EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


July 2, 2013

Column: Paula Deen's heapin' helping of woe


Nor can we excuse the N-word’s utterance just because Americans of color — including talented actors, comedians and musicians — enshrine it by usage that is neither humorous nor tasteful.

Deen tried to defend herself by referring, not terribly well, to this inequity. One could only hope for her sake that, if a sympathetic note is now permitted by the guardians of our correctness, she is not paying much for the advice she has been getting.

She seemed not to understand the doctrine of racial license. It isn’t complicated. Members of any race have more freedom when referring to another member of that race humorously or otherwise than do those of a different ethnic background — especially if there is a history of persecution. However, the N-word is despicable, whoever is using it.

Deen clearly can make a case of having been raised in a culture that not only taught her to cook but also was utterly insensitive in its casual treatment of minorities, particularly blacks.

In that, she is not unlike the rest of us of a certain age. That changed, thankfully, and Deen tried to tell us that she also realized some time ago the impropriety of that attitude. Apparently in one of her restaurants that wasn’t the case. At least that’s what has been alleged in a discrimination suit, which Deen and her allies contend was vindictively filed after she refused to pay more than $1 million to the person who complained.

Is all this an outlandish overreaction? Does the punishment far exceed the crime? One could make a case for that. It seems clear there is no statute of limitation on when someone has used an offensive word or phrase: off with their heads, apologies unaccepted. Had we been this intolerant 50 years ago, the father of the most important civil rights bills in history, Lyndon B. Johnson, would have been roundly condemned.

What’s left of Paula Deen’s reputation and empire at least should be given a compassionate wake before she is forced to slink away to wash dishes.

Email Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan@aol.com. Distributed by SHNS at www.shns.com.

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