Monday, July 1, 2013


I have been following the news related to celebrity chef Paula Deen. Likely you have heard that in the past few weeks, she has fallen on hard times. The news reporting machine has been providing up-to-the-second updates on Deen as her gastronomic empire collapses around her. The amount of vitriol and acid effluent is mind-numbing. Yet nothing about what I have heard makes any sense. I will certainly admit that I don't know the full story based on what has been reported, but from what I have seen, the penalty does not fit the crime. The story began when a woman who worked in a restaurant owned and managed by Paula and her brother, brought a lawsuit against her bosses charging them with discrimination. In a deposition related to the case, Paula admitted under questioning to using the word "nigger" more than 30 years ago when talking about a black man who held a gun to her head in an attempted bank robbery. Seemingly, as a result of this admission, Paula has been branded as a racist pariah. In the past week she has:
  • Been fired from the TV network on which her cooking shows were broadcast.
  • Had a number of endorsing and merchandising contracts terminated with companies such as Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Sears, Novo Nordisk, Smithfield Foods, and QVC.
  • Had four of her restaurants operated by Caesar's resorts shuttered.
In parallel with all of this have been the uncomfortable, disjointed, inconsistent, tear-filled emotional apologies released by Paula and her crisis management team. She is beseeching everyone to forgive her for her unspeakable crimes. What type of skulduggery is afoot here? Is she apologizing for uttering a racist word 30 years ago, or is she asking for forgiveness for a lifetime of bigotry? Although I did not grow up in the segregated south, I used the dreaded "N-word" a few times in my youth before I understood what it implied. I learned and self-corrected. The world went on without incident. Why is this situation any different?

What really bothers me is that it now seems that suddenly every ill-informed person on the street has positioned themselves as the unquestioned, anonymous, and unaccountable accuser, jury, judge, and executioner. Guilty! Case closed. What has happened to the United States such that we have become the most litigious and overly sensitive population in the history of humanity? No matter what is said, cries of bigotry and discrimination immediately fly around. Is this because they sense a quick buck through the law? Is this because by pulling someone else down they can feel better about themselves? Is this because they are jealous of others more successful than themselves? Is it because their hurt is a learned, instinctive response? Is it that they are on a quest for equality and fairness?