Weighing in on Paula Deen

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Have I ever laughed at a joke that contained a word that was inappropriate, offensive or that got the laugh at the expense of a certain race, religion, gender, etc.? Well, I’ve been on this earth almost 61 years, so the answer is yes.

Have I ever said something offensive or inappropriate about someone of a different race, religion or gender, etc.? Again, been here a while so, yep I’m guilty.

Have I learned to stop and to think before I laugh at those jokes or speak in such an unkind way? Yes, because I’m not the same person I was when I engaged in some of that behavior.

Now that I’ve owned up to my sins, will I be publicly punished, have my column pulled from the newspaper, be stoned on the square? Hopefully, the answer is no because most people, if they are honest, are guilty of the same sins.

So why are stones flying at Paula Deen’s head? And why has this situation become such a public controversy?

Since I don’t watch much news, I only knew bits and pieces of the story about Paula’s naughtiness. I decided to find out for myself what she allegedly said and did.

After reading the transcripts of both her deposition and the statements from the person accusing her, I don’t get why this is getting so much attention. Other people in the public eye are guilty of far worse statements/behaviors and got way less attention and punishment for those actions.

Now I’m not saying Paula was right or wrong. She is human and like all humans, she isn’t perfect and the best I can tell, she never claimed to be sinless.

What she is, is a woman who cooks food that folks enjoy eating. And she is a creative person who turned that talent for cooking good food into a successful business.

She also grew up in a world where discrimination against black people was a daily reality. So did I. For many years, white people did not treat black people as equals, and used words that were not kind to describe people of color. That was true north of the Mason-Dixon line, too.

While we still have room for improvement, the world is a different place these days. That doesn’t erase the way we once behaved, but for most of us speaking and behaving that way is in the past, and maybe it is time to let it go — time to learn from it and to move on together.

It you cut through all the media/tabloid hype, what the Paula Deen “scandal” boils down to is an unhappy employee who, rightly or wrongly, feels her employer did her wrong and wants compensation. And, on the other side is an employer who may or may not be guilty of doing her employee wrong and doesn’t want to compensate anyone.

So, do I think Paula Deen is a racist? I can’t know her heart of hearts to answer that question definitively.

Do I think that what she said years ago makes her a racist today? Well, if it does then there are a whole lot of us on both sides of the color line who are right there with her.

That said, I have a final comment for The Food Network, Walmart and everyone else who is lined up to stone Ms. Paula for her trespasses The words come from a source with more credibility than CNN, NBC, Fox News, The New York Times or The Enquirer.

“Let he that is without sin amongst you cast the first stone.”