viewers.
Look, some may be piling on, as they probably resent that this friendly woman of dubious intellect and over-the-top cooking skills has conned her way into fame and fortune. But those who defend her racial slurs because "everyone does it" are dead wrong.
I am about her age. I grew up in the deep-south of "colored" water fountains and back-of-the-bus racism. And I and members of my family and my friends did not use racial slurs. Never. Many of us drank from those "colored" fountains and sat in the back of the bus in defiance, and worked for civil rights. I lived in Atlanta during the time of hatchet-wielding Governor Lestor Maddox, and restaurants that featured shuffling black waiters who poured sweet tea for some southern ladies.
But I worked to desegregate neighborhoods. And so did my friends.
To assume that Paula Deen's age and her southern roots are excuses for her bigoted choice of words and racist attitude is missing the point. She is an adult who has seen the results of discrimination played out for many years. And because she has been lucky in life, it would be nice to think that she could grow and learn and turn her back on even the slightest whiff of bigotry.
I applaud the Food Network for their swift action. And I hope that Paula Deen now spends some of her time and fortune helping those less fortunate. That would be a sweeter legacy than any of her recipes.
Follow Lea Lane on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lealane