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Sunday, Apr 20, 2014
Commentary

Paula Deen and Lil Wayne

Published:

Call me old school, but I'm more appalled at the lack of outrage over Lil Wayne walking all over the American flag during a recent concert than I am with what Paula Deen ever said.

I read the 150-plus pages of Deen's deposition from a civil workplace harassment case. After reading the transcript, a few things became abundantly clear.

First and foremost, Deen is no doubt a good cook, who with a little luck and a lot of determination found great success. That said, she's no saint who is going to win the citizen of the year award any time soon.

Deen appears to have a straightforward and no-nonsense demeanor when it is convenient, but overplays the "I'm just an overly busy, hands-off manager, and slightly ditzy former blonde," card.

Despite her success with sponsorships, TV shows, book sales, and restaurants, she claims she doesn't even know how to open emails, but seems to have a very good idea of how easily pornographic material can be accessed on the Internet.

None of this matters. What got Deen in trouble was the death knell for most any celebrity or public figure: the appearance of being a racist.

In her deposition, Deen was asked if she ever used the N-word. At 60-plus years old, and from the South, the chances of her never having used the word are extremely unlikely. In a moment of perhaps too much honesty, Deen contemptuously replied, "Yes. Of course," when asked if she had used the word. What's important to understand, though, is the context of how and when the word was used.

According to her testimony, Deen acknowledges once having used the word to describe to her husband the man who put a revolver to her head as he robbed a bank where she worked as a teller. I've never had someone put a gun to my head, but I probably would have referred to him using some bad words myself.

Deen also acknowledged she may have - on rare occasion - laughed at a racist joke that included the N-word. Although the use of that word in a joke is inappropriate, most all humor has elements of offensive and inappropriate language or innuendo.

It's also worth noting that many black people in the entertainment world use the N-word in their comedy routines and song lyrics, and I have on more than one occasion heard one black refer to another using the N-word - in non-offensive and offensive tones.

Lastly, Deen admitted to wanting to throw a party with middle-aged black men dressed in white tuxedos as the servers. This was apparently a throw-back to some plantation fantasy of Deen's that she thought would make for an interesting dinner theme. But her better judgment prevailed, and she decided not to host such a party out of concern for how it would be perceived.

Deen's testimony also included acknowledging that she has used language that would make a sailor blush, but that doesn't make her a bad person. If anything, it shows she's just a real person.

Although Deen's actions should not be condoned, I don't think she is a racist. Using a racial slur, although rude and inconsiderate, doesn't automatically make one a racist. The context of how the word was used, and how a person reacted to it when it is heard (in Deen's case, in hearing a joke), needs to be considered.

But words are powerful things; derogatory terms are determined by society, and the N-word is clearly among them. Other such words include: "wetback," "redskin" and "retard." They are all offensive, and public figures and celebrities who use them pay a price - though it doesn't necessarily mean they hate Hispanics, native Americans or people with mental challenges.

In order to completely stamp out words such as the N-word from our vocabulary, it will require more time and the focus of whites and blacks to not use it. If anything, all the attention on Paula Deen may very well help that effort.

As for Lil Wayne, his sorry excuse for "music," his actions and his detestable lyrics are probably a bigger problem than anything Paula Deen ever said, or laughed at years ago.

If Lil Wayne is seen as a role model within the black community as he stomps on the American flag and no one within that community expresses outrage, we as a society are going to face far bigger problems. Because role models within the black community play a much more important role in shaping young minds than anything Deen ever said.

Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and political analyst for Bay News 9.

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