Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 7, 2013

HOPKINS: Give Paula Deen a second chance

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Pity Paula Deen. She spoke the truth and she’s being financially lynched for doing so.

I certainly don’t condone her use of “the N-word,” but watching her get dropped by The Food Network, Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Target, QVC and a slew of others faster than you can say Jack Robinson is galling.

Deen was asked in a legal deposition if she had ever used the word. Deen is 66 years old, so “ever” covers quite a bit of territory. She was a teenager in the South during the racially charged 1960s, so I am not at all surprised that she used “that word.”

The deposition concerns a case in which Deen is being sued by a former employee who alleged sexual and racial harassment.

Here’s what stirred the controversy: “Yes, of course ... But that’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on things have changed since the 60’s in the south.”

That’s it. Wow.

Why is Deen being punished so severely, for something she claims happened decades ago, during a different era?

You cannot tell me that there isn’t a person on this planet who doesn’t regret saying or doing something in the past. Nor can you suggest that people don’t act differently in the privacy of their own homes. That’s not to say we’re all racist or homophobic, but I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t laugh at an unseemly joke or behave just a little out astray from what we see of that person in public.

I’m sure there are people who remember the 60s quite vividly and can’t let the past go. There are, I’m sure, whites out there who use “that word” in the privacy of their home or within a close circle of friends all the time and I’m sure there are blacks who freely continue to harbor ill feelings toward white people, similarly using “cracker,” “honky” and other epithets. That doesn’t make it right, for either side.

Unfortunately, in this politically-correct-gone-mad world you cannot let your guard down, for a second. Well, that’s not entirely true. Look at tennis star Serena Williams.

Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that Ms. Williams, commenting on a case where a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio was raped by two members of her school’s football team, said “she shouldn’t have put herself in that position.”

“I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people,” she continued.

Sounds to me like she is, indeed, blaming the girl and her parents. Yet, I don’t see Nike, Gatorade or Wilson dropping her or even chastising her for the insensitive comments. Of course, Steubenville has one of the country’s best high school football programs, so perhaps there are companies who recognize that they may one day be sponsoring players (good, decent players) who call Steubenville their alma mater, and decided to distance themselves from the matter entirely.

Williams immediately apologized for her comments, and she’s largely been left alone to continue her career. And Paula Deen?

Before it unceremonioulsy dropped her, The Food Network issued a statement saying it “does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is a strong proponent of diversity and inclusion.” Fine. So, why not offer sensitivity training for Deen?

Fortunately, Deen has her supporters. Former President Jimmy Carter said she’s been “overly severely” punished for use of the word in her distant past. Even Rev. Jesse Jackson has come out in her defense.

And sales of her books are soaring, as the public offers its support. Publishers Weekly reports that Deen’s older books were selling at a rate of about 500 per week. However, the latest figures show that 4,000 copies sold in the latest week for which statistics are available.

Also, her next book, which was to hit the shelves in October, had reached No. 1 — all on the strength of pre-orders. Unfortunately, Random House decided to cancel “Paula Deen’s New Testament.” I’m hoping another publisher picks it up.

I’m also hoping that Deen gets a second chance. The public seems ready to give her one, and Ms. Williams has apparently already gotten hers.