Saturday, June 22, 2013

Paula Deen

Well, so much for tolerance and compassion.

The Food Network fired popular cooking show host Paula Deen after she admitted under oath that she had used the "N–word" at some time in the past, but "[i]t's been a very long time."

Deen apologized for having used that word however many days, weeks, months or years ago it was. In fact, she apologized twice. Apparently, that wasn't good enough for the Food Network, who fired her anyway and now must deal with the public fallout (and based on what I have heard so far, it could be considerable).

I'm guessing that the decision makers at the Food Network have never lived in the South — or they are no older than 30. Or both.

Or perhaps they saw an easy opportunity to score some points with a demographic group that seems all too eager to spread guilt wherever it can.

I grew up in the South, as Deen did. The "N–word" was used frequently — and not always, as the uninformed would have people believe, in a racist sense. My grandmother and others of her generation used the "N–word" as an adjective, the same as if someone was being described as "old" or "blonde" or by gender or something similar (i.e., "that old, bald man").

Today, I guess that is called profiling. But for my grandmother and those of her generation — or even someone of my parents' generation — it was a description. I heard the word used by people of my own generation, too — although probably not as frequently. There was a growing stigma about that word by the time I came along.

But Paula Deen is quite a bit older than I am. She probably used the "N–word" as an adjective when she was a child and began using different adjectives when she was an adult — which would have coincided with the peak of the sensitivity movement.

Or, as she herself suggested, the word may have been used in the context of a joke. And who among us has never told an off–color joke? I don't say that to excuse the use of the word, only to make the point that the use of it does not necessarily mean the user is a bigot. Context, as I tell my news writing students, matters.

I understand where the Food Network people are coming from on that, but folks on the left need to stop being so judgmental and keep things in context. People in the South (and elsewhere, I suppose) were wrong to use that word as an adjective, but I think it is worse to hold them to 21st–century standards when they were brought up on 20th–century ones ...

Or 19th–century standards.

Abraham Lincoln, who lived in the 19th century and is remembered as the Great Emancipator, used the "N–word" in ordinary conversation, as did many of the people of his time.

If that changes how you feel about his presidency, you are the one with the problem.

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