It's been a rough few days for Paula Deen. She confessed in a deposition to using the N-word in past decades, found herself at the center of a media firestorm, and then got dumped by the Food Network. The guru of deep-fried Southern cooking, who reportedly tolerated racist jokes in the workplace, also may lose her ties to the QVC shopping network and another business associated with her restaurant, cookware, and publishing empire.
Deen has publicly apologized several times, saying she now sees that hateful language is never acceptable. "I beg you," said Deen in a 46-second video apology posted online. "I beg for your forgiveness." Fans have set up Facebook pages demanding that the Food Network reinstate her. Does Deen deserve to be forgiven?
If the purpose of pillorying Deen over the last week or so was to teach her a lesson... well, mission accomplished. John McWhorter at TIME points out that Deen grew up in Georgia in the '50s, so it's not entirely surprising that she admits to using the N-word decades ago. "It would be downright strange if she hadn't," McWhorter says, "and we can assume the same of pretty much any white Southerner of a certain age."
People of Deen's generation can neither change the past nor completely escape their roots in it, anymore than the rest of us. They can apologize and mean it, as Deen seems to. They also deserve credit for owning up to past sins, as Deen did candidly when she could easily have, shall we say, whitewashed the matter.
Deen is old and she's sorry. She should get her job back. [TIME]
Is that really a good idea, though? Mark Pasetsky, CEO of PR and marketing firm Mark Allen & Co., tells USA Today that while Deen's loyal fans want her back, other people found her remarks so offensive they would be outraged at any company that gave her another show or some other high-profile role. "Her brand is now tainted beyond recourse," Pasetsky says. "She will have a viable business, she will have a lot of fans and make a lot of money," but "it's never going to be the same."
Sherman Frederick at the Las Vegas Review-Journal says he's all for forgiveness, but the kind of racist behavior Deen allegedly presided over at her restaurants calls for just the kind of brutal, career-trashing backlash she is getting.
Actions have consequences. And sometimes those consequences remain in effect even after contrite apologies and forgiveness.
Paula Deen's actions fit into this category. The Food Network did the right thing, I think, in ending her contract. Knowing what we know about her now would make watching her TV cooking show difficult. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]
Even if people do forgive Deen for the offensive language for which she has apologized, will they ever get over her food? DeWayne Wickham at USA Today says that was her first crime. "The time Deen spent on television publicly urging people to eat gooey butter cakes, fried butter balls, and skillet fried apple pie was an attack on the health of millions of Americans that the Food Network condoned." The N-word got Deen in trouble, Wickham says, but "her repeated use of the word 'butter' should have gotten her fired long ago."
This month, the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease that threatens both the physical and financial health of the nation. Deen's longtime advocacy of gluttonous consumption of fatty foods has helped spawn this growing national disaster.
And it is for this reason that she should be run off of TV. [USA Today]
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