Were Paula Deen’s Controversial Comments All In The Past?
In the face of her recent controversy, many of Paula Deen‘s supporters are focusing on the claim that her controversial remarks took place far in the past and in her private life. But further evidence suggests that the behavior extends into the present; and a current lawsuit seeks to determine whether these negative attitudes even entered the workplace.
Earlier this week, Deen’s testimony in a legal deposition became available. In it, she admitted to using the racial slur, but suggested that she had not in “a very long time”- specifically, the year 1986, when she was robbed at gunpoint by a black man. But Deen also admits to using the word since then, and to hearing her family use it “in jokes,” and not being offended.
But Deen’s claims that her racial insensitivity was all in the past do not quite hold up. After the controversy broke, the New York Times revisited a public talk she gave just last year. Deen discusses the South and slavery, but refrains from using the word “slave,” instead describing black people in the Antebellum South as “workers.” Deen also slips into the first-person plural when defending slave owners, saying , “black folk… were like our family, and for that reason we didn’t see ourselves as prejudiced.” In addition, Deen describes a young black man who works closely with her, saying he is “as black as” the stage’s dark backdrop, and jokes that he could not be seen against it.
Deen and her brother are being sued by a former employee for allegedly allowing discriminatory and hostile conditions at one of their restaurants. In the deposition, Deen says she believes most jokes target a specific group, like “Jewish people, rednecks, [or] black folks.” Deen also states that she does not know exactly what constitutes sexual or racial harassment, but she says “we don’t do that.”
Deen quickly released two video apologies. But immediately after, Food Network announced it was not renewing her contract.
What do you think of Deen’s comments and the Food Network’s actions?