Tag Archives: racism

What to Keep In Mind Before Feeling Sorry for Paula Deen

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This isn’t the first blog I’ve written about Paula Deen.

You’ll not see the first one. (Well, you might — I tend to drink a bit and post things I shouldn’t; just ask my Facebook friends.)

It started quite tritely with a definition of schandenfreud, made some joke about Sigmund Freud — I don’t know. It was bad. It can’t hurt us anymore.

Nonetheless, while it may seem that I’m “piling on,” I still find no reason to feel sorry for Paula Deen. Her cries on the “Today” show a couple of days ago just made me want to throw a rock at her all the more.

Paula Deen

Paula Deen — for whom no one should weep.

See, my problem is this: she’s a stereotype. A character. A character that’s made a lot of money, mind you, but a character nonetheless. As a character, she hawked a culture of food that was down right lethal, and when faced with the inevitable results of the diet she promoted — type 2 diabetes — she hid it, for three years, because it would’ve been bad for business. Type 2 diabetes is what happens when you eat deep-fried cheesecakes.

Her portrayal as a dame of the South wouldn’t be complete without a lil’ bit of racism, would it? I mean, a plantation-style wedding? Why wouldn’t you have one of these? It was such a great time in our history! We should bring it back every chance we get. Hell, I think my daughter’s sixth birthday will be plantation-themed. We’ll put Cameron in blackface and chase him through the woods. It’s going to be great!

Being a cartoon is a great way to build a media empire if your last name is Simpson or Griffin or Hill (OK, maybe not Hill). But not if you’re a television cook. Food Network, Smithfield, Walmart and Target have all dropped her. Why? Because being associated with an acknowledged racist is bad for their business. And why should our hearts ache because Deen’s little empire is falling down around her?

Deen’s supporters have filled social media sites to denounce the companies that have abandoned her chuck wagon. Oddly, many of those who are defending her openly proclaim using “the N-word” routinely and see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Nor, I suppose, do they see anything wrong with conducting a business in such a hostile way that black employees are forced to use separate entrances and bathrooms from white workers (as is alleged by lawsuits filed against Deen’s company), that it’s OK to refer to women as “my little Jew girl” (also noted in affidavits given in litigation), and that it’s OK to come to work drunk, strike restaurant staff and make them look at pornography (OK, well, Deen didn’t do this, but her brother — “Bubba” — did, apparently, and it was in his defense that Deen acknowledged having used “the N-word”).

Deen done did wrong. When you support a wicked person, you support a wicked way. And Deen’s empire empire, the one that seems now to be tumbling down, has been built on myths, lies and abuse.

And a stick of butter ain’t gonna’ make things better, y’all.

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Birth of the Cruel

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Hey yo, depending on the day and depending on what I ate
I’m anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds overweight.
I got red eyes, and one of them’s lazy,
and they both squint when the sun shines so I look crazy.
I’m albino, man; I know I’m pink and pale
And I’m hairy as hell everywhere but my fingernails.
I shave a cranium that ain’t quite shaped right —
Face tight, shiny — I stay up and write late nights.
My wardrobe is jeans and faded shirts;
A mixture of what I like and what I wear to work.
I’m not mean and got a neck full of razor bumps —
I’m not the classic profile of what the ladies want.
You might think I’m depressed as can be,
But when I look in the mirror I see sexy ass me.
And if that’s something that you can’t respect then that’s peace —
My life’s better without you actually.
To everyone out there who’s a little different
I say, “Damn a magazine; these are God’s fingerprints.”
— “Forest Whitaker,” Brother Ali

Who are you?

Complicated question, no? We got some things in common, you and me. Carbon-based, an affinity for oxygen, maybe we both need to take a pee. But whether or not these similarities are by design or coincidence – a product of infinite intelligence or genetic happenstance – is probably where we start to part ways. Weight, gender, skin color, background, preference in shampoo, etc. We can’t see eye to eye because we’re not even the same height.

If I’ve ever gotten anywhere on my looks, it’s been out of pity.

However, if there’s anything we share, it’s probably an innate distrust of those different from us. We are in competition, after all, for finite resources over which we and our progeny will also compete, which makes a degree of aggression essential for the survival of our species. If ever there was a truly altruistic person, I doubt that he or she lived for very long.

What unsettles me, however, again and again is how vicious and violent our actions can be toward those different from ourselves within our own nation and further, within our own communities.

Our national heritage is vastly more filled with examples of hate than understanding. Putting ourselves in another’s shoes is simply not something that comes naturally to us.

Still, it is something of which we are capable, and our capacity to do such – along with thumbs and our aptitude for building nuclear weapons – is what separates us from the animals. However, again and again, we put our best selves aside and turn back to our more animal instincts; spitting venom, attacking different species and being generally happy to curl up on the couch at the end of the day and get our bellies rubbed.

Resources are finite. Here, the resource over which we fight is unorthodox: opportunity – the chance to live a good life in a good, safe and stable country.

We are not the same. Our differences make it impossible to set any standard. As the Romans said, “To each, his own.” (Well, except they said it in Latin.) But what allows us to transcend our biology is civility.

It is trite to say that we should quit hatin’. Not going to happen. But if we can set a mutual (and irrational) standard for beauty – beyond biology – can we not also set one for mutual respect and coherent discourse?