It’s been a tumultuous week for Food Network star Paula Deen. She quickly went from America’s southern cooking sweetheart to being viewed as an extreme racist. If you haven’t been following the news around the scandal, here are the main points.
She and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, are being sued by a former employee of their restaurant. The accuser, Lisa Jackson, said Hiers forced her to watch pornography on the restaurant’s office computer. She also claimed Deen once said this when referring to her brother’s wedding plans:
“Well what I would really like is a bunch of little n***ers 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.”
The deposition was only made public this month and caused a media frenzy. A number of events have happened since the debuting of the transcript, including Deen’s last minute cancellation of an interview on the Today show with Matt Lauer. Shortly after, she released a few clips on her Youtube channel where she begged for forgiveness. Meanwhile, the Food Network reviewed its relationship with Deen and decided not to renew her contract when it ends this month. Other companies like Smithfield are following suit and choosing not to work with her anymore.
Since the Food Network decided to give Deen the boot there has been a wave of support from her fans. Two different Facebook fan pages have been erected with hundreds of thousands of followers calling for a ban of the Food Network. A quick look into the We Support Paula Deen fan page and you’ll see a mix of given reasons for supporting her. While some accept her apology, others don’t believe she did anything wrong, touting everyone uses racial slurs.
When issues of racism arise it’s important to look at it from the bigger picture. Yes, racism is still alive and well today, and not only African Americans are on the receiving end. Just last year, while a Kansas State University freshman athlete Angel Rodríguez shot free throws during a basketball game against the University of Southern Mississippi, the crowd chanted, “Where’s your green card?” While the ignorance of shouting at a Puerto Rican for proof of naturalized citizenship is compelling, the larger point remains about the casual racism in this country, especially in the South. Many people claim that the country is too politically correct and everyone uses racial slurs at one point or another, so we should just accept things how they are. Or is the right move to take up the anti-racism fight at every chance in an effort to rid it from our society in its entirety?
The latter point may seem ideological but it’s the only route that doesn’t accept the prejudice imbedded in our country. Just this Tuesday, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Act of 1965. It’s the very measure that made waves in the black community, allowing their vote and thusly their voice to be heard. The justices sent the act back to Congress so they may present a more modernized law. Yet the widely known incapability of Congress to come together in a bipartisan way forecasts a dismal outlook into the future of voting rights. This time it affects the Latina/o community. In the 2012 presidential election Latinas/os proved to be a powerful voting bloc. Since Latinas/os historically vote democratic, the conservative Right are trying to capture some of those voters. While some are choosing an above board route to gain Latina/o supporters, like passing immigration reform, the greater fear is that some may try to change voting rules in key states to unevenly target minorities. This was just blatantly done in the 2012 election with the proposed voter identification laws.
In the coming months, we will see what Congress does to bring back a comprehensive voting rights bill. We also will see if the world with forgive Paula Deen’s apparent racism as an old southern gal being a product of her environment or look at it as part of the bigger picture that is the race issue in the country.