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.
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.