Celebrity chef Paula Deen is a Georgia-based restaurateur, a self-made woman and national celebrity who has published fourteen cookbooks and hosted popular TV cooking shows on the Food Network for more than a decade. Known for her gregarious personality and folksy southern charm, Deen has performed charity work on behalf of poor people and minorities across the United States.
She has donated massive quantities of food, money, and time to Second Harvest, an organization that distributes grocery products to the poor. She has given large donations to, and held fundraisers for, Blessings in a Backpack—a program that feeds elementary-school children from low-income families. This year she created the Bag Lady Foundation to help women and children in financial need.
In each of these cases, a substantial percentage of the beneficiaries of Deen’s generosity have been African Americans. But thanks to a malicious law-suit, Deen’s irrepressible candor, and a nation-wide vilification campaign conducted by a civil rights lynch mob, she has been tarred and feathered as a “racist.” As a result, she is out of a job and out of pocket many millions of dollars in business revenues lost.
The campaign against Deen was triggered by a couple of answers she inadvisedly volunteered during a private deposition last month. The deposition was part of a $1.2 million discrimination/sexual-harassment lawsuit filed against her by a disgruntled former employee named Lisa Jackson. Jackson, a white woman, had managed a Savannah seafood restaurant owned by Deen and her brother. According to Jackson, the working environment at the restaurant was permeated by sexual innuendos and racial slurs. During her deposition, Paula Deen was asked by Jackson’s attorney if she herself had “ever used the N-word.” A person sensitive to the toxic environment civil rights vigilantes have created for white Americans—and particularly southerners—would have said “No,” particularly since Deen had never used the word in the course of her business. But Paula Deen is a transparently decent person, dangerously innocent of the racial mine fields into which the suit had transported her.
Instead of “No,” or “I don’t recall ever having used that word,” she replied, “Yes, of course.” She then explained that it happened a “very long time” ago. When asked for details, she said she had used the word in 1986 while recounting to her husband how she had been held up earlier that day by a black gunman at the bank where she was employed.
In other words, she used the word in a private conversation with her husband twenty-seven years ago. She also admitted to telling or tolerating “off-colored jokes” of the kind that “we have all told.” (Indeed, TV comedians like Lisa Lampanelli have made racial humor their stock-in-trade, as have black comedians since Richard Pryor – but the butts of their jokes are white.) “But,” Deen added, that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on. Things have changed since the ’60s in the South. And my children and my brother object to that word being used in any cruel or mean behavior. As well as I do.” If Paula Deen is a racist, every white, black, brown and yellow person in America is a racist too.
But that didn’t make any difference to the racial media vultures all the way from tabloids like the National Enquirer to publications of the elite culture like Salon and the New York Times. It began with an Enquirer story based on leaks by Jackson or her lawyer of Deen’s answers in her deposition. The Enquirer editors broke what they called a “bombshell revelation” of the chef’s “shocking racial scandal.” The credulous embrace of this Enquirer bombast, which normally would garner sneers from the arbiters of the mainstream culture, shows how in today’s poisoned racial atmosphere a gutter tabloid can become the gold standard on such matters. Instantaneously a derisive liberal clatter spread across the Twitterverse becoming fodder for the stories that followed. Without a shred of evidence, the Internet magazine Salon condemned “Deen’s history of casual, clueless racism,” portraying her “hurtful and demeaning” attitudes as reflections of America’s “stunning national glut of racial ignorance.” (More likely this characterization itself reflected the stunning lack of self-awareness of leftist character assassins as they go about their nasty business.)
An equally prejudiced commentary in the Chicago Tribune explained that, “poking fun at minorities comes naturally” to southerners, among whom “ignorance has been passed down through generations.” A Los Angeles Times column lectured that, “the racist attitudes that foster” Deen’s use of the N-word are “unacceptable,” and one in the New York Times referred to her as “Paula the Deep-Fried Boor.” Black Entertainment Television then proposed to read Deen’s mind, lamenting that her “dreams of antebellum paradise” are symptomatic of the fact that “the desire to turn the clock back is very much in fashion now.” For this absurd comment it adduced the evidence of recent efforts to pass “restrictive voter identification laws that would have made it more cumbersome for Black and Latino people to go to the polls.” The restrictive laws in question would require all Americans, including minorities, to use the same IDs they might use for purchasing a car or a house, or securing a motel room, or getting a driver’s license, or receiving food stamps and other welfare benefits as the case might be.
