I've never been a fan of Paula Deen nor have I venomously hated her, because I honestly can't grasp the phenomenon of television cooking shows. In my opinion, if you can't smell or taste the food, what is the point of watching someone cook it? I also don't know Paula Deen personally so I cannot speak to her character, which is why it's quite amazing to me that millions of people around the country all of the sudden think they can. It's no secret that the 66-year-old celebrity chef has been all over the news of late due to derogatory comments she made in the court testimony of the case of Lisa Jackson, a former employee of Deen's who was suing her and her brother Earl "Bubba" Hiers for alleged sexual and racial workplace discrimination. But in the court of TV, print and social media, Deen has already been tried and found guilty of all crimes.
If you look at the hard facts of what exactly was said during the deposition, however, it makes it very hard to view Deen as a racist. First off, this story was first brought to our attention by The National Enquirer, a publication that is not always known for their firm grasp of the truth. Secondly, in the case of Lisa Jackson's sexual harassment suit, her lawyer was doing his job -- attempting to make Paula Deen come off as the bad guy. That's what lawyers are paid to do. Lisa Jackson is white, therefore in a Georgia court of court of law, she cannot claim racial discrimination against Deen because they are of the same race. If Deen had said something racist and Jackson was offended, there is legally nothing she can do. Naturally, her lawyer chose to take this opportunity to defile Deen's character -- as any lawyer would do. This is a clear case of "he-said-she-said," however, no one is questioning the legality of Jackson's testimony. She is saying she heard Deen and her brother Hiers say something racist, but has no proof written or otherwise that Deen made said comments. This is after all, America, and it wouldn't be the first time that someone has wrongfully targeted a celebrity to cash in for themselves.
Forgetting that for one moment, let's focus in on what was actually said during that trail. When questioned on whether or not Deen had used the N-word, she responded under oath by saying:
Lawyer: Have you ever used the N-word yourself?
Deen: Yes, of course.
Lawyer: Okay. In what context?
Deen: Well, it was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.
Lawyer: Okay. And what did you say?
Deen: Well, I don't remember, but the gun was dancing all around my temple ... I didn't -- I didn't feel real favorable towards him.
Lawyer: Okay. Well, did you use the N-word to him as he pointed a gun in your head at your face?
Deen: Absolutely not.
Lawyer: Well, then, when did you use it?
Deen: Probably in telling my husband.
Lawyer: Okay. Have you used it since then?
Deen: I'm sure I have, but it's been a very long time.
Save the fact that Deen could have most likely lied and gotten away with it, given the circumstances, it's hard to say if I were put in her situation that I wouldn't have handled it in the best manner either. No one in their right mind wants to admit to having used that word, especially not someone who is in the limelight as much as Ms. Deen. So if she, under oath, admitted to having had used the word before, why does no one believe that she felt bad about using it in the first place -- nearly thirty years ago? She's apologized repeatedly for having said it, and yet, she could have very easily have lied and gotten away with it. Why don't we believe she deserves a second chance for saying something mean thirty years ago after a traumatic experience?
Furthermore, when asked about the "southern-style wedding" she had been a fan of, noting that the staff was African-American she responded: "But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying that I loved their look and their professionalism." Since this is 2013 and we live in America, I highly doubt that what Ms. Deen was referring to anything she had seen that was stereotypical of African-Americans. It would be in poor taste (and it would also be pretty hard to find any African-Americans willing to stereotypically portray slaves or servants from the antebellum south in any circumstance). It seems relatively clear that Ms. Deen was referring to their dress and professionalism, as quoted, and not the color of their skin. It's very hard for me to believe that a woman with a level of celebrity in a profession such as Ms. Deen's would have been able to get to where she is if she were as racist as the media claims she is.
Over the past week, Ms. Deen has been fired from the Food Network, a network whose general manager and senior vice president are Caucasian as well as Smithfield Foods, which is also run by a Caucasian male. These people couldn't have possibly been offended by any of Deen's remarks, so what are the worried about? Being viewed as racists -- even after having not said anything offensive themselves?
Not only that, several prominent African-Americans have come out in support of Deen such as Pastor Gregory A. Tyson Sr., an African-American pastor at First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah. He told local station WTOC that Deen is a friend to him and to the black community. Using the N-word does not automatically make her a racist."
Even the Reverend Al Sharpton stated: "You cannot deal with what is fair or not fair until we see an outcome of the present circumstances she is accused of, not something that happened 20 years ago."
On social media, many of the people who have labeled Deen a racist have been white. Having said something, almost thirty years ago about someone who could have very easily killed her and having not been in that situation myself, it's questionable on how I would handle it. More importantly, it's also questionable on whether or not that actually makes Paula Deen a racist. She never came out publicly saying: "I hate a certain group of people for..." nor did she say anything in particular about anyone by name. The lines between what is considered racist and what is not are so blurred by the lack of facts presented it's almost laughable that this is even an issue. Whether you like Deen or not also doesn't factor in to whether or not she is a racist as people have been all over social media complaining that they never like her food or the tone of her voice. That doesn't make someone a racist either.
We cannot right the wrongs that mare our past. Persecuting Paula Deen for racism in this country is not going to fix the hundreds of years of intolerance toward any specific group of people. Americans have this false sense of political correctness. They'll laugh at an inappropriate joke about another race of people (everyone has and it's OK to admit it) but when they hear the N-word of the F-word (in reference to the LGBT community) or the S-word, when speaking about Hispanic, it's an all-hands-on-deck witch hunt and the persecution of Paula Deen is a perfect example of that. No one should ever use those words -- and Ms. Deen has said so publicly and apologized but you can't have it both ways and you're never going to get it. No one in America, a country made of so many different people from all of the world can say that they've never said something bad about a specific race of people or person. We're never going to right the wrongs of the past, but we certainly can make this overblown fiasco go away and make awareness known to the future generations of this country that it's not OK to be racist by educating them. I don't think Paula Deen is a racist. I think Paula Deen is a person who made a mistake and had the balls to admit to it on the world stage, which says a heck of a lot more about her than most people.