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First Amendment Watch:Why I’m Defending Paula Deen

July 4, 2013

Ah, the First Amendment. The Right to Freedom of Speech. Who knew that you were so complicated? Who knew that the citizens you govern would speak freely, only to have their words turned against them? I am often wary of what I post on this blog for fear what extremists and nitpickers would say. But then I have to remind myself: I have the right to say this. If we are not allowed to voice our opinions, why hasn’t this amendment been repealed?

Paula Deen, sourced from npr.org

I’ve watched as the Paula Deen Story has unfolded in American-and no doubt foreign-press, lamenting the obvious death of the 1st Amendment, the one which I hold most dear (and indeed, the human right I hold most close to my heart). The right to freedom of speech allows one to be truthful; it allows one to express oneself. I am a big fan of honesty and staying true to oneself. And Paula Deen was nothing but honest, even though she could have easily lied and said that she never had used the word in her life, in order to save her Food Empire (although, really, who could have seen all of this coming?)

Paula Deen, who is embroiled in a lawsuit accusing her of using the N-word and being racist toward employees at her restaurant, admitted to using the N-word in the past. Key word: past. Does she use it now? Has anyone heard her use it? Not even Lisa Jackson, her accuser, has heard her use the word. She didn’t recently lash out at a customer, passerby, employee etc. and call them that derogatory word. And even if she has, why is it front-page news? Why does she have to be branded as a social leper because she-gasp!-used a word that every.single.fucking.rapper seems to use in his songs?

At my previous job, every single person in the office, besides my boss, used the N-word. Granted, they said it “nigga,” and they were using it in that “oh, he’s my nigga”-i.e., a non-derogatory-way. But none of them were African-American, they were either Dominican or Puerto Rican. Their sentences were liberally peppered with the N-word the way a baby says “mama” over and over again. It made me apoplectic. But no one was going to report them to some human rights watch or Communication Committee.

Now, I am fully against the N-word that I won’t even spell it out for the context of this post. It makes me feel mightily uncomfortable. It sounds disgusting and cruel, because it was meant to be disgusting and cruel. I don’t believe that people should use this word. However, she did not say it to an African American, shouting it in harassment. Paula Deen was born in a generation where using the word was acceptable, and no doubt her parents probably used it as well. This does not make it right to use the word; it is not an excuse. If she is in fact a racist, than I do not support her, but she does have the right to her own opinions and beliefs. Somebody should have tried to help her, instead of “crucifiying” her, as one article put it.

If a person can have their entire life ruined over admitting to using a word that, let’s face it, people do use today, then what about other words? Why don’t I see the endless rappers who use the words bitch (which it’s perfectly acceptable to write) or slut or ho or cunt being ostracized from society and cut off from their mikes? Because they’re talking about women? Because most rappers are African-American? There is so much garbage out there being said about women, often times in jest that even women don’t realize it, yet nobody seems to give a damn. What about the scores of teenagers who deem practically everything “That’s so gay!”–should we make them sit at the Losers Table in the cafeteria?

Or what about Alec Baldwin, who recently fired out at a gay reporter, calling him a “Queen,” among other things? No one has started a Boycott Alec Baldwin Campaign, have they? I personally like Alec Baldwin; I think he is funny and he does a lot of charitable work out in the Hamptons, where I’m from, and I don’t support his choice of words, but I do understand that people make mistakes, especially when they’re angry and being targeted (as his fiancee was by the reporter). The comparaison between Baldwin and Paula Deen shows that it’s okay to insult gays; insulting women is okay, too-but not insulting African Americans. If this is a true democracy, than everyone should be treated equally: men, women, all ethnicities and all sexualities. I understand that racism and little subtleties happen all the time on the ground level, but for the whole of American media to gang up on Paula Deen and one topic but not on Baldwin and another says a lot. Or maybe it was just because she was a woman?

Are we going to criminalize certain words and phrases? Because if we aren’t, then I’m not quite sure why we’re going to make a big deal out of a person using the words, especially if it happened in the past and was in a private, non-hostile conversation. Instead of forcing Paula Deen to flee to Mexico (which is what I’d probably do if I were her) we should focus on ending racism. It’s a delicate subject, but it can be dealt with.

As we celebrate Independence Day, the 4th of July, I hope Americans can unite in our differences. I hope Americans can work together to strengthen America, a country which, despite its flaws, I love and appreciate more than I did in the past (gasp!) I hope we can support the right to free speech, and appreciate honesty when it comes, because honesty is rare when it comes to public figures.

Happy 4th!

Sources

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2013 10:27 PM

    I’m all for Freedom of Speech. However, when you are an employer, there are harassment and discrimination laws. Laws against hostile work environments. It wasn’t her saying something of that nature in the privacy of her own home. These things were being said to black workers and about black workers…on more than one occasion. Everyone makes a mistake. Sometimes we say things we wish we could take back. With that being said, I have hard time believing that her racist attitude changed all of the sudden. I defended Paula Deen, until I read the following blog: http://www.blacklegalissues.com/Article_Details.aspx?artclid=7dfdbe0461

    This is the summary this blogger posted on the case. It’s important to bear in mind that the White female manager of these black workers started the case against her:

    “Paula Deen, while planning her brother’s wedding in 2007, was asked what look the wedding should have. She replied, “I want a true southern plantation-style wedding.” When asked what type of uniforms the servers should wear, Paula stated, “well what I would really like is a bunch of little n*ggers 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;

    Black staff had to use the back entrance to enter and leave restaurant;

    Black staff could only use one bathroom;

    Black staff couldn’t work the front of the restaurants;

    Brother Bubba stated his wishes: “ I wish I could put all those n*ggers in the kitchen on a boat to Africa”;

    Bubba asked a black driver and security guard “don’t you wish you could rub all the black off you and be like me? You just look dirty; I bet you wish you could.” The guy told Bubba he was fine as is;

    Bubba on President Obama: they should send him to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so he could n*gger-rig it;

    He shook an employee (Black again) and said” F your civil rights…you work for me and my sister Paula Deen;

    Paula’s son Jaime’s best friend managed the Lady & Sons restaurant. He threatened to fire all the ‘Monkeys’ in the kitchen. When Paula found out…she slapped him on the wrist and suggested that the employee visited Paula’s $13,000,000 mansion so he felt special and could be massaged.

    I feel Paula Deen, her brother and anyone who treats people poorly should not be given a free pass. I wonder if Paula is truly sorry that she used the “N” word or that she was reported by someone who looks just like her. I appreciate the lady having the courage to report Paula Deen. It’s people like her and the videographer who leaked the 47% comments made by Mitt Romney who should be receiving the attention, not Paula Deen”

    This issue goes far beyond the issue of Freedom of Speech. No employee should EVER be treated like that. As an employer you have a responsibility to treat all employees as equals. Paula Deen and her brother abused their power as employers. They get what they deserve.

    • July 8, 2013 11:10 PM

      Oh I wholeheartedly agree that if she was harassing her employees than she certainly deserved to have action taken against her. I think what’s particularly ingratiating about this situation is that 1) there are unfortunately many racist people in America, including public figures who do NOT get ostracized (Mitt might have not been elected but he wasn’t cast out of society for those 47% comments) and that 2) other minority groups or groups that are often targeted (read: women) do not seem to get the same attention. That’s unfair and strange.

      I heard about the wedding fandango; if it is indeed true, than she is obviously clueless to the change of the times.

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