Weighing in on Paula Deen

I’ve been thinking about this since the news broke about a week ago.  I first saw it on a Facebook post of a friends son.  I was shocked at what I saw “Paula Deen uses the ‘N’ word…”.  But I didn’t stop reading there (which is why it has taken me a week to post my thoughts on this).  One of his comments supposedly quoted the transcript from where the comment was taken.  It was a small section, but if the comment was accurate, it COMPLETELY changed how I looked at the accusation.  Before I went further, I decided to see if I could find the transcript and read it for myself.

Before you start weighing in, I suggest you read it for yourself too.  It’s 149 pages long.  CNN got a copy of it, read it for yourself.  But don’t stop there, read the complaint too.  Somewhere in here is the truth.  Seriously, quit passing judgement based on what others have to say (including me) and come to your own conclusion.

Lawsuits are ugly.  You read one side & then the other.  Many of us are biased before we begin reading, so we are looking for “our” truth instead of “the truth.”

Since going through my own lawsuit, I have become aware of many “truths” about law that aren’t pretty.  A lawsuit doesn’t make a person innocent or guilty.  I was hit on my motorcycle by an SUV.  He ran a red light and plowed into me at 45 miles an hour.  I have 9 motorcyclists and 3 cars who witnessed what he did.  Yet in the lawsuit, I was accused of hitting him.  Why?  That’s what attorney’s do.  It is their job to build a case.  For me, it was devastating to read things written about me that were untrue. I will never forget sitting in my attorney’s office with an arm that would never be the same again and hearing him read what the defendants attorney accused me of.  I was completely emotionally unprepared for it.  I then got a lesson in law and how it really works.  I’m grateful I wasn’t a famous figure, because the court of public opinion would have toppled me before getting their facts (more on this later).

People who haven’t been through a lawsuit (and even some that have) aren’t just ignorant about the law, they are ignorant about politics.  Politics isn’t just for politicians.  Paula Deen is in the middle of the biggest political battle she will likely ever face.  Nearly all of her contracts, supporters, and endorsements have pulled out.

Just why are they ending the relationship?  There is a lawsuit.  It is a sexual harassment/racial discrimination lawsuit (the plaintiff is a white female).  As I mentioned, the suit primarily names her brother, but Paula and all of her companies are also listed.  The “N” word that Paula admitted to using was used nearly 30 years ago.  She claims to not use it currently, to not be racist.

Claims by the companies cancelling Paula state that they “condemn the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind.”  They make it sound like current behavior when it is nothing of the sort.  Let’s give Paula the benefit of the doubt right now.  She’s not on trial, the everyday behavior in the workplace of her brother is.  She is being questioned in connection to see what knowledge she has (and her brother has not been found guilty, he is being accused.  Accusation does not equal truth).

I’m not taking sides, what I am doing is illustrating a point that I made in an earlier blog post called Pro vs. Con, on multiple levels, people are using poor arguments to crucify Paula Deen.  I’m not sure what she did to deserve all this vitriol, but she’s getting it with all barrels.

I personally find it confusing.  Companies are withdrawing their support for the use of the “n” word.  But that’s not really the issue, that’s what makes it confusing.  The issue is that they are terrified of the fall out and whether Paula will come out stained or vindicated.  Politically they are dropping her like nuclear waste.

The issue can’t be the “n” word because if I do a google search for “lyrics nigger”, I get back 4.6 million pages.  If I change the search to “lyrics nigga”, I get back 35.8 million pages.  Then there was the documentary “The N Word“.  Actors, musicians, & sports figures admitted to using the word and some even referred to themselves as the “n” word.  How is it that one race can use a word, but another can not?  Isn’t that a form of racism?

And none of this addresses that she’s admitted to using it in her lifetime (she references an event that happened nearly 30 years ago where she was held at gun point), the word is no longer a part of her vocabulary.  Which is confusing.  I’m clearly a white woman, and like many, I have worked to eradicate language that is offensive, but how can we eliminate a word in one race that another is using more frequently?  If we want the word gone, then all of us need to stop using it.  Or all of us need to stop being so sensitive about it and change how we feel about it.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  What do you want it to be?

I listened to a CNN panel about the circumstances.  I was still in my information gathering stage.  But one of the things said by analyst Kelly Goff horrified me.  She feels using the word is “problematic regardless of who uses it.”  She goes on to say that her fan base is middle Americans who consider themselves to be good people and “using the ‘N’ word doesn’t denote that you are a good person.”  If that is a true statement, then what does it say about all the African Americans that use that word?  A doesn’t equal B.  Kelly’s argument has poor form and I’m sure many would protest.

So where are we now?  For me, this was a venting.  It is less about the case and more about how this is being handled by the media and America mostly with missing information, poor argument form, and selective listening/reading.  Any of us could be in Paula’s shoes right now…or in the future.

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