I have watched recent news reports on Paula Deen and her admission of using the N word. Many have admonished her for her truthfulness but after reading the transcript of her deposition, my conclusion is what bothers people is that she was not more rueful and contrite in her admission.
Let’s face it, any white American who says he has never used the N word is lying. If you’re a white person reading this blog, you know you have allowed the N word to “slip” out of your mouth at one point or another–that is the reason why I will not spell out the word in this post. I remember taking my sister to Carnegie Hall to watch Jay-Z perform and it was the first time that I ever noticed that I was surrounded by mostly white people at a Jay concert. As we waved our hands in non-unison belting out Jay’s lines, there was no moment of silence when we got to the parts with then N word. The white people unapologetically belted out the N word.
There are areas throughout the U.S. where the use of the N word is acceptable as long as a black person isn’t in earshot. Similarly, the word bi*ch has almost become a household term to reference a woman we dislike.
I’m sure that behind closed (or open) doors all of us have used a derogatory word to refer to a group of people. So why are we up in arms when Paula Deen admits what many white people have been guilty of doing for hundreds of years? It is evident that the Food Network and Smithfield Foods view Deen’s comments as bad PR. But when we punish someone for doing something that we have all done one or more times in our lives, aren’t we perpetuating a false sense of reality?
We all want to believe that racism was eradicated with the election of Barack Obama. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in a landmark case related to Voting Rights Act, that our country had moved away from needing the federal government to monitor states’ race discrimination in voting. Is someone a racist because they use a racial slur to refer to a person behind closed doors? Deen’s statement was ignorant, but it would be a giant leap to assume that she is racist based solely on her use of the N word. Just as I have no opinion on who someone chooses to sleep with, I also don’t care what they choose to say in the confines of their home or when speaking privately with their peers. What I expect is that any person I encounter understands that they will respect me irrespective of whether they call me the N word or a bi*ch in private.
Paula Deen’s followers will likely continue to purchase her products and most will not know or care about what she admitted to in her deposition; and those who do know can opt to not patronize her. What are we to learn from this? People say ugly things. As long as they don’t demonstrate the sentiment behind their derogatory words, we should be less concerned.