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End of Paula Deen case paves way for a path to redemption

She was sliced, diced, seared and skewered.

Now the lawsuit that put Savannah celebrity chef Paula Deen on a hot spit is quietly going away: She and Lisa Jackson, the former employee who was suing her, have both agreed to walk away from the fight amicably. Ever so amicably.

A statement in the case claimed the lawsuit was dismissed “without any award of costs or fees to any party.” But while that implies no money changed hands, that’s not necessarily the case. A settlement payment could be above and beyond any “costs or fees,” which are often associated with assessments levied by a court.

Moreover, as one law professor has noted, saying there was no “award” might simply mean that a court never entered an award. That much is true, but a cash settlement may also have been made. We may never know.

In addition, Jackson – who, as a fellow white person, a judge ruled is not entitled to sue Deen for racial discrimination – issued a statement that was wholly magnanimous and complimentary to her former boss:

“During a very difficult period in my life the Deen family gave me hope and the opportunity to work to build a brighter future for my family and me.

“I assumed that all of my complaints about the workplace environment were getting to Paula Deen, but I learned during this matter that this was not the case. The Paula Deen I have known for more than eight years is a woman of compassion and kindness and will never tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind toward anyone.

“I now know that the workplace environment issues that I raised are being reviewed and will in the future no longer be at issue.

“I wish Ms. Deen and her family all the best in all of their future endeavors and I am very pleased that this matter has now been resolved and can now be put behind us.”

Again, we don’t know if that’s all sincere and unsolicited; it would be nice to know if she got a hefty bonus for saying it.

Still, the case is over.

And though it may not exonerate Deen in the eyes of the public, or the giant retailers and media companies that dumped her like a hot potato, it does clear the way for redemption, should she seek it and be deemed worthy of it.

We don’t pretend to know if she is. But from the cheap seats, it sure seems as if she was given the death penalty for a crime – having years ago uttered the “N” word – committed by a large percentage of the population, particularly decades ago.

Americans are a forgiving lot, especially if one is truly contrite and the offense not unduly offensive. On both these counts, we suspect the outlook for Deen is promising.

But beyond her own fortunes – literally – there’s the overall question of whether America is any closer today than it ever was to moving beyond the sad acrimony of decades past.

The frenzy in this case suggests not, unfortunately.

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