Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Buttering Up

Can you imagine the world we would live in if we were all judged based on things we said or did when we were young and foolish?

Actually, if you are a celebrity, you do live in that world.

If we could whip out an instrument, not unlike a defibrillator, and measure what's in Paula Deen's heart at this very moment, then maybe she wouldn't be persona non grata right now.

Maybe she wouldn't be hemorrhaging support from her network and from her endorsement clients and she wouldn't be kept away with a ten-foot pole by her on-air colleagues.

If we could go into that ticker of Deen's and find out whether she is, today, an abhorrent racist Southern belle, wouldn't that be great?

Wouldn't it save a lot of angst and hurt feelings if Deen's true views of those of color were as easily determined, were as black and white (no pun intended), as the fact that she, once upon a time, used racial slurs?

Deen, fired by Food Network and dropped by Smithfield as a spokesperson because of her admission of using racial slurs some 27 years ago, has taken to video to record another one of those apologies that are akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out---an analogy that the Georgia native ought to be familiar with.

The apologies are rather pointless, but yet you don't dare not issue them if you find yourself in a stink akin to the one that Deen is in currently. The apologies are unlikely to sway anyone in this day and age of the 24-hour news cycle, where we all function as judge, jury and executioner in the time it takes to skim an article on our computer screens.

"Oh, Paula Deen used racial slurs? She must be a bad person. Thought she wasn't. Oh, look---a man yanked off part of his penis (click)."*

*actual news item, btw

The apologies that Deen recorded aren't going to gain her any more support or lose her any, really. As I said, we've all cast our vote already. Deen's fans and supporters won't be swayed, because they believe her to be a charming soul to begin with. And Deen's detractors aren't going to be sold on the videos, either.

Yet if Deen didn't apologize, her silence would be deafening. Go figure.

So Deen spoke with as much sincerity as she could muster (Lord knows how many takes of the video were recorded) and literally begged for forgiveness, even as her business empire was crumbling around her.

The only hope someone in Deen's position really has is if someone in the camp of her haters speaks out on her behalf. The Rev. Al Sharpton perhaps came the closest.

"A lot of us have in the past said things we have regretted saying years ago," he told TMZ. "I think she has a lawsuit now about activities now whether it was discriminatory. And whether or not she's engaged in things now. It's not about her past. ... She deserves what's fair, but that's based on what she's engaged in now."

In other words, let's let everything play out. But that's not very sexy, is it?

Deen's admission of using the slurs came in answering pre-trial questions in the matter of a lawsuit brought upon her by Lisa Jackson, a former employee of Deen's who accuses Deen and her associates of creating a hostile, sexually-tinged, racist environment in which to work.

Deen admitted to using the N-word "several times." but not for a long time, she said.



According to the Huffington Post, Pastor Gregory A. Tyson Sr., an African-American pastor at First Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Savannah, also came to Deen's defense. He told local station WTOC the chef is a friend to him and to the black community. Using the N-word, he posits, does not automatically make her a racist.

I find it laughable that as a Southern woman growing up before the Civil Rights movement, Paula Deen's use of racial slurs should be shocking to anyone. And, as Pastor Tyson says, such use doesn't necessarily equate to full-blown racism.

However, the suit by Jackson against Deen and her empire is certainly one worth following. For Jackson's allegations are far more recent than Deen's ribald language of the mid-1980s.

Paula Deen says she isn't racist and that her use of racial slurs in the past does not accurately depict what's in her heart today.

If only we could measure that. Or if only we could just take people for their word. But none of us seems to want to do that. The virulent nature of the Internet and social media calls for a decision right now, not tomorrow, not the day after.

Like Paul Newman said in Absence of Malice, "You (the newspaper) say someone's guilty and everybody believes you. You say they're innocent, and nobody cares."

Newman's character, Michael Gallagher, was speaking about print journalism. But the words ring true about the Internet's yellow variety.

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