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Paula Deen and the game of celebrity Hot-Potato...

So, I told myself I wasn't going to broach the subject of Paula Deen and her recent admission to using racial slurs. I told myself I would just stir things up that are already stirred up, and probably make myself unreasonably angry to boot.

But, this is one of those situations that everybody has an opinion about--- regardless of what "truth" they know about the matter.

This lawsuit has actually been on the books for awhile now, concerning one former General Manager and her complaints about the working environment afforded to her at Paula's and her brother's restaurant.

Having read an online copy of the manager's complaint filed against Paula Deen, I agree, that if what the General Manager has illustrated is true, then yes, then there is a legitimate case of discrimination/harassment. And, yes, I know Paula Deen can be named a responsible party in the hostile work environment, as she holds ownership-- even if the specific culprit being referred to is her brother and other male managers.

Paula Deen admitted in a deposition that she has used the N-word in the past (perhaps in a moment of emotional distress, perhaps not)--- and, suddenly she's a leper nobody wants to remember being acquainted with. Her lawsuit isn't even settled and she's already being convicted and hanged.

I can understand The Food Network's reticence at renewing her contract in light of her admission. There have been similar cases (actually some of them were far more damning) of individuals being 'fired' for their momentary lapse in judgment. It's hard to be the company that associates with someone who's been branded a racist--- boycotts are everyone's flavor of the day when there is something out there we disagree with.

I get it.

I really do.

I just don't agree with it.

If it were part of Paula Deen's nature to belittle everyone she came across, or, if she bandied slurs toward every fan who tried to get her attention, I could understand/agree with it. As long as she's been the face of food television, surely there would have been numerous issues of her doing these dreadful acts in the past.

Everyone... and I do mean, EVERYONE has, at one time or another, uttered/thought something equally bad--- whether in anger or in retribution. Sometimes the words slip naturally, having been a part of everyday conversation in that individual's childhood.

Paula Deen---like myself--- is Southern. And, she is from a time when that particularly unpleasant word would, and very well could, have been used as part of everyday language. I'm not saying it's right (in fact, the word repulses me) but, there would be very few people from the South of our grandparents' age who wouldn't have heard the word uttered, perhaps daily.

Regrettably, this word is part of our culture. Even more regrettably, it will never be completely stamped from our vocabulary...especially when there are musicians who make millions by using the very same word. How can you hear a word daily and not utter it in unconscious reflex??

I guess what's bothering me the most about this whole thing is that Paula's truthful admission of having used the word in the past is now fodder for across-the-board retaliation of all the companies/corporations she's had business dealings with . It wasn't the same as radio broadcasters/actors who've been heard by masses of people making a derogatory remark on air or during a live interview. Paula didn't say the word while addressing a studio audience full of fans. She said it, perhaps to one individual, perhaps only in describing an event.

The question of her comments in reference to planning her brother's wedding (having an all African American wait-staff in white jackets and bowties for a 'plantation-style' wedding) were truly in bad taste, even if she didn't mean offense.

How the legal processes for all this will ultimately end, there is no way of knowing. But, this is a lawsuit between Paula Deen/her brother/companies and ONE former General Manager--- though the proceedings are public, what is being questioned isn't her public image, but, several single, notably off-color exchanges between her and one employee--- which is invariably tainting that public image.

As a result of HER ADMISSION (and NOT a result of the court's ruling) :

The Food Network has made it clear they won't be renewing her contract---
Big name retailers have refused to re-order her product lines once the merchandise they have sells through---
Her publisher, Ballatine, has dropped her from her book deal. Her upcoming cookbook, originally set to release in October...which was getting quite a bit of support from fans in the form of pre-orders, even after this debacle started...has been axed---

How much can ONE person be punished for admitting she uttered ONE word?

This whole issue is getting out of control.

Let her lawsuit run its course. Let her punishment be meted out by the courts. And, THEN... if you still aren't satisfied she suffered enough, THEN wipe your hands of association with her. Everybody's immediate visceral reaction is coming off a bit like burying the body of someone who MIGHT possibly be convicted, before they been executed....even before the trial's actually started. It's all a little too Salem-Witch-Trial-y to me--- (okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but, the response to what Paula Deen might have said is a bit farcical).

If there is ever going to be an understandable standard that we can/should use to determine what is acceptable and what is unforgivable, we have to blanket it across all cultures, across all media, across all social interactions----you can't condemn/execute one individual and then laud the next individual for using the same word (regardless of their ethnicity, a racial slur is a racial slur---even if you're using the slur meant to attack your own ethnic group). If an individual can be prosecuted for sexual harassment against a member of their own sex, then how can a member of one ethnic group get away with uttering a slur, which is directed at their own race, without fear of repercussion??

Yes, I get that she's the "face" for a lot of things and for a lot of companies. And, Yes, I get that her being a household name puts her in a position to be scrutinized more stringently than your average small business owner. And, she can/will be held to a higher standard, but, this steam-rolling domino-effect of ship-jumpers is ridiculous. This has been the worst game of Hot-Potato I've ever seen.

Do I think it's okay that she used a racial slur and told off-color/derogatory jokes?  No.

Do I think she should be convicted/punished for her involvement in allowing a hostile work environment to exist when she could have prevented it?  If she's found guilty, Yes.

Do I think she should get off scott-free because she's a wealthy celebrity?  No.

Do I believe she should be summarily "executed" for either one of these offenses?  Absolutely Not.

Whatever happened to letting the punishment fit the crime? Or, in this case...what about letting the crime be established before the punishment is doled out???


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