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June 29, 2013
Paula Deen's Damage Control
By Dr. Cheryl Pappas
The controversy over Paula Deen is important because it reveals that we are not living in a post-racial world. Racism is leaked occasionally yet remains alive undercover today.
Paula Deen's Today Show damage control appearance was, in my opinion, not successful.
As the interview wore on, her strategy was to assert her goodness and point to the bad behavior of others.
This is psychologically considered normal as a personal style of defense, but for as grand a venue as Today and as famous a brand as Paula Deen, the effort was akin to coaxing a dead dog to sit up and bark.
As Deen haltingly introduced an example of what she finds "distressing", her repetition of this word, "distressing", might have served to introduce a straight shot apology.
I personally was waiting for it.
(Not that an apology takes away vile behavior, but it's a start).
It could have gone something like this: "I am distressed that this word ever came out of my mouth. I want to apologize. Period. I will be investigating who I am to ever have that word be a part of my language and my consciousness".
Instead, as we all know, she launched into what sounded like a prepared talking point, about how "distressing" it is for black young people to use the n word with one another.
I say that if you are black and choose to use the n word it is a universe of difference from a white person using the same word.
Flipping the matter over in my mind as a Jewish person, I don't believe we favor using anti-semitic slang with one another.
However, this does not mean that young black people are communicating self-denigration by using the n word.
That is for the black community to argue.
No white person can weigh in on this with any authority.
Therefore, the strategy of Paula Deen's "distress" about it is cringe-worthy and transparently a wrong-headed defense.
We could discuss how members of minorities speak amongst themselves, and we can realize quickly that each culture is a separate case in this regard.
For instance, Jewish people, by and large, are uniformly finished with the hate that killed 6 million of us in the blitz of Nazi Germany and are on the lookout for wherever this might spring up again.
(Yes, I did notice the initial headlines regarding Paula Deen's alleged racism that included the anti-semitism" accusation).
You will never hear a Jew use the hateful phrase, "Jew me out of" something.
Because I have a Greek last name, I have heard my share of this casual hate talk that some people believe is a-ok.
Imagine their surprise when they are told they are talking to a "Jew". And imagine the deepening shades of red that can quickly transform the human face.
It could be said that because the n word is used by black people themselves, the word therefore a-ok for all to partake in. Wrong.
Black people, and all people, are free to speak about and refer to themselves with one another using whatever terms they choose.
So, it was a bad tact, Paula Deen, to put yourself in the group with the young black people where the n word comes up, or to judge them for the way they speak.
Sadly, there is also a problem with the validity of her other main point.
She urged those who have never used a slur word against another race to throw a boulder at her head.
As Elton John told us, "Sorry seems to be the hardest word".
No one is innocent. There will be no gashes or open wounds on Ms. Deen's head.
It is just bad form to use other people at their worst in the defense of oneself.
Following Deen's talk with Matt Lauer, Today anchor Natalie Morales noted that people were questioning whether Paula Deen shed actual tears during the interview.
I say the matter is not about missing tears; it is the absence of personal responsibility.
There is no doubt that if there was more leakage of behind-the-scenes words and actions of the highly promoted "experts" and hosts of major television shows, we would see how hollow these so-called role models are as real people.
Paula Deen does not stand alone as such; she is simply being revealed.
Here's an interesting question.
On the heels of this event, it is now reported that her book sales are spiking wildly and the 2014 Paula Deen cruise tickets are selling like hotcakes.
What does this mean?
Is this support for a woman wronged or the opportunity for us to see and understand that racism is a living thing?
I am a psychotherapist and media commentator. I'm interested in consciousness, awakeness, light, laughter, intelligence,entertainment,politics, and talking about how the media spins the stories we hear; how the media directs our feeling states and impacts the way we live. I want to resurrect telling the truth and true listening. I analyze what is actually being promoted while pretending to be the "News" in media faux news broadcasts. It's time to wake up!