How many of you read about Paula Deen’s drama this week? It came out in the press that she used an insulting racial word. When I saw the headline, I was a bit appalled that she would use that kind of language. But then I dug into the story and learned what really happened.
The whole matter came up while Deen was giving sworn statements during a deposition. A former employee is suing Deen. During the deposition, an attorney asked Deen if she had ever in her life used the “n” word. Now, keep in mind, Deen is a southern woman of 66, and so lived in the south before the Civil Rights Act. She would have been surrounded by people who used that word and a child repeats what they hear around them. So in the deposition Paula was honest and said yes, in her lifetime she used the “n” word.
Now, I think racism is an ugly thing, but in my book, telling the truth in a deposition makes Paula a hero, one who can speak an embarrassing truth, one who won’t lie. But, people made her a scapegoat. People who probably have used that word hundreds of times themselves at Food Network fired her. But this drama is indeed an example of how ignorant people acting in fear can so easily crucify good people.
Deen could have publicly responded to her firing in a negative war of words. However, she exited the network in high style by issuing a very classy goodbye. Deen said she”was grateful for 11 “great years” and added, “I have had the pleasure of being allowed into so many homes across the country and meeting people who have shared with me the most touching and personal stories. This would not have been possible without the Food Network. Thank you again. Love and best dishes to all of ya’ll.”
This story illustrates two competing habits of American culture. The one side is the making of celebrities. You too can be come a celebrity chef, decorator, socialite, duck hunter, or hoarder with some luck, perseverance, and at least something unique (think Kim K’s bum or Octomom’s octuplets) that will attract audiences. We love celebrities. I don’t know a great deal about this phenomenon but I have no doubt celebrity theories abound. The other side of this story is our equally zealous habit of demonizing people. Should someone make a mistake, or offend or slip up in some way, we have a crisis and a hero can be beat up in the press and spit out by our culture at lightening speed. It is frightening how fast we judge and condemn, when sometimes the person is simply being truthful about something.
So, some people love to create celebrities and the bullies love to knock them off their pedestal. Together we support their rise and kick them in the dirt as they fall. And as they fall, the condemned take on the role of scapegoats- they bear the blame of others. The folks at http://www.scapegoat.demon.co.uk say the following,
“Scapegoating is a hostile social – psychological discrediting routine by which people move blame and responsibility away from themselves and towards a target person or group. It is also a practice by which angry feelings and feelings of hostility may be projected, via inappropriate accusation, towards others.”
That’s right, Deen is bearing the cumulative blame for people who at any point in their lives used the “n” world. And/or, perhaps someone at Food Network is feeling bit guilty about their use of racial slurs. Again, racism is brutality in my mind, but so is scapegoating.
Or maybe Deen was about to get fired anyway. Her contract is up at the end of the month and maybe the timing was just perfect for Food Network. Lets’ have some honesty here Food Network. You’ve got some egg on your face.
In the meantime, I hope the rest of us continue to battle racism and also to look at the process of demonizing today a person who was a hero yesterday. It is uncivilized and unfair.
- Paula Deen admits to using the N-word but says she is not racist (guardianlv.com)
- Food Network Dumps Paula Deen After N-Word Admission (fox17online.com)
- Quotes about scapegoating http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/scapegoating