Paula Deen in happier times
I'll admit it right here: I've always liked Paula. If you watch her on television, she seems to exude qualities which most people appreciate: openness, joyfulness, self-deprocating humor and a love of family.
When I was on my sailing adventure, I read her 2010 autobiography "It Ain't All About he Cookin'," which I picked up in a book exchange in Panama.
I learned that Paula was born into humble beginnings and raised in Georgia,
where she still lives. She is from the "Say-Outh" (with two syllables).
I mean, she's got a son named Bubba!
Now, I've never been to Georgia, but I've seen it on TV.
When Kathy Griffin spent a few days at Paula's Georgia home for her "B List" show, hilarity ensued. The fact that these two seemed to genuinely get along and love each other despite coming from completely different worlds (to say the least!) cemented my image of Paula as open, non-judgemental and down to earth.
"Gone With The Wind," of course, took place in Georgia.
Ted Turner started CNN in Atlanta, and it still broadcasts from there today.
CNN had a series "Black in America." The aim was high: to honestly and openly explore what it's like to be, well, Black in America. Call me crazy, but I always thought it was odd for such a series to be hosted by a light-skinned woman of Australian/Cuban descent with a Latino/Irish name. Nothing against Soledad.
Ironically, the fact that CNN had Soledad as the host of such a show highlights the challenges of being Black in America in 2012.
Now, let's talk a little bit more about the state of Georgia.
During the Civil War, this was Georgia's state flag:
Later, it was changed to this:
OK, now check this out: In the 1950's (when our Paula was a young 'un), Georgia brazenly changed their state flag to THIS:
Oh, MY! Can I get a Rebel Yell, y'all! (YIKES)
Under a great deal of pressure, the stars and bars were finally removed (hopefully for good!) from the Georgia flag in 2001.
The point I'm making here is that it appears to me that a certain style of black/white racism clearly persists even to this day in the South. It seems to be deeply woven into the woof and warp of the culture there.
Please don't think I'm defending the ugly statements of Paulas, which are coming out from her deposition. I was especially saddened to hear that she admits to routinely making "black" jokes.
Yuck, Paula. Just "yuck."
She has come out with a couple of videotaped apologies that ring quite hollow. And she's been let go from The Food Network.
I think it's not too late for our Ms. Deen, though. Paula, if you're reading this, let me put on my "Publicist" hat here for a moment. I'd strongly suggest you make a statement something along these lines:
"I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed at the revelations that have come out about my life. The truth is, there persists to this day a soft racism that remains deeply ingrained in southern life.
It's ugly, and I'm ashamed of it. I've always known that it's wrong, but I was born into it, and it's all I've ever known. I hope that my experience shines a light on this issue, and that the south -- MY south -- can start now to let go of this nasty remnant of the past and begin a new era of openness and acceptance for one another. A new era of respect for each other, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation. I will be the first. It starts here and now. With me."
I think if she was honest in such a way, her TV career could be redeemed.
But will she say it? Would she say it?
Highly doubtful, y'all.