Is TV Chef Paula Deen a Big, Buttery Racist?

Ian-Fortey by Ian-Fortey on Jun. 25, 2013

Paula Deen is a wild-haired southern TV chef who cooks food that is 3 parts fat, one part sugar.  Normally there’s nothing wrong with that, depending on how much you like your arteries.  But Paula Deen has also been accused of racism.  And before this goes any further one fact has to be acknowledged – she’s admitting to using racial slurs.  She admitted it in court. 

Her sons were recently on CNN to let the world know that, under oath, Paula took stock of her whole life and admitted that yes, she had used racial slurs in the past – the dreaded “N” word.  To hear them tell it, it was a relic of a bygone era but she’s just so honest, she had to admit that it had happened, ever so long ago.

Do you know why Paula Deen was under oath?  It was a lawsuit in which she was being sued for discrimination and facing specific allegations of being a racist.  Deen said she used the word to describe a black man who robbed a bank she was working at way back when.  She said she’s not used the word since because, they have a-changed.

Deen’s lawyers are suggesting the case is about money – the plaintiff is just trying to ruin Deen now since she didn’t get paid off and there’s no merit to the case at all.  The other side makes it seem like Deen dresses like Colonel Sanders on weekends and oversees a plantation of butter churners.  How’s a person supposed to decide who’s right?

The media is running with the idea that Paula Deen is pretty much as racist as a room full of KKK dimwits. And aside from potential use of racial slurs, there’s also her curious obsession over a group of black servants in white suits with black ties at her brother’s wedding that seemed to fascinate her to the point of saying she wished she could have servers like that around all the time.  But not because they look like slaves, just because they were very professional. 

Of course, there’s also this uncomfortable video that, out of context, would be meaningless and uninteresting, but in context is just horrible.  Let’s enjoy the highlights!

0:23 – After the civil war, Deen’s grandpa was upset that he had no one to help run his plantation.  Because his slaves has been liberated and that was a real bummer for him.  Yes, no one thinks of the other victims of slavery, those slave owners who lost slaves. 

0:35 –From 30 slaves to 0.  Jesus, Lincoln, you heartless prick.

0:49 -  You can lose a son to war or you can lose 30 slaves to the emancipation proclamation but man, you can’t lose both.

1:04 – The south is less prejudiced, y’all.  Incidentally, many southern states still have segregated proms, did you know that?  Also, recent unscientific maps compiling things like the density of racist language on Twitter indicates pretty heavy racism in the southern states.  But don’t worry, because PA, NY and MI are pretty racist, too.

1:35 – Black people feel the same prejudice that white people feel.  Remember that.   We’re all victims here.  Probably.

1:48 – Paula Deen knows a black man.  How black?  He’s as black as the set this is being filmed on.  Black as oil, I tell you!  Black as the heart of midnight!  He’s as black a coal!  Is any of this racist?  No?  Good.

1:59 – Come on up on stage, black friend!  We can’t see you where you are because you are so black, just like the wall, that you blend in.  Crazy chameleon!

Now whether or not Deen tosses out the N word like she’s sugaring a churro isn’t the issue here.  Honestly, I don’t think she hates black people.  But that video alone indicates she patronizes them and is ignorant of racial politics and is aware, though probably not even consciously, of a difference between white people and black people.  She speaks about black people the way compassionate people speak about their pets.  They’re family, you see.  They live and grow right alongside you.  They’re wonderful and deserve love and respect and they look adorable in white suits with black bow ties. 

We think of racism as encompassing hate and that’s probably where this particular story is getting derailed.  Paula Deen does not seem hateful at all.  But the definition of a racist is someone with a belief that one race is superior to another.  That doesn’t necessarily have to imply hate, or anger, or violence.  And in that way it’s a much more insidious form of racism.  It’s not born out of anger at all and is so much harder to see.  Paula Deen spoke very much like a racist in that video.