I am a Southern woman. I was born in Alabama and grew up in Florida. I grew up reading Gone with the Wind, eating grits, and knowing full well the ugly history of the South. I grew up in a house that was not racist, but I certainly grew up around racism. I saw it. I heard it. I remember it permeating bits of my childhood from talking with my second grade teacher Mrs. Cooper about her baby girl who was due soon and her telling me that my suggestion of Natalie for a name was “a black person’s name” to hearing my classmates discuss why the president of my senior class won the election (well only because the black kids outnumbered the white kids). No, it couldn’t have been because Michael, the guy who won, was charismatic, smart, funny, attractive, etc. All of those things that he WAS. Couldn’t have been because of those reasons.
Hearing this week that Paula Deen tells racist (and anti-Semitic, and homophobic, and hell, redneck) jokes does not surprise me. Nor does hearing that she ALLEGEDLY really wants to have a true Southern wedding. What does that mean, you wonder? “Well what I would really like is a bunch of little n—-rs 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, we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that”. I will say that in the deposition, Deen opposed the use of the N-Word in this instance. The rest is allegedly true, though.
This all DOES sadden me, however, because I really WANT us to be past this. I really want the term “politically correct” to not exist, or to not NEED to exist I guess. I think that term was thought up as a sort of fake way of saying “hey see, let’s all be gender-neutral and non-racist and play nice with each other because that’s what we’re SUPPOSED to do” and yes, we ARE supposed to do it, but because it’s the right way to treat fellow human beings, not because we’re trying to get re-elected, or trying to make our way into a celestial afterlife, or because it’s bad for your image.
To all of those people who feel the need to be outraged and boycott the Food Network and Wal-Mart for severing ties with her, those organizations, and the other ones, have every right to not want their products endorsed by someone they deem unworthy, just as you have a right to be mad about that fact and watch another food related channel and haul your ass to Target. Were you just as outraged when Tiger Woods lost his endorsements for infidelity? Or do you only vehemently shake your fist and talk about how ridiculous it is that someone was kicked off their gravy train for their actions when it involves defending racist remarks? I thought so.
It’s cool, everybody has their own moral compass. Hey, we are making strides, we have a bi-racial president! We as a society, are less racist than we used to be , but of course when an absolutely precious commercial that features a mixed race couple and their bi-racial daughter is met with racist comments, I am reminded that we still have work to do. Call me an idealist, I’m okay with that, but why can’t people be concerned with themselves and have respect for others and let people love who they want to love and be who they want to be? There is no good excuse for hatred. I know it is born of fear, but come on, educate yourself.
The fact is, the history of the South is so ugly, and so ridiculous, it seems like it has to be made up, but it is not, and while Deen’s desire to have a historically accurate wedding is ludicrous, I find it even more ludicrous that she doesn’t seem to GET why that time in history is not something to be celebrated. How can you live in the world for 60 some odd years and not realize how hurtful and shameful that time was in Southern history? Claiming ownership of another person because of skin color…Yes, let’s highlight that horrible time in history on this most special of days, our wedding day. Oh wait, the media would have a field day with that. Too bad, it was SUCH a good idea otherwise. I guess I’ll just continue to plan my holocaust-themed birthday party. I just need to find GIANT gas chambers.
I don’t think Paula Deen is evil. Not by any means. I think she is ignorant as hell, and whoever told her to go on the Today show and fake cry while playing the victim should certainly be fired, but I don’t think she is malicious. I also think she will be just fine and no tears need be shed for her.
We should never forget our history, even the ugly parts, but to want to CELEBRATE those ugly parts is dumb, and hurtful, and smacks of an inability to realize the gravity of an awful time in American history, and yes, it certainly comes off as racist.