But it was on Twitter that the only racism that is privileged to express itself in the nation’s media enjoyed a field day as countless compassionless wiseacres turned the name of Deen’s TV show—Paula’s Best Dishes—into a hashtag parlor game with made-up recipes like “Back-of-the-Bus Biscuits,” “Some of My Best Friends Are Black-Eyed Peas,” “Separate but Equal Light & Dark Meat,” “3/5ths of a Flan,” “Hooded White Sheet Cake,” “Massa-Roni and Cheese,” “’Lettuce From a Birmingham Jail,” and “Key Lynch Pie.” This amusement at the expense of a woman whose lifetime of work and achievement was going up in flames only added fuel to the fires. Nor could the usual mob leaders pass on this one. Jesse Jackson even dispatched an attorney to Georgia to investigate the situation, as his Rainbow/PUSH organization rushed to judge, convict and execute Deen for “systemic racial discrimination and harassment,” again in the absence of any facts.
The unseemly outrage over a 27-year-old private conversation between a wife and her husband, contrasted sharply with the boundless tolerance her attackers showed for expressions of black racism that are not confined to private exchanges. Award-winning actor Samuel L. Jackson, for example, boasted last year that he had “voted for Barack [Obama] because he was black,” justifying his bigotry by alleging that whites only vote for whites (or for blacks who act like whites): “When it comes down to it, they wouldn’t have elected a nigger. Because, what’s a nigger? A nigger is scary.” No noticeable consequences followed on Jackson’s public confession of disdain for the white people who had just elected Obama. Unlike Deen he did not lose any lucrative commercial opportunities, but without a hitch continued as the spokesman for Apple’s popular iPhone. But then, being black and protected, Jackson had not been the target of a massive smear campaign either, so there were no business repercussions for Apple to consider. Nor have notorious racial arsonists like Al Sharpton — responsible for the deaths of seven victims of his racial incitements and currently an MSNBC anchor — suffered any apparent adversities for their serious malfeasances in a “sensitive” area.
As for Paula Deen, she is only one of several victims of public lynchings of non-blacks in the last few years. It hasn’t been that long since a black drug addict and petty criminal nearly succeeded in destroying the lives of three upstanding members of the Duke University lacrosse team whose only crime was being white. Accused by a discreditable street source of having raped and sodomized her during an off-campus party, the young men were thrown out of school, demonized in the press, and publicly denounced by 88 politically correct members of the Duke faculty as the heirs of slave-owners and white rapists of the past. Fortunately, the victims were able to hire lawyers, and after a year of abuse in the national media were able to clear themselves and begin to put their lives back together.
A similar display of attitudes recalling the cracker South of 60 years ago greeted the first news of the case involving Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a Neighborhood Watch guard named George Zimmerman in Florida. Immediately a progressive chorus began shrilling for Zimmerman’s head, although the facts were far from known, let alone adjudicated by a jury of his peers. The fact that a black man was involved as a possible victim was enough to produce an orgy of ugly accusations of white racism—even though Zimmerman was Hispanic and partly black and had to be recast as a “white Hispanic” to make the melodrama work. Martin himself had to be converted from a thuggish 6-foot teen who had been in trouble with the law into a horse-riding 12-year-old innocent, as virtually every media image represented him.
According to race hustlers like Jesse Jackson, “blacks [were] under attack,” “killing us is big business,” and it was time for “justice.” Celebrities like Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, P. Diddy, Jamie Foxx, and Arsenio Hall tweeted expressions of outrage to their millions of fans. Celebrities Spike Lee and Roseanne Barr went a bridge further and tweeted Zimmerman’s home address, perhaps hoping that some outraged lunatic might exact the revenge they were apparently seeking. While the trial of George Zimmerman is just beginning, the public verdict is pre-determined. If Zimmerman is not found guilty of second-degree murder, racism will have triumphed.
Ultimately, it wasn’t an Al Sharpton or a Jesse Jackson who destroyed the public career of Paula Deen. It was the lynch mob that the civil rights movement has become and that has turned its values upside down. These are manifest in the orgies of venomous self-righteousness that rise to the surface every time an opportunity presents itself to dramatize a problem that was effectively put to rest a generation ago. Yes, there are racists among us and no doubt always will be. But they are not simply white, and they do not limit their poisonous words to private conversations with their husbands in closeted circumstances twenty-seven years in the past.