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Paula Deen is not just a political correctness lesson to me

June 25, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
Judging by the comments on my Facebook account when I promo’ed that I planned to “skewer Paula Deen like a buttered shish kebab” today, this won’t sit well with about half the folks who read it.

I think political correctness is a way for people to exercise editing of social discourse to the point where everything is meaningless and everyone is afraid to speak, which leads to the enforcers of correctness getting their way.

What is bugging me about Paula Deen is not that. If it were just political correctness I’d be grabbing a stick of sugar-covered butter and marching down the street yelling “Free Paula.” I will agree political correctness is at least partially behind the dismissal from the Food Network and the end of her Smithfield ham contract. It’s better for big companies to steer a wide, wide swath away from the merest hint of racism than to try to stand in any way that could be interpreted as a defense of racism.

I give her credit for honestly answering questions that would prove damaging to her. Obviously, the fear of lying after swearing to God still has an impact on her, so she is a good person, I think. I think Jimmy "The Greek" and Howard Cosell were, too.

Yes, as her supporters say, Paula grew up in the South of the 1950s and 1960s, where segregation was the rule and folks tossed around that offensive word without thinking twice. But the 1960s ended 44 years -- a middle-aged lifetime -- ago.

But I do not think, after reading some elements of her deposition, that this is just about what she said 40 years ago.

She should have realized that it just is not right to talk about a even considering plantation-style wedding, even if she thought the smartly dressed waiters were professionals presenting a grand appearance. And her answer about not calling the waiters in a restaurant that inspired the wedding concept was very telling. She didn’t think of them as that word “because that’s not what they were.”

Which leads me to think she still thinks some folks are.

Let alone the whole understanding about how her brother sometimes shows porno around the office, but not if anyone he thinks would be offended is in there. Just not a good place to work, and that’s what the lawsuit is about.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the world was purging itself of hidden attitudes that jump out at inopportune times when it comes to race. Steubenville’s own Jimmy “The Greek” was terminated from CBS and lived the last years of his life in the shadow of a comments made offhand to a reporter using a camera while the Greek had been imbibing with dinner at a restaurant. Did not matter a whit that his career prior to that was one of treating everyone equally. His comments were awful. He apologized every which way he could, but his career was gone. The Greek also was not giving a deposition in a lawsuit about the conditions of being in his employ.

Paula was.

Paula also defended the words of her general manager, which were similar to what led to the end of Howard Cosell who blurted out the word “monkey” during a Monday Night Football broadcast. Again, Howard was a champion of civil rights. Didn’t matter.

Paula used the word not as an exclamation under pressure while a bank robber was pointing a gun at her head but later, when she was telling her husband about the incident. That was not in the 1960s. That was 1986. The Greek already had been terminated.

Cosell was gone.

And I know that the Rev. Al Sharpton said we cannot hold Paula’s use of the word in the past against her. I respectfully disagree. Her answers to questions in the deposition reveal an attitude that has not changed. No, I would not want to be held responsible for what I did or said 40 years ago. No one would.

There were a lot of answers in her testimony that indicate a level of something not quite right in her heart, just a little unrepentant now, not a lifetime ago. For instance, sshe doesn’t know how to judge which jokes might offend someone?

And that is why racism persists in this nation today. What’s just under the surface of so many people.

It’s not about what was said or felt years ago, but what is there today.


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