Chef/celebrity/business owner/butter spokesperson Paula Deen has been the subject of public scrutiny since her May 17 deposition in a case where former employee Lisa Jackson, a manager of one of her restaurants (co-owned with her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers), sued for sexual harassment and racial discrimination. Companies are dropping her left and right, including the Food Network–which featured her on several shows.
The instigator of this mess was the revelation of many horrific acts and statements that stemmed from the lawsuit. The ex-employee claimed that:
- The environment was hostile, rife with innuendo, racism and violence,
- That black employees used separate bathrooms and entrances from their white counterparts,
- That black workers endured “different, more stringent, standards”,
- That Hiers regularly made racist statements and inappropriate comments of a sexual nature,
- Hiers made Jackson watch pornography with her,
- Hiers forcibly shook employees many times, and
- Deen enabled Hiers’ acts, ignored complaints by Jackson, and was racist herself.
- She noted that jokes often target minority groups,
- She felt that “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person” regarding said jokes,
- She wanted to hire all black waiters for her brother’s “very southern-style,” plantation-style wedding in 2007, modeled after a restaurant with a staff stocked with middle-aged black men in white jackets and black bow-ties, “you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around”, and
- She admitted to using the “n-word” (I refuse to spell the word out because it is charged with hatred and bigotry; despite the efforts to “take the word back,” it’s a different case when a non-black person says it.) in a non-shocker.
There’s a lot more that her deposition contained, but that’s more enough for me. But there could be an infinity of horrible shit that would be ignored by her defenders. Her (now canceled) upcoming cookbook soared to the top of Amazon.com’s bestselling books list, her annual cruise added a second trip (shit comes with every voyage) due to popular demand; and her fans have flooded Facebook and other social media sites with defense of the embattled bigot.
From my perspective as a black man for 32 of my 33 years (I experimented with other races for a year in college), seeing people (mostly white) rush to Deen’s defense is akin to promoting systemic racism. It is rewarding the racist, sexist behavior that Deen allegedly and purposely conducted. It is claiming and championing Deen as a victim (of the liberal media, the PC police, whatever), treating her with kid gloves and as, yes, less than a normal person through giving her special treatment (like apologizing for her Southern upbringing)–KIND of like racists that single out folks that are different from them.
At this point, anyone–ANYONE–that is rushing to Deen’s side–online or offline, former president or talk show host–is not only as ill-informed and suspect as Deen is racist and idiotic, but they may as well wear white hoods when delivering their defense. Deen did not get to where she was in her industry by being a moron; she worked and lived alongside people of different colors and creeds. And if that deposition and her embarrassing words and actions are any indicator, she used her position of power to treat African-Americans as less than human. She KNEW what was going on, and she not only engaged in discriminatory behavior, SHE ENFORCED A CORPORATE CULTURE THAT CARRIED IT OUT. (This is the same big business environment, by the way, that her supporters, many of them conservative, praise as necessary for the economy–until it works against them.)
As an American citizen, you KNOW that there are numerous races and cultures in the country. You KNOW that certain behavior is not tolerated in public. You KNOW how you treat people and that certain acts suggest ostracizing others that do not look, sound or behave like you. You KNOW that the words that are coming out of your mouth or fingertips can hurt other people that are different from you. You KNOW that. YOU KNOW THAT, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES.
I hope that Paula Deen’s plight gets worse. I hope she loses everything. I hope she is revealed to be the most racist person since every person in Gone With the Wind. I hope that years from now, her name is synonymous with other racists like Mel Gibson and Adolf Hitler in the history books. Maybe then, and ONLY then, will people get it through their heads that racism is the worst. And if it involves the financial spiral of a racist woman that makes food that people like, so be it.