Paula Deen (1947- ) is an American television cook of down-home Southern cooking. In June 2013 the American press and the Internet went nuts over her admitted use of the N-word.
Her empire the day before the scandal broke:
- net worth: $16 million (700,000 crowns)
- income: $4 million in 2007
- television shows: 3 on the Food Network
- books: 5
- magazines: 1
- restaurants: 6: her own and her brother’s in Savannah, Georgia and four more that bear her name at casinos owned by Caesar’s.
- spokeswoman for: QVC
- products with her name sold by: Walmart, Target, Sears, Smithfield Foods, Walgreens
In 2012 Lisa Jackson, a former white female manager at her brother’s restaurant, took Deen and her brother to court for sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
On June 19th 2013 the National Enquirer made the court testimony public. According to Jackson, in 2007 Paula Deen said of her brother’s wedding:
Well what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers 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. Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.
According to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which has talked to some of the black employees:
- Light-skinned blacks deal with customers while dark-skinned blacks are put in the back.
- Whites are promoted faster than blacks.
- Her brother told one black employee, “you don’t have any civil rights here.”
- Someone in Deen’s family repeatedly called a black cook “my little monkey”.
Deen admitted under oath to wanting the plantation-style wedding for her brother complete with blacks playing slaves, but that she has not used the N-word since about 1987. That was when she told her husband about a black bank robber putting a gun to her head.
On June 21st she apologized twice, saying that the N-word is completely unacceptable.
Then the Food Network dropped her.
On June 24th Smithfield Foods dropped her.
On June 26th Matt Lauer interviewed her on television. She maintained that she is not racist. The interview ended with her close to tears, saying:
I is what I is and I’m not changing.
Then Walmart and Caesars dropped her, no longer wanting her name on their stuff.
Her friends say that the press is making her into something she is not.
It is now June 27th, early morning.
She grew up in the Jim Crow South in Albany, Georgia, in the heart of cotton country. Her family used to own 35 slaves.
In 2012 she told the New York Times:
We [slave owners] didn’t see ourselves as being prejudiced.
black folk were such integral part of our lives, they were like our family.
and that in 2012:
We’re all prejudiced against one thing or another. I think black people feel the same prejudice that white people feel.
She is not sure if racist jokes offend black people. She is not even sure if the N-word does, given how much they use it.
Thanks to Sondis and Daniel Bryant for suggesting this post.
– Abagond, 2013.
Update (July 10th 2015): Paula Deen has apparently learned little: she tweeted a picture of her son in brownface. He was supposed to be Desi Arnaz. That shows, by the way, that even white Latinos are racialized by non-Hispanic Whites.