Words can be powerful things. They can hurt, they can heal, they can create neutrality from chaos, and vice-versa.
They are also WORDS. Yes, some are borne from attitudes, and some are so freakin’ ignorant that you want to slap the speaker.
This young man and foodie, who’s a black jew (so, uh, yeah, he knows a little bit about discrimination), wrote a really long and eloquent post about Paula’s use of the word “nigger,” and what it meant not as a racial slur, but as a nod to the history of cooking that Paula uses, and how most of it actually came from slaves working in kitchens.
Seriously, read that entry. It’s not as long as the scroll bar suggests – there are just a lot of comments.
Anyway, I’ve been avoiding the issue, because honestly, Paula Deen is kind of being used as a scapegoat and is being treated as a pariah in a lot of this (also, I kind of don’t give a shit what she does). Ignorance is no excuse, but, uh…she’s in her 60′s, and she’s from the South. People in rural areas around Memphis (MEMPHIS – whose black population far outweighs its white) use the term “nigger” as a descriptive, and not necessarily a pejorative. They’re simply using it in the same way someone else may say “black” or “African-American,” but it’s the first word that comes to mind, because of their environment. Is that wrong? Well, considering the history of the word, it makes me uncomfortable, but I can’t rightly say that it’s wrong of them to do that, because that’s how they grew up. Hell, my former in-laws were known to use that word, and one of them works for one of the largest corporations in the world as security for the head of that corporation. He’s not stupid, he’s not ignorant, he’s just older and was raised in an area where that language is as common as the humidity.
Again…ignorance is no excuse. But let’s be honest with ourselves, here – are we upset at the use of the word, or are we upset that a white woman who was kind of on Oprah’s level of influence was found to have used it?
She was born in 1947, in the South, during a time when it was still common to have segregated drinking fountains.
She is a baby-boomer, technically, who admitted to wanting a plantation-style wedding for her son, not because she thinks it would be fun to degrade black people, but because she’s a Southern cook who delights in the details of certain things from her past…things that, perhaps, she’s not seeing all sides of, but nonetheless, she got the idea from a themed restaurant that uses exclusively black waitstaff in clothes that are styled to match those of servants/slaves around the time of the Civil War.
How about we get angry at that restaurant? Oh, wait, those folks signed up to be “slave waiters.” My bad.
Ooooooh…but so would the folks she would have used at the wedding…yeah…
So what I’m saying is that people are over-reacting, and we need to move on and stop letting words dictate who can and can’t do something.
By calling Paula Deen out as a “racist” for using a pejorative term in passing, a long time ago (while being held at gunpoint – tell me you wouldn’t have muttered something ugly about him as soon as he was out of earshot, even if you had used a different word), we’re allowing words to control us, and to separate us.
We’re allowing more racism to flourish.
We’re also calling attention away from issues that actually need attention, such as, oh, I don’t know, the fact that people are dying of preventable things all the time because some douchenozzles refuse to admit that their refusal to be flexible is killing folks. Or the fact that Paula Deen isn’t using the word “nigger” to make money.
You know what Paula Deen does? She cooks. She cooks Southern food, and yeah, she could do with some history lessons, because she very rarely recounts where those recipes come from, but she’s a Southern woman who loves being in the kitchen and actin’ a fool for the entertainment of those around her. She freakin’ rode on a co-host after a few glasses of wine and sparked a meme.
I’m not defending her, per se, I’m just saying that we need to find more important things to worry about than someone’s use of a word in private. If I was slapped with a fine or a court date every time I used the word “bitch,” I would be in jail forever…and that’s just the times I use it in private. I use it in conversation all the time. Why? I can’t tell you. It’s a bad habit. I have myself recorded in multiple places saying it…Youtube, Twitch, etc. I mean, that’s not a nice term, and I try to be sensitive with who I use it around, but to persecute one woman out of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who say “nigger” loud and proud in public?
Get a fucking hobby, you bitches.