As you all know, the butter has hit the fan for the Paula Deen empire. Her admission of using the N-word in the past in jokes and conversation, as well as a desire to give her son a true South plantation wedding with Black servants in white suits, did her in. There is also a discrimination law suit filed by a former White employee which brought all of this into the light of day. Paula has done her best to apologize but with sponsors dropping left and right, the damage is done.
I don’t know what is Paula in Deen’s heart. I do know what is in her cookies and cakes and that alone should be a crime, but that’s another matter. Here is the problem with all of this: how do we punish people today for wrongs which were done in the past. She said that it has been a very long time since she had used the N-word. I’m not saying all have, but if you wanted me to bet on any elderly White woman from the deep South having used a racial slur at lease once in their lifetime, the odds would be heavily in my favor. If using racial slurs isn’t part of her current behavior and she is regretful of her past ignorance, why can’t we move forward? Why is she being attacked as if this is who she is today? Our three most recent Presidents have admitted past marijuana use, yet we accept that as a misstep that no way reflects on who they are today. But when it comes to past racial ignorance (so many confuse this with racism), we are so quick to have a lynching.
We should, however, discuss a different issue coming out of this PR disaster. Southern Whites still have this habit of romanticizing all things Dixie. Paula Deen’s desire to have a real plantation wedding, with respectful and profession Black waiters (ahem…servants) goes to the heart of this problem. In their heads, they imagine a problem-free existence of Godly folks, cold lemonade, gentlemen and ladies, large porches and beautiful homes, and happy Negroes with a sole aim to please their loving caretakers. This is what the confederate flag represents to them: all things good and right and proper. And like Paula Deen’s cooking, this dream world looks good drenched in butter and deep fried, but underneath the surface was a foundation of heartache and death. I don’t think these Whites see themselves as racists but simply desiring a better, happier past. What they fail to grasp is that loving Dixie wonderland of the good ol’ days means loving the racial system those days were built on.