Girl, Bye: Why This Moment is Bigger than Paula Deen

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few days, you’ve probably heard about the kerfuffle with Our Fair Lady of Butter, Paula Deen. The quick and dirty of it all is that Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, are facing a discrimination suit from a former employee, Lisa Jackson, who has accused the restauranteurs of creating a hostile work environment that included racist business practices and sexual harassment. As a result of the suit, Deen answered questions in a deposition regarding the accusations in the case and it was in this deposition that Paula Deen showed her entire ass.

According to the complaint, Deen and other managers at her companies ignored Jackson’s attempts to discuss Hiers’ behavior. As evidence that Deen “holds such racist views herself,” the complaint details an incident that occurred when Jackson was in charge of “food and serving arrangements” at Hier’s wedding in 2007. The complaint includes a comment Deen allegedly made when asked by Jackson what type of uniforms the servers should wear at the wedding.

“Well what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around,” the lawsuit claims Deen said. “Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”

In her deposition, which was given last month, Deen denied  many of the allegations against Hiers and addressed the alleged comment about his wedding. Deen said she remembered telling Jackson and another employee about a restaurant she went to with an exclusively African-American waitstaff that she wanted to emulate, but was worried about the potential reaction. Though Deen admitted to using the phrase “really southern plantation wedding” she denied having said the N word. (Source)

Of course Miss Paula not only got roundly denounced in the media, she got dragged within an inch of her life on the internets. Awesomely Luvvie and Kid Fury and Crissle of The Read had me rolling. But let me tell you about the hearty guffaws I experienced reading Twitter (on Junteenth, no less!). Between #PaulasBestDishes, #paulawontcookit, and #PaulaDeenTVShows, I died and then was resurrected several times. I got my entire life. I mean “Nat Turnip Greens” and “We Shall Over Crumb Cake” ?! If Black Twitter is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Remember what sister Zora said about black people and the “adornment of language”? This is it!

Then your girl PD went on damage control and issued a series of rambling apologies that expressed how truly sorry she was for getting caught.

White women’s tears are delicious

White women’s tears are delicious

Chile, please. She can keep her deep-fried apology.

Of course there has been the inevitable backlash by Deen’s supporters, folks who think she shouldn’t have gotten fired should have gotten her contract renewed, and the usual suspects who think that “Black folks are too sensitive” and are “hypocritical” because “we use the N-word too.”  I would tell them to go have a stadium of seats, but I am too busy laughing at some of their shenanigans. For example,

 I’ve heard of pinkwashing, but biscuit washing? It’s both alarming and strangely delicious

I’ve heard of pinkwashing, but biscuit washing? It’s both alarming and strangely delicious

I do not feel at all guilty for laughing this woman to scorn, especially considering the millions of dollars she has made and is yet to make. Yes, yet to make. This uproar will die down eventually and she’ll get back to selling deep-fried butter in no time.

No, your eyes don’t deceive you. Paula got a hustle on these pots, son!

No, your eyes don’t deceive you. Paula got a hustle on these pots, son!

What I do feel is missing from a lot of the conversations around Paula Deen, though, is what is really at the heart of the matter: the discrimination suit and what it alleges about Deen’s workplace practices. See, several more folks have come forward accusing Deen and Hiers of discrimination. Apparently,

Deen “preferred white and light-skinned blacks to work with customers” and that darker-skinned blacks were relegated to “back-of-the-house operations”…employees have been reluctant to talk [Rainbow/PUSH Coalition] about their experience with Deen because they fear retaliation. (Source)

Understanding how institutionalized oppression works and having worked in a few hostile work environments myself, I understand how scary it is to call out the powers that be and to stand up for oneself. There’s a lot to lose. So, it is no small thing that folks are coming forward and exposing what seems to have been a workplace shitshow.

This has the potential to be a productive moment to have a conversation about race, class, gender, sexuality, and accessibility at work, to discuss fair labor practices, and to support organizations that are in the trenches advocating for workers’ rights. Also, rather than being reactionary about being called racist (I’m talking to you Miss Paula), folks could try not being racist. A pipe dream, I know. Bottom line, I’m suggesting we keep our eyes on the prize and not forget the systemic issues that make Deen’s alleged behaviors not only possible, but also endemic.

What’s your take on the Paula Deen situation?

crunkadelic

36 thoughts on “Girl, Bye: Why This Moment is Bigger than Paula Deen

  1. All I can say is, WOW!!!.. I do like a honest racist so just come clean Paula, no apologizes for being honest should be needed!

