The 1960s may be three lifetimes away for many of us in the younger generation, but for hundreds of thousands of Americans, using slurs like the word “nigger” was a casual part of everyday life. Nonetheless, the Civil Rights movement was a statement to ourselves and the world, that we as a people refused to propagate a racist culture. So when a massive media figure like Paula Deen is discovered to regularly make racist statements with or without the intention of harming others, it makes sense that the public is up in arms.
The issue was raised when an ex-employee of the chef, who specializes in Southern comfort food, filed a discrimination lawsuit. The lawsuit accused Deen of using the slur when planning her brother's 2007 wedding, saying she wanted a "Southern plantation-style wedding" complete with black servers in white coats, shorts, and bow ties.
During the deposition Deen stated that she didn't recall using the word "plantation" and denied using the word "nigger" to describe waiters, quickly dismissing the idea of having all-black servers. However, she also said she recalled using the term in conversations between black employees at her restaurants.
Since evidence of racist behavior has surfaced, the negative press has caused most of Deen's empire to collapse as businesses began distancing themselves, including major partners like Walmart, The Food Nework, and Smithfield Foods, among others.
Her ensuing media appearances only emphasized the immense stress she was under. Her second Today Show appearance was a re-do of the show last Friday when she simply didn’t show up to a promoted interview. Understandably, Deen told Matt Lauer that she was devastated and wasn't a racist.
With her voice breaking, Deen questioned the audience of the show if there was anyone who had never said something they wished they could take back. If they didn’t, Deen made a biblical reference to sin and asked, "Please pick up that stone and throw it as hard at my head so it kills me. I want to meet you. I want to meet you.” After all, “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone."
Ultimately, it’s difficult to stay angry at Paula Deen when, in response, and out of seemingly genuine and authentic sincerity, she released a YouTube video apologizing for her character.
“I felt that I needed to just be myself, say I am sorry and beg for forgiveness. What I said was wrong and hurtful. I know that and will do everything that I can do make it right. I am not about hate, and I will devote myself to showing my family, friends and fans how to live a life helping others, lifting us all up, and spreading love.”
Since the incident and apology, supporters of the homestyle Southern cook have caused sales of both her book and the “Paula Deen Cruise” to jump. This kind looking elderly woman recognized her fumble and, whether due to her own conscious or pressure from the media and her career, will likely not repeat the racial slurs. At the end of the day, Deen can only be seen as a product of her time, and at the very least should be commended for her willingness to actively change her behavior.