Overt, Reverse and Old-Fashioned Racism: Paula Deen and the N Word

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Home / Overt, Reverse and Old-Fashioned Racism: Paula Deen and the N Word
Old-Fashioned Racism: As American as baseball, apple pie, and Paula Deen? Image by dbking

Old-Fashioned Racism: As American as baseball, apple pie, and Paula Deen? Image by dbking

The drama of  Paula Deen, the queen of southern cooking who is embroiled in scandal over remarks made to an employee, demonstrates how much American views on race have both changed, and diverged.

This is not Paula Deen’s first scandal. The first involved hiding her diabetes while extolling the yumminess of deep-fried, sugar-laden southern food. As Bloomberg Business News noted, Deen capitalized on her fame and health problems by then signing to promote a diabetes medication.

Paula Deen Racism Allegations

But her second scandal implicates her not for the food she cooks, but the way employees were treated in Uncle Bubba’s, a restaurant owned by herself and her brother, Bubba Heirs.  This scandal points to some basic truths about racism and tolerance in the United States.

Bloomberg Business Week reported that lawsuit was filed in 2012 citing a hostile work environment at Uncle Bubba’s. Employees alleged sexual harassment along with creating a hostile work environment on the basis of race. It is the allegations of racism that have caught the attention of the public.

Deen admitted in court depositions to having used the ‘n-word’ in the 1960s, noting that things had changed. Worse, Jackson, a white, Buddhist employee suing Deen and her brother, Hiers stated that Deen told Jackson in 2007  how she would like to see servers dress at her brother’s wedding,  “Well, what I would really like is a bunch of little n-‍-‍-‍-‍-‍- to wear long-sleeve shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.”

Under oath, Deen herself described wanting a “Southern style plantation wedding” with black servers in white coats.  Deen stated that while she knew in the old south these servers would have been slaves, she “did not mean anything derogatory.”  That is where many Deen supporters abandoned ship, including The Food Network, Target, Norvo-Nordisk, Walgreens, and Smithfield Foods along with many ordinary Americans.

But others disagree and have launched informal Facebook campaigns denouncing the Food Network.  What beliefs do these diverse opinions represent?  Is there research on Americans and race that help explain this divide?

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