  2. Wonder how Paula will explain her ‘Blacks use back door only’ policies, the next time she’s on OPRAH?

  3. All the yahoos fudging the facts and acting a fool in support of this women had me thinking that the world was drinking goof juice. I got figuratively cursed out because I called out her fauxpologies for what they were. Thank you for this, thank you.

  4. Dean’s food is a heart attack on a plate; I don’t eat it.
    Shameful comments.
    Dean apologized.
    Hopefully, she learned some wisdom from her thoughtless plus comments.
    Let’s now move on and upward.

    • Well I’m gonna pile on with some history about PD supporting Smithfield’s pork processing company when they were suppressing workers rights to organize fir better working conditions and wages and using ICE raids to threaten organizing workers. She didn’t give a damn about those abuses then so it’s hardly surprising that her workplace is oppressive as well.

      • Amen. I worked very briefly as an organizer on that campaign, several years before they actually won the historic victory. Anyway, her support of Smithfield was always my biggest gripe. Until now. I think she’s a shameful and poor excuse, anyway you slice it.

        And yes, workers’ rights are human rights!

  5. I’ve felt for a long time that Deen was a fake, just too snarky. Wish I had been wrong, but she deserves every bit of condemnation she gets. If she wants to show Real Remorse, she can donate a few million $ to anti-racism.

  6. All her fans can console themselves in the fact she will live well on the fortune she has amassed over the years. The lesson here is that as racist and regressive as things are you really can’t just go birth of a nation backwards on us.

  7. It has been a blow to my belief that the ignorance of ones character, which has devastated the African American people continues. I feel the use of the N word on any level is disgraceful. I feel the remembrance of plantation life is like saying, ” well..gosh darn..Let’s have a dog-gone recreation of the “HOLOCAUST!”… families were divided,:separated, raped, beaten and black people sang through their 300 plus years of persecution in a physical sense; and now it shows the mental state of hatred continues with No signs of evolution ridding us of this pain. Black people who use the N word, found a way to make money off of degrading their selves by embracing this horrid word and any other person using it doesn’t understand that this One word destroys our hope to restoring the black race. In saying U BETTER THAN THIS!!!

    • thank you for an intelligent response thanks for placing it in a historical context…love the issue of the MAAFA/ATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE..our holocaust..the issue of WillieLynch has to be addressed!!
      halimacandy from philly

  8. How interesting. A feminist critique (at last!) about a white woman. This is huge. Your post raised many good points. My point is that Black people suffer from racist whites every day of their lives. So few whites support Black people and condemn white racists. Many whites support white racists against Black people. This is what is wrong here. Paula Deen is a white racist. America is a white racist nation. The lack of social equality is what drives this movement against Paula Deen. I want more feminists to attack this white woman for her racist attacks on Black people.

  9. Pingback: The Round-Up: June 25, 2013 | Gender Focus – A Canadian Feminist Blog

    • Perhaps true southern “Ladies”, leave much to be desired. Respect…not so much. I live Paula, I love her cooking shows. I do not however condone racism in any form. She may have been raised in the South with these values, but please do not excuse it. Even as a child in the 60′s, I knew that racist remarks were wrong and hurtful… even when used by family members. I equally do not condone the use of the n-word that rappers (black or white) use in every other sentence.

    • no she don’t deserve respect,if you use the N name,you will lose all respect.

  10. that Southern / racist mind set has to be updated, along with the vernacular …
    sadly, it is all too common these days.

  11. She’s from the south and she’s old. I mean just face it, older folks from the south stay stuck in a time/era that has way surpassed them, but they hold on to it. Now, although I’d only seen two episodes of her show, yet had seen comedy skits from The Big Gay Sketch Show about her, not once did I think she was racist. However, I try real hard not going around thinking every white person is racist. And with that said, keep coming up against all the present racist shit happening in this world. Bold shit too. So this did not surprise me for that main reason, because racism has begun to show its BOLD ASS and ppl are getting away with too much of it. I’m glad she got called out, I’m glad she lost her show because those small incidents compared to what Jackson had to feel/hear and still held within. Like all our blackass are going to do with this. We will not forget this, as we have not forgotten our past. Because regardless of the consequences PD faces, black ppl are still black and racist are still racist.

