06/26/2013 03:23 pm ET Updated Aug 26, 2013

The Paula Deen Thing Is Partly Our Fault

No, we didn't cause her to use the n-word 27 years ago, and we didn't create a racist climate.

What we did do, is neglect to think and evaluate before we jumped on one position or the other, defending Ms. Deen or attacking her.

First, journalists shoddily neglected to report the entire story, presenting it as though Ms. Deen continually uses that word, and promotes an atmosphere of racism. This is inaccurate, according to virtually all reports, and Ms. Deen herself. So, in the sense of complete, responsible reportage, they lied by omission.

And we're at fault because we just swallow whole whatever they choose to tell us, or to leave out. It's all there for us if we think about the issues before jumping to judgement.

Ms. Deen's attackers, a number of whom keep their identities hidden, neglected to think carefully before jumping to conclusions. Forgetting that Ms. Deen is a human being, they attacked her character and entire life work. It broke my heart to see her change from a sweet (not perfect, as are none of us), bubbly, giving woman to an individual whose heart is also broken. I pray that her supporters will nurture her spirit, as will her faith in God, and she will be able to recover.

Back to our part, though. We cannot allow ourselves and others to destroy anyone for making a mistake, because such destruction is morally wrong; besides, it could turn on us some day. We may be frustrated and furious about injustices we and others have endured, and we also may be guilty of slurs on others.

Having said that, among the real villains here are all derogatory terms -- racial (all races), sexual orientation, religion, size, appearance, political focus -- it goes on and on; our usage and the attitudes that generate them. One word is no worse than any other, and it is time to move on to looking in our own mirrors, and evaluating our own behavior -- including what we tolerate from our children, friends and co-workers.

And it is time we held up a mirror to the journalists we follow, holding them to the high standards which the profession deserves.