Cafe Society

Five reasons Paula Deen deserved to get fired

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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.
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Jenn Wohletz
Contact: Jenn Wohletz