    The one question that always gets me, from racist (towards black folk) is, how come we’re so sensitive and still hang on to times long gone? Hmmm, could it be that you never fail to try to remind us where “our place is”, and because as long as there are PDs in this world (and yes lawd there are MANY) I WILL NOT be letting my past go as if I am no longer black. Hell if some white folks stop being racist, PD, then we wouldn’t have to be “so sensitive” every time you disrespect our ppl.

    • Oh and I wanted to add, some of those dishes sound good. A type of remembrance if you will. “Swing Low, Sweet Cherry Pie”, “My Anty Bellum’s Black & White Cookies”, and “Travon Martini” I’d drink to my brotha!! I mean seriously why not. I see this as a Black History Potluck. I can do without the names that seem too offensive though.

  12. Love the incredibly witty send-ups of Paula Deen & her racism, though I agree her labor & buying practices are the true corrupt heart of the issue – and that is a much bigger issue that Paula Deen alone. But just for the record, for those who keep insisting that Paula Deen is just a poor passive reflection of her time, her upbringing, her history – please. Moreover, this are not simply some misstatements by some good-hearted granny who got caught up in a kerfuffle with the politically correct thought police over a few stray remarks – this is a woman who publicly lamented last year the loss of her grandfather’s “property” in the aftermath of the Civil War. Why it just depressed the man so much to not have slaves – I mean, they were like family to him – that he went out into the barn and shot himself, because it was just so hard for their family economically speaking to not be able to own other human beings! And this my friends was during a New York Times sponsored interview for the New York Food & Wine Festival, by NYT writer & editor Kim Severson who just sat there looking stunned. http://new.livestream.com/nytimes/PaulaDeen

    As a side note, Deen had a black employee come up & stand before the blackboard to show the audience that he is “black as a board!”

  13. IMO SHE SHOULD JUST BE HONEST!!! Prejudice is still alive and well Id have more respect for her if she just came forward and say Fuck it I said it. That’s more commendable and respectful than retracting a statement for sake of the media. I could totally believe she made those statements.

  14. Even while PD loses right now, as we speak the white’s who feel the same way are circling the wagon’s and supporting her in every way that is still left to do so. So unfortunately PD will take a break from the limelight stack up on cash and come back bigger and a whole lot richer with no worries, as she does not need those who are happy her show or endorsements have ended now. She has millions of white people who love her even more now and a lot who now love her and are spending big dollars to show that support. So those of you saying yeah now, in a bit will see that this really fortified her base and she and them have just kept on going. It’s sad to see older black’s who have no vision to see that PD will be here for a long long time, she will just take a break, I am sure she has already been contacted by a new network that will sign her up in a few month’s for a new PD show. So saying bye to PD right now should be see you after the dust clears. So sad, I thought you all knew already!

  15. This is a fantastic post, both informative and funny -what a classic combination ;) . I love the buttered down Deen though, I’m so disappointed that she’s closet racist. -sigh- But, may the white sheets continue to be lifted and reveal the faces of some of the perpetuators of this epidemic.
    -supremejstc

  16. Wow, see I didn’t know Deen said all that. From what I read and heard about Paul Deen antics, it reported that the lady said nigger a few times in the 60′s. Goodness, gracious did that lady really try to defend her racists comments about niggers serving food by saying she wanted a predominately black waiting staff at her brother’s wedding to create the ambiance of a true antebellum wedding??????? I mean that is not just racists. That is crazy. It is as if she doesn’t know she’s wrong. At first I thought Paul should keep her show. But now, maybe Food Network was right about canceling the program.

  17. And Paula is not just a person of her time. Even if she were racist. She knows comments like that are wrong ( or at least I think she knows they are wrong) and don’t fit in everyday society. Yet, she said that garbage in public, to a black person’s face. Deen did it because she was rich, powerful and knew she could get away with it. She treated her staff with disrespect and cruelty. That is not good business practice period. You all are right. It is not so much about her being racist, but how employers treat employees. You don’t have to like black people but you can be professional and fair. Oh and the way the media is standing up for Paula is appalling.

    I had a similar situation where I felt my boss was taking advantage of her power. I was systematically denied several thousand dollars of my paycheck. I was talked about behind my back with other employers, called names etc. I was always afraid to stand up for myself because of my position at work. I felt like I could be fired at any moment. The environment at my place of employment was so hostile and messy, I would just stay in my office. I wouldn’t come out for lunch, nothing unless I had to. Once, I tried to stand up for myself and my boss threatened to have me thrown and put in jail…………..seriously.

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