Paula Deen and the N-word: A plate of bigotry with that fried chicken? (+video)
Paula Deen, the woman who has put Southern culture on a pedestal, may be responsible for raising deeper questions about whether the marketing of Southern cuisine comes with a side of bigotry.
(Page 2 of 2)
"For decades and decades, the South's legacy has been the basic trope that permitted white Americans [to excuse] themselves from all racial guilt and project it to the American South,” University of North Carolina professor Larry Griffin, author of “The South as an American Problem,” told the Monitor in 2010.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
And in the deposition itself, she claims that her view of the N-word has changed over time. She also related one time she used it. When asked in what context, she replied, “It was probably when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head.”
“What did you say?”
“Well, I don’t remember, but the gun was dancing all around my temple. I didn’t feel favorable towards him.”
She said she used the word when retelling the story to her husband. She said she’s used the word since then, “but it’s been a very long time.”
But in the deposition in a harassment lawsuit involving her brother, allegations were raised that the word frequently flies in the restaurant’s kitchen. In her deposition, Deen defended an episode from 2007 when she imagined a plantation-style wedding reception with an all-black wait staff.
On Friday, Deen made several apologies, including one that explained that she “was born 60 years ago when America’s South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants, and Americans rode different parts of the bus. This is not today.”
In a later video clip, she went farther: “I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I’ve done. I want to learn and grow from this … inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable.”
The statements weren’t enough to appease the Food Network, which said Friday it will not renew its contract with Deen. The swift condemnation may hurt her long-time restaurant businesses, too, although many Americans have also rallied in her defense.
But what really irked a lot of Americans about Deen’s comments is a long-held suspicion about Southern culture and its food: that it’s all honey and biscuits on top, but ultimately debilitating and unhealthy below the crust. That may not be the whole truth, but to say it’s not part of the truth would be disingenuous, especially given the controversy cooked up by arguably the South’s greatest culinary ambassador.
“Deen made a pile of money off a certain idea of old-school southern culture,” writes James Poniewozik, in Time. “In return, she had an obligation to that culture … not to embody its worst, most shameful history and attitudes. Instead … she singlehandedly affirmed people’s worst suspicions of people who talk and eat like her. She made it that much harder to say that Confederate bean soup is just a recipe.”
RECOMMENDED: Are you a real foodie? Take our quiz!