Recently, Paula Deen found herself the target of a media frenzy as a lawsuit deposition surfaced in which she admitted to having used the “n” word in the past. The Internet blew up. Reaction to her comments has ranged from ‘this is a non-issue’ to absolute outrage. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve made some of her recipes in the past. I allegedly even liked them. But my feelings on the matter, whatever they may be, aren’t important. What is important, and what does need to be addressed, is the fact that some people, outraged by Deen’s alleged comments, are answering in kind with racist, sexist, inappropriate and disgusting statements of their own.
When the story broke, media coverage was almost tabloid-like. Not surprising, considering it was the National Enquirer that broke the story. In this day and age, when people want easily digestible bites of information rather than well-detailed and supported fact-based news, many saw the titles and nothing more. Titles such as ‘Paula Deen Admits To Using The N-Word’ and ‘Paula Deen’s Apology for Using The N-Word Is Ridiculous.’ As a result, reactions weren’t much better. As one of my colleagues said, it’s as if someone popped the lid off Ugly and let it all spill out. On Facebook, one page posted a picture of Deen with the text of the alleged comment, captioned “Racist Tw*t… Yes you are.” The ensuing comments on the post ranged from civil discussion to “racist white trash c*nt,” “C*nt fucking retard,” and “shove a stick of butter up her ass.” Really?
There were cases where people made offending remarks about her weight, about her diabetes, about being southern. People called for her to be hanged and lynched. People called her a “cracker,” a “honkey,” and other vulgar, racist words for whites. People called her a bigot, a racist, a bitch, all while calling her that most vile word you can call a woman– a c*nt. I won’t even spell it out, I find it so offensive. Since when did it become socially acceptable to skewer someone with the same type of ignorant language you are accusing them of using?
Some have told me that the “n” word is much worse than anything they are calling her. I beg to differ. Any word can be horribly offensive based on the amount of vitriol you put behind it. One person told me that “tw*t” is not nearly as offensive because it doesn’t have the same historical background… and isn’t offensive in Britain. Wha? That matters? We are still referring to a word that carries a vulgar message meant to demean and slander an entire group.
I don’t like racism or sexism, and I certainly don’t tolerate it in any form. But that doesn’t just apply to public figures. Each person who is out there answering Deen’s alleged racism in kind, is doing nothing to help the situation. Perhaps these people reacted so virulently because they looked into a mirror and didn’t like what they saw.
Calling Deen any derogatory name, expressing a desire to see her lynched, hanged, or forcibly sodomized with food is a heinous reaction to a heinous action. We have to rise above the hate, not answer with more hate. It’s not always easy to take the high road. The owner of the page referenced above recognized that, removed the post, and apologized. We’re all human, and we all err. Being able to admit it and move on is a hard yet important move.
Of course, that is not to say that we shouldn’t be angry at her actions, that we shouldn’t call her out for them. However, if we really want to set an example, we must learn to answer in a dignified manner. When we are able to answer racism, sexism, or any other -ism in this country without responding in kind, we will have finally evolved as a country.
Until then– pot, meet kettle.