Paula Deen has become the new poster child for that double standard, as she’s being dropped like a rotten potato by the Food Network and by Smithfield Foods for her having acknowledged using it sometime in the past.
Meanwhile, rap singers get away with – and get handsomely paid for – using it all day long.
It’s hard for this page to get worked up about that double standard. You need only see the movie 42 – a dramatic portrayal of Jackie Robinson’s breaking of baseball’s color barrier – to be reminded of how insidious and injurious that despicable word is, particularly when said in abject hatred by one of another race.
Moreover, if you want to talk about double standards, let’s talk about segregation. That’s the ultimate in double standards.
Still, we don’t endorse the word’s use by anyone.
That said, it’s easy to overreact to such an emotion-dripped word. Are we now going to excommunicate anyone and everyone who’s ever uttered it?
We simply don’t know if that’s all there is to the case of Paula Deen, and whether punitive measures against her are warranted. That may depend on how long ago her use of it was; what context it was said in; and if there is anything to Deen’s former restaurant manager Lisa Jackson’s claims in her lawsuit alleging a hostile work environment.
Unfortunately, there has been so much crying wolf in such cases that allegations in a lawsuit have to be taken with a grain of salt. That’s sad for the true victims of real racist behaviors.
For what it’s worth, we would think that what’s in a person’s heart today is much more important than what may have crossed his or her lips 40 or 50 years ago. And while we can’t know for certain what is in Paula Deen’s heart, the lawsuit against her might provide a few glimpses.
Similarly, several awkward and oddly amateurish apology videos she made when the story broke last week seem to show a woman with a deeply contrite heart. Of course, that makes you wonder what all may be in there to be contrite about. We just have to see what emerges from this case.
If the worst that ultimately emerges is that Deen, like so many back in the day, used a horrible word, and is, like most of us today, horrified by it, then the Food Network has acted precipitously and she should eventually be welcomed back.
If it’s worse than that, her troubles have only begun.
Let’s put this on simmer and see what all’s in the pot before we stir it too much.