On my personal Facebook page (the one under my name, not the blog), I have voiced support for Paula Deen amidst the scandal she is facing in the media for admitting to using racial slurs almost thirty years ago (toward a man who held her at gunpoint while he robbed the bank where she worked), as well as her admittance to making mistakes regarding inappropriate jokes in the workplace. This all stems from a deposition from a lawsuit a former employee filed against her, accusing her and others of inappropriate conduct and prejudice in the workplace. There is also mention in the deposition of the consideration of using African American men in a wedding a couple decades ago, wanting to have these same men dressed as servants because she said she admired the professionalism and decorum that they showed in that position in the past (she admits in her deposition that she realized this would not be acceptable, nor would it be construed the way she intended).
On my page, I have shown support for her, and have lost Facebook friends as a result. Anyone who knows me well knows that I adore Paula Deen. I have oodles of cookbooks (one that is autographed, no less), and her autobiography, and some of her products. I would croon right along with her when she sampled a recipe she would make on her cooking shows. I vehemently spoke in her defense when her cooking was criticized for its frequent use of butter and other fattening ingredients, and still defended her when she admitted that she now has Type II diabetes.
And I will defend her now, even in this scandal. And here is why:
All of us are guilty of prejudice. You can stomp your feet and adamantly deny it, but that’s a lie. We are all guilty. When we tell jokes about others, when we share graphics on social media sites that poke fun of celebrities or other subcultures, when we laugh at shows like South Park, when we fear someone for being different than we are, when we silently label someone due to a stereotype we possess toward them–that’s being prejudiced, plain and simple. Paula Deen was under oath, and she admitted to things that we are all guilty of doing ourselves, in some form or another. That does not make those actions right, necessarily. It’s not right of her, and it’s not right of us, and I think we all need to do some soul searching to see where we can change for the better. But it’s wrong to scapegoat someone for honesty and for actions committed in the past. She never pulled a Don Imus moment–using a racially charged slur over national airwaves, and live, no less. She committed these actions in the past, in private, and perhaps made some uncomfortable at work telling raunchy jokes (let’s be honest–I’ll raise a hand in guilt there myself). And most of the people complaining have never so much as read a page of this deposition (I have read it), and are buying what the media is selling to them, even though journalists are cutting and pasting to their hearts’ content to create their own interpretations and spin on the events…even if they are wrong, or are misquoted.
I admit, I don’t use the word in question that she admitted to using. But why is it okay for some to use it, and not others? When did it become okay to trash one group, but not another? I don’t like being called a cracker, or a redneck, or a hillbilly, or a dumb blonde, or a bitch, or a cunt, or any other name. I apologize for the language, but let’s get real here. Let’s use this hoopla for something positive and change our ways. Let Paula Deen redeem herself. Let me redeem myself. Allow yourself to change and be forgiven. We’re ALL guilty.
You wanna know why I love Paula Deen the most?
As a result of the aforementioned robbery, Paula Deen developed crippling agoraphobia. She was essentially imprisoned in her own home as a result of her fear. And yet, through that, she found ways to push her boundaries and to make something of herself, and slowly but surely, she created a business, became independent and secure, and developed an empire. A woman with mental illness who conquered it and followed her dreams–it’s amazing. It’s something to be praised. I personally have suffered from depression so badly that I wouldn’t get out of bed. The thought of functioning was too painful, too frightening, too much for me. The idea that “if she can do it, I can do it” has stayed with me ever since I heard her story. Until I hear a reason otherwise, I’ll allow her the opportunity to grow and start fresh.
I know I often need it.
I know you do, too.