Paula Deen and the N word: An overreaction by the Food Network

Paula Deen’s poor choice of language came from a different time and different circumstances. Photo: Paula Deen in the kitchen AP photo

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., June 25, 2013 – The reaction of the media, citizens and the Food Channel to Paula Deen’s deposition that she used the “N” word in the past continues. Two videos by Paula asking for forgiveness do not appear to have calmed the furor.

Paula Deen is a 66 year old white woman from the South. Her success has been based on a very astute use of her heritage regarding food. Her suave demeanor and charming accent has made her the darling of the morning “news” shows and the talk shows. Her upbeat personality also makes her particularly suited for its presence in front of the cameras.

While there may be other issues related with racial preference and possible violations of the law, the current scandal involves words that she said many years ago. These words were voiced when she was describing a person holding a gun to her head in a bank robbery. While it is true that even a person with a limited vocabulary, which is not the case with Paula, should have used another term, her cultural upbringing predominated.

Have we forgotten our recent past? The N word was used freely in many places in the United States. While visiting Virginia Beach in the 1980s, I was invited to a dinner party at the house of a white-collar worker. Most of the attendees were also white collar, professional, and college-educated men. They were mostly of the same generation of Paula Deen’s.

After the wine flowed and the inhibitions were reduced, the N word was constantly used to tell jokes, relate experiences and just in small talk. While it was obvious that most of the attendants didn’t have a white sheet outfits in their closets, it was apparent that this was the way they normally conversed.

This behavior was not proper, but it was the reality in that geographic location for this group of otherwise normal law abiding citizens. Admittedly, this knowledge didn’t do much to make me feel comfortable.

The rush of the Food Network to cancel Paula’s show was at best premature and at worst lethal for her career. This decision was made prematurely and with grave consequences to Paula’s economic and professional future.

To judge her by today’s standards for a remark that didn’t have any consequences many years ago is wrong. It doesn’t recognize the possible positive evolution of this woman in the several decades since the act.

To trivialize her act of asking for forgiveness puts us in the role of inflexible disciplinarians. The old adage still applies here, “He who is free of sin cast the first stone.”

Mario Salazar writes his  column 21st Century Pacifist for The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.


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Mario Salazar

Mario Salazar is a combat infantry Vietnam Vet, world traveler, renaissance reconnaissance man, pacifist, metal smith, glass artisan, computer programmer and he has a Master of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering.  Now retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and living in Montgomery County, Mario will share with you his life, his thoughts, his musing on living in yet another century of change.  He will also try to convey his joy of being old.

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