Calhoun's Cannons for July 6, 2013
Well, mah goodness! Wasn't that fun! Trashing Paula Deen, destroying a good chunk of her career, the media awash with Moral Outrage! What an outpouring of phony Shock & Dismay. It was all Dueling Moral Rectitudes among the hypocrites. With her sponsors yanking up the hems of their skirts lest they be smudged by Deen's standard-issue Southern Racism Lite. Oh, wait. I need to make that "standard-issue, all-American racism lite." And therein lies the utter phoniness at the heart of this sad but ridiculous scandal du jour.
For years people of good will have called for a "dialogue" on race. We were urged to honestly confront the dark stain at America's heart, to deal unblinkingly with our sinful, evil history, to understand our hard-wired human-monkey brains better in order to find a way to overcome our own dark hearts. Unfortunately, most Americans are profoundly allergic to all of that. Instead, our usual default mode when facing a genuinely difficult problem involving our own bad behavior is to 1) shoot the messenger, 2) change the subject, 3) engage in scapegoating. Then when the poor goat is driven out of town with all our sins on its fluffy head, declare the "problem" solved so it's "time to move forward."
Enter Paula Deen, prime goat. She was perfect! Her style of cooking (ooey-gooey butter, sugar, fat-larded comfort food) was rapidly being acknowledged as an artery-clogging medical menace and so was going out of fashion. Which meant her sales and profitability was slipping a bit so her sponsors could afford to play the moral rectitude card without taking too big a financial hit. She had also tarnished her own credibility by keeping secret her own diabetes (no doubt caused by eating her own food) while signing a secret deal to be a shill peddling diabetes drugs. When that deal became public, the goat was primed and ready.
Enter a "disgruntled" ex-employee, a brother named "Bubba," and a lawsuit. Bring on the clown suit and the barrel of tar and feathers. The circus was about to begin.
Which brings us back to what passed for a national "dialogue about race" that ensued when it was discovered during the deposition that Paula Deen confessed that she had used the N-Word in the past when referring to a black man who had robbed the bank she was working in and held a gun to her head. There soon followed TV clips and interviews of Deen being a silly southern lady-of-a-certain-age, with cultural baggage and a tin ear, who was clueless about many of her cringe-worthy racial comments. "I is what I is," she declared.
And so the pounding commenced with few voices raised with a lick of common sense. Like, does anyone really think there's a person living in the U.S. who has NEVER used the N-word? Ever? Not even while reading "Huckleberry Finn" in school? Or, if you're of a certain age, have sung the counting-song, "Eeeny-meeny miney-mo / Catch a . . . . . by the toe?" Or referred to Brazil nuts as "N-toes." (Which my sister and I innocently did until our Mom overheard us and we got a thorough schooling on the matter.) We live in a society that has been and still is awash with the N-word. It's in the culture, in the streets, in our jokes, in our history, passed down from parent to child, passed around from school child to school child. It's in the very air we breathe, always lurking. If you're a child of the south, it's a word imbedded in the culture. It's a word that has had a variety of meanings and inflections, a word that was either acceptable or unacceptable, depending on the company you kept, a word of duel purpose from a pure descriptive in certain circles, to a word of utterly despicable intent. A word that, once heard, cannot be unheard. A secret weapon of a word that, while sheathed, is always there, lurking in even the sweetest of souls, along with all the other taboo words proscribed by a civil society.
It's also a word that's now going totally out of fashion, beyond the pale, unless you're a rap star, or a comedian, though even in that milieu and among blacks themselves, is cause for a growing discussion and growing disapproval. But since it remains a word of near-universal taboo, its also a word that's become the perfect tool for scapegoating when we feel the need to externalize our own demons.
And its clearly become The Word when we're in need of a media circus to distract us from the real dialogue we should be having. Much easier to pile-on a clueless lady and when she's thoroughly trashed, smugly declare that the" problem" is now solved and it's time to move forward in our smiley-faced post-racial world.
Pass the butter cream cake, y'all.