Food Fight!

I’m not sure what to make of the recent spat over an elderly southern ladies admission that in the past she may have used a racial epithet, or may have wanted to have a wedding reception attended by elderly gentlemen wearing sparkling white coats.

Paula Deen has been a fairly popular Food Channel personality, as well as making the occasional headline over her weight, or how healthy her food may or may not be.

Really though, she might as well fall right in line as one of my aunts. She talks like them, she thinks like them, she cooks like them, and as all of us of a certain age who grew up in the deep South, grew up in a time of segregation where blacks and whites rarely mixed.

When I was a kid, the “N” word was a common word used by all of my family. I think I was in my early teens before I even knew there was another one to use, and certainly I was in my teens before I understood that most black people considered it a not very nice word.

I would never consider using it now, either privately or publicly, but the fact that I have used it in the past should certainly not disqualify me from working somewhere where I have public exposure.

When I was a kid, the separation of blacks and whites was just something that was – I gave it no more thought than I would have to why it rained.

My Dad and Grandad referred to black people using the “N” word, most of the time not in any way of derision, but in the same manner and tone that they would call a dog a dog or a horse a horse. When I was young, people with black skin were called niggers. That is what I was taught by my parents, and I didn’t think anything of it at all.

I really didn’t even encounter black people in school until my first year of High School. The only major race mixing event that had occurred was about the time I was in the 4th grade when I met my first Cuban. Living in South Florida, in the early 1960’s, this was a big event, and happened about the same time as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

As I entered High School, much farther north in the state, forced segregation and busing was beginning. I was fearful because my parents were fearful. As I went about my daily life, and began to actually know some young black people around my own age, I began to understand that just because you learn something from your parents, it doesn’t mean it’s right, or that you have to believe it too.

It was a process. It helped that I joined the Navy right out of school, and very quickly moved into an environment where it simply wasn’t proper to hold a grudge against someone because of their nationality, their race, their religion or their culture. In the military, the only thing that mattered was how well you did your job, and how well you backed up your fellow shipmates when the crap hit the fan.

Paula Deen is guilty of having absolutely lousy advisors. She should fire them all. Paula Deen is guilty, perhaps, of a terrible apology. She should try harder. Public Relations apparently is not something at which she has great skill.

She should not have been fired from her Food Channel job because of being a Southern Lady of a certain age who once upon a time did things the way generations before her did them.

 

 

One Response to Food Fight!

  1. John Bolinger

    Your comment is fair and accurate. I like the way you emphasized the idea that public awareness and compassion come through a process. That process in the South is still evolving, especially considering that there are people there who yet want it to be 1863 instead of 2013. It makes me sad that Paula Deen has been systematically tortured over the past weeks. I would hate to be exposed (as we all would) over things I did or even said when I was younger. Paula has learned the venom and lack of understanding the public can show. She has been caught unwittingly between two worlds. I still like Paula Deen and her passion for good food. She’s already paid a terrible price for her past words. She’s no more the person she was years ago than anyone else is. The Spanish Inquisition was more lenient toward protestants than America has been toward Paula Deen. She’s been a deer in our headlights for too long now. Her being America’s racial scapegoat should be over. JB

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