- Posted June 29, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Reflections on Paula Deen and Society
I must admit that I have never really been a very big fan of Paula Deen. It’s not that I don’t see her charm or the way that she relates to “every day” people; I just don’t care for cooking shows. Period. None the less, I have been watching these last couple of weeks as sponsor after sponsor, store after store, and channel after channel drop her from their lineup. It is amazing how quickly these companies abandon someone who has brought them fortunes and I am sure that it was not an easy decision on their part. They had to weigh public opinion against their bottom line (i.e. how will this affect our future income). I also must say that I was really surprised to see just how large the Deen Empire had grown. Now I wish I DID care about cooking AND could do my own show.
I have read and reread the deposition in which Mrs. Deen admitted using the N-word. She contends that it was long ago and in the context of describing to her husband being robbed at gun point by someone that she knew and had tried to help previously. She also admitted that there may have been another time or two that she used the word, but again long, long ago. Her honesty during this deposition, which we all know is legally required, just astounded me. She really could have just said, “I don’t recall” and no one would have blinked an eye.
I must admit that the backlash over this deposition has surprised me. I, personally, was raised to never, ever, ever use the N-word. I understand the hurt that this word causes and respect and love all people of all color. And that is why I am just shocked at how common place this word has become in our society today. I am not saying that I have ever heard any of my friends use this word in conversation and I do not recall hearing anyone at a neighboring restaurant table or out at a store use this word. I am talking about how common this word has become in the recording and movie industry. When I was growing up in the 70’s, I never heard the N-word on TV or the radio. Now, it is in movies (Django Unchained I am talking to you) and on the radio. I cringe when I hear a song on XM radio or heaven help me on my 16 year olds iPod that uses this word.
Yesterday, June 28th I read that President Jimmy Carter spoke out in support of Mrs. Deen. He was not in support of using the N-word or racism, but has known Mrs. Deen for a very long time and could not stand aside any longer and watch her suffer. He reflects that the N-word was used “quite frequently” when racial segregation was the “law of the land” and not just in the South where he and Deen grew up. He also stated that Mrs. Deen’s programs in Savannah, Georgia benefit “almost exclusively oppressed and poverty stricken black people”. So, in a world that saw Mel Gibson’s career continue without movie bans from giants like Wal-Mart and Target, I started pondering two things: 1) How commonly used is the N-word today and 2) Is Mrs. Deen really a racist.
A quick Google search of current artists with song titles or lyrics that use the N-word revealed that many of today’s top recording artists use the word frequently. Please note here that I did break one of the first rules in journalism as I did not independently verify the below information by listening or watching these movies. Kanye West uses the word in the unedited version of his very popular “Gold Digger” song and during his live performance on Saturday Night Live recently he used the N-word live, on camera in his songs “New Slave” and “Black Skinhead”. Kanye and Jay-Z titled one of their new songs “N-word in Paris”. It is hard to find an unedited song by Lil Wayne that doesn’t use the N-word. Even clean cut Drake has a song titled “Ignorant Shit” that uses the word. A song titled “Real N-word Roll Call” by Lil’ Jon & the Eastside Boyz featuring Ice Cube uses the N-word 97 times in the song. Even Coolio’s very popular song “Fantastic Voyage” uses the N-word in the unedited version of the song. These songs are being played on the radio (edited and unedited) and are on the iPods of numerous children in this country. Movies have been just as bad lately with the very successful movie Django Unchained which has grossed over 261 million dollars using the N-word more than 100 times. Quentin Tarantino did get some grief over his decision to use the word so freely but that mainly just garnered free publicity for his movie. He also is said to have used the N-word 38 times in his movie Jackie Brown.
Now, as for Mrs. Paula Deen. It is pretty difficult to tell if a person is a racist if you do not know them personally as this affliction is often deep seated in one’s heart and may only show itself to those around them. However, one can tell by the actions of a person and their compassion for their fellow human beings if there is love for ALL people. Another quick Google search revealed several of her charitable contributions, but I must admit that with the vast amount of wealth that Mrs. Deen must have based solely on all of the companies that have dropped her this week, I really expected to find more than I did online. Perhaps she doesn’t like to toot her own horn or perhaps she doesn’t have a very good publicist. Either way, there was very little on the Internet concerning her actual contributions to charity except for a brief mention here and there. I did find that Paula Deen Enterprises donated $82,375 to The Strikeouts for Charity program from 2009-2011. This charity supported the America’s Second Harvest Food Bank which helps provide food to those in need and money is donated every time the local Savannah, Georgia minor league baseball team, Sand Gnats, strikes out a player. She received a Key to the City of Bentonville, Arkansas for supporting the community’s charities including the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk event in Northwest Arkansas. Although personally I think she had to do this one due to her dishonesty about her condition with diabetes as she continued to “push” fatty foods and recipes, she did raise money for diabetes research through her Step for the Cure Foundation 0.05K walk in 2012 in Savannah, Georgia. In 2013 she launched The Bag Lady Foundation whose mission is to provide hope, inspiration and support to women and families in need. The foundation would raise funds from public and private donations, as well as receive a percentage of the net proceeds from Paula Deen Foods. This is a new foundation and it is not clear how the fallout from her deposition will affect the work of this charity.
Based on the limited research that I conducted this morning, I am still a little puzzled by the swift actions against Mrs. Deen. I do not understand why it is acceptable for some to use offensive, hurtful words with public tolerance and not others. If Mrs. Deen showed a pattern of hatred and disrespect to others than the backlash would be completely understandable. Again, this is not a side of Mrs. Deen that I have seen the limited times I have seen her on TV or in the news. I do not believe that anyone should be using the N-word in today’s society and can only hope that this incident will draw attention to the power of that word and the damage that choosing to use it can cause. I think that the actions forward from Mrs. Deen will show her true character and hope that she will continue with her new Bag Lady Foundation helping those of all color in need.