Paula Deen’s on the hot seat this week, with just about everyone excoriating her for racist statements. Someone foolishly booked her on the Today show. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, realizing she’d do herself no good at all, and she cancelled–there is no way for anyone to talk their way out of the racist things she said. It was just going to be a beat-up-Paula-Deen session (think James Frey being taken to the woodshed by the faux goddess, Oprah). …so it really was best to do what she just did: release a video apology.
The thing is, there’s no sense in beating on Paula. It just obscures the real issue: the fact that racism underlies just about everything in our society. Oh, it’s well-disguised, at least most of the time. And yes, I know, we have a biracial President. Yeah, we do.
But racism’s lurking. God, is it lurking.
We don’t want to believe it, I know. But think long and hard. Because when I do that, I can instantly come up with a few examples from my own, very white, upper-middle class life.
The argument I had with a Southern man who, red-faced, came up with the biggest insult he could think of: “You–you—you have Moorish blood!” he sputtered. Uh, yeah, probably. I’m Sicilian. (I had to stop the argument to laugh. Is that the best he could do?)
Another came to mind: The client meeting in which a Southern man made a hugely racist joke in front of a black professional and the entire meeting full of white folk went on as if nothing had happened. AND the company retained the client. I guess racism in business is acceptable. At least it is in some parts of the country.
And how about all those racist depictions of Michelle Obama?
And the arguments I’ve had with pretty smart other white people in which they refuse to believe that some of the right-wing political attitudes toward President Obama are racially motivated. (It’s clear as day to me that some of them are.)
So, Paula Deen’s done us favor. She’s started a national conversation. If we’re smart, we’ll take her out of it, and focus on the REAL issue. Which is that racism is alive and well in the United States and it must be stamped out.
If you haven’t seen the video apology Paula Deen’s people released today, click HERE.