I had Paula Deen's back (for the most part) when she finally divulged that she had type II diabetes, but I'm afraid that butter-bump's latest scandal is indefensible.
For those of you not in the butter zone (or on the earth), Deen dipped herself in a deep fryer during a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit that a former employee filed against Deen and her brother Bubba. Deen admitted that she'd condoned racist jokes and tolerated Bubba's porn in the workplace and used racial slurs herself, including "nigger." This admission got her canned from the Food Network like sweet corn; Smithfield Foods dumped her, too, and her deal with QVC might be headed for the ashcan. But Deen deserves no sympathy.
Here are five reasons why Paula Deen deserved to get fired. Bon voyage, queen of butter: Your hardcore fans may be behind you, but I'm stepping off the gravy boat.
5. A little workplace sensitivity goes a long way. Deen and Bubba are being sued by Lisa Jackson, former general manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House; Jackson says she was the victim of sexual harassment and a persistent pattern of racial discrimination during her five years of employment. (Bubba allegedly called her his "little Jew girl" and surfed porn openly, where everyone could see it.) In her deposition regarding her role in this family business, Deen made several inflammatory admissions to the allegations.
Workplace sensitivity might be joke fodder at times, but it's like a condom: better to have it and not need it than the other way around. Deen should have been diligent in making sure employees were treated fairly and had recourse for complaints -- perhaps an impartial, non-familial outside consultant or agency to handle these types of issues before they turned into major, public lawsuits. The only people who think that cultural and sexual harassment in the workplace is no big deal are those who have never had it happen to them, and an open-door policy, impartial conflict-resolution environment and sensitivity training classes might have gone a long way. Or Deen could simply have told her bro to knock it the f*ck off. Or both.
4. Using Southern culture as an excuse is not very effective. It's ironic that a lot of the Southern cuisine that Paula Deen is fond of preparing and sharing has undisputed, deep roots in African-American culture. Deen has built a successful business based on Southern food, hospitality and charm -- but the dark underbelly of this culture is in the spotlight right now. The legacy of slavery still exists, and to ignore it, gloss over it or use it as a front for bad behavior -- like Deen is trying to do at the moment -- is inexcusable. She considered throwing her brother a plantation-style wedding? Older black men in white jackets serving white folks? WTF? And while she admits she used the n-word, Deen says it was not in a cruel or mean way.
In a spectacular public relations fail, Deen's representatives said her use of the n-word was the product of her upbringing in the deep South. Look, the Southern heritage that Deen draws from may have involved magnolias, mint juleps and dulcet-toned accents, but it also involved slavery, post-slavery civil rights violations, and blatant, cruel, devastating racism that hasn't washed out of the fine linens to this day. Deen needs to come clean.
3. Her apologies are nice and all, but actions would be better. After Deen stood up Matt Lauer and punked off her Today Show interview last Friday, she posted a couple of vid clips with apologies. "After spending all day soul-searching and trying to figure out how to deal with what I did, I recorded a video trying to do the right thing," Deen says in one. "In the end, I felt that I needed to just be myself, say I am sorry and beg for forgiveness. What I said was wrong and hurtful. I know that and will do everything that I can do make it right. I am not about hate, and I will devote myself to showing my family, friends and fans how to live a life helping others, lifting us all up, and spreading love." Words are wind, as they say, and so far, Deen has blown it. Spreading love is a nice idea, but a better way to handle her chicken-fried mess would be to get to the bottom of every discrimination claim made by her current and former employees, pay stipends to the ones she or her dipshit brother have wronged, have a sit-down and a nice glass of sweet tea with Al Sharpton, and donate her time, money and what's left of her rep to support black charities, scholarship funds and causes. She needs to spread something more useful than love...or butter.
2. Family-owned businesses need to treat non-familial employees right. Anyone who has ever been burned working for a family-run business that isn't run by their own family wouldn't wish the experience on their worst enemy. Deen runs a multi-million-dollar business empire, not a local fried chicken shack in rural Georgia, which makes her even more obligated to treat non-family staffers fairly. Since the deposition scandal broke, another former employee has accused Deen of paying him and others in beer and alcohol instead of money for work at private parties at her home, which is ridiculous regardless of ethnicity. Allowing her idiot family members to treat employees poorly is bad enough; doing so herself not only makes Deen look like a racist, miserly jackass -- it qualifies her as one as well.
1. Racially-based mistreatment needs to stop. While I adore the food and scenery below the Mason-Dixon line, I can't stand much of the culture. On my last visit to a Southern state, I asked someone why I heard the word "nigger" used in public, by people on the street, more than in an effin rap song. The reply? "At least down here we do it in the open -- we don't hide it like people up north." As though that is any kind of excuse for racism.
Paula Deen is from the South, and made her living off Southern cuisines and culture. But this is 2013, not 1813, and she deserves to get the butter slapped out of her mouth for what she's done...and hasn't done.
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