I have been following the saga of Paula Deen as she tries to answer cries against her obvious, inbred, Racism, and her multiplicity of firings from many companies as spokesmodel for their brands. Do we want to punish Bigots and Racists by removing them from the public eye? Or do we want them to be heard, so they can be forced into public recantations and corrections? Slate magazine creates this interesting take on the problem of Paula Deen:
Paula Deen is America’s racist grandma, and we should treat her as such. Racist Grandma may be racist, but she’s also your grandma. You can’t just disown her.
And, contrary to what some might think, having a racist grandma isn’t entirely bad. No doubt there are many white families where racism is passed down generation to generation like some cancerous gene. But for others, seeing that gene and knowing you’re predisposed to it is a warning sign, a nagging reminder to take preventive measures for yourself. I say let’s push racist Grandma back to center stage and let her keep talking.
I am fascinated by the conundrum Paula Deen presents. The easy path is to just remove her and hope she’ll go away; but would that cure her or help the rest of us? Probably not. I don’t think Paula Deen really thinks she’s done anything wrong, and that’s why prolonged exposure in her effervescent, public, limelight might help weaken her hardcore Southern upbringing and allow her to see the light in the error of her ways.
We’ve written a lot about race here on Boles Blogs. Do a simple search for “Nigger” and you’ll get a bunch of on-topic returns. We never used the word to wound. We employed the word to try to help divine objectified understanding.
In my article — Hand Me that Bowl of Nigger Toes — I expose my own Paula Deen problem in the guise of my highly educated, pharmacist, grandfather, who died in 1980, and who saw no reason not to invoke the “N-word” in his description of a bowl of nuts:
If you wanted to see dark skin color, and you lived in middle Nebraska, you had to drive four hours East to Omaha — and you did your sightseeing in the car. You never mingled with “them.”
You only observed them — objectified them — and made up stories about them and their wealthy lives on welfare while you “slaved” hard in the hot sun tilling the land. If you traveled to an international hub like Atlanta, then you were overwhelmed with all the “jigaboos” who were “walking around freely” — “Dad! We don’t talk like that here!” — and you locked your car door with one finger while wildly pointing with the other.
I remember not being scared of my grandfather’s objectification of Blacks, but rather by the reaction of my mother to my grandfather’s labeling of Blacks. She was overwhelmed and outraged — as was her sister — and she made it entirely clear that sort of talk was not welcome or acceptable at any time anywhere. I can’t remember my mother ever calling anyone a “jigaboo” and while she never called them “Nigger toes” she did enjoy eating a Brazil nut or two.
Was my grandfather a Racist? Probably a little bit.
Was he more Racist than Paula Deen? I don’t think so.
Are there any Racists in your family? If so, are they aware of their Racism, or do they care not to own the topic?