Calhoun's Cannons for August 15, 2013
Woe betide an employer who has an employee who feels she/he hasn't been given enough -- enough money, enough respect, enough credit, enough shared fame and glory, or enough of whatever "enough" is.
Several months ago, Lisa Jackson sued Paula Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, claiming she suffered sexual harassment and racially offensive employment practices while working for five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, a restaurant run by Deen's brother. This being a case that was claiming racial discrimination, Deen was deposed and from her mouth -- under oath -- out popped the N-Word and the media pounced. The firestorm that ensued was fueled by the Trayvon Martin zeitgeist, the call for a national "discussion" of racial issues by a country dangerously unsettled in its mind over anything racial.
And the media went nuts. Deen became persona non grata du jour, sponsors of her TV show scampered off her sinking ship, product endorsements dried up, heck even Smithfield ham dumped her. Suddenly toxic, Deen watched as her empire crumbled in a matter of weeks, all because she had testified that years ago she had once used the N-Word -- a word that 99.99% of Americans have likely muttered once in their lives. But her sin was compounded because soon cringe-worthy TV clips turned up showing she was most certainly a Southern Lady of a certain age with an apallingly tin ear and a good degree of clueless silliness. It was an eye-rollingly bad combination for a anyone trying to run a multi-million dollar empire -- TV show, cook-book publishing, cookware and product endorsements, shilling for a brand of insulin -- while facing a mob of pitchforks and flaming brands.
And in typical fashion in a country bereft of any sense of context and operating with a kind of National Short Term Memory Syndrome, in an eyeblink the fury was over, gone. Deen's hash was considered settled and she and her travails disappeared from the front page.
Until a few days ago. There, buried a couple of pages in, was The Rest of the Story, a brief notice that Lisa Jackson's lawsuit was mostly tossed out as having no standing since Lisa is white, Deen and Bubba are white. Can't have a racial discrimination case if everyone's the same race. But, still left standing are her claims for sexual harassment, but that claim is laid against Bubba, not Deen. And, as of this writing, the remaining claims against Deen herself may also be tossed out as well.
So we'll then be left with, what? A case of sexual harassment against a Southern Good O'l Boy of a certain age, a tin ear and a good degree of clueless pigishness?
And what about Deen, now? Was she a victim of someone who didn't have "enough" and so used a flimsy lawsuit to get, what? Justice? Revenge?
Or was The Great Reveal the point? Sworn depositions given by attorneys on fishing expeditions can be a potent weapon in service of someone looking for some sort of extra-legal rough justice. One should never underestimate the powerful human love of exposing the motes in other people's eyes while ignoring the planks in our own. And if one is aggrieved, if one is treated unfairly, if one doesn't have "enough," while others have "more," or are getting away with something, then that's a powerful motive to settle old scores. Spill a few nasty beans, shake out enough messy laundry, hit the zeitgeist at the right time, and public disapproval and fury (and corporate skittishness) will inflict punishments undreamed of in any court of law.
As a morality play, I'm sure the Deen case still has more chapters left to play out. Like Deen showing up at some point on Oprah's couch to shed a few tears, declare how this whole episode was a wake-up call and an opportunity for redemption and transformation, how her suffering has now made her a much better person (She's gone vegan and lost 47 pounds) and she's now written another book, (Available on Amazon), developed a new TV show, (Bravo Channel) so be sure to tune in (Wednesday's at 10 a.m.)
A Come to Jesus happy ending, at last! Crime & Punishment, American style.