I’m not a Paula Deen fan. I’ve never seen the big attraction, but then again I live with the world’s best cook, who makes everything from scratch, so who needs her? However, I have to weigh in on the current controversy.

As we all know, the Southern cooking diva is getting slammed for her “racism” and her use of the N word, among other things. So let me just say this – nigger.

Does that offend you? Why? Are you an African-American who has had that term used to demean you? Or are you a white person who finds any racial slurs offensive? If you are in the first group, I apologize for the fact that people can be ignorant and cruel. But I have to ask you if you are just as offended when rappers use the word in their music? Because if you aren’t, isn’t that a form of reverse racism?

And if you are in the latter group, were you one of the millions who paid money to see the recent hit movie Dhango Unchained? Why does Quentin Tarantino win awards for a movie that uses that word in scene after scene, but Paula Deen lose her job for admitting that she has used it in the past?

Saturday evening the Black Entertainment Network (BET) aired a movie called For Colored Girls (2010) starring Janet Jackson. If I, as a white man, used that term to refer to African American women, I’d be cast in the same racist light as Paula Deen.

The book I am currently writing is set in a small Ohio town a few years after World War II. In one scene the police chief refers to niggers, and the terms Japs and Krauts are used by characters a few times in referring to the war. That’s how people in that place and time would have talked, so I will use those terms. If I don’t, the storyline rings false.

I went to a high school that was 85% black and 10% Mexican. Try being a white kid in that environment in the late 1960s and then tell me something about racism. I heard the black students around me use the word a lot more than I ever heard it from my white friends.

One of my best friends in high school, Ray Lear, was black. I spent many nights at his house and he at mine. We joked casually about the race thing, but it was never an issue on either of our parts.

My favorite teacher in high school was Jim Summers, a man who was also a friend and who had a big impact on my life even today. He was black, and referred to me as his Number One Son. I remember being at his home once around Christmas and he passed me a plate of mixed nuts, among them Brazil nuts. I knew what other people called them, but wasn’t sure what he did, so I asked, “What are the big brown nuts called?” Mr. Summers, enjoying my discomfort, said, “Nigger toes.” Once, when I was in the Army, I called him at home and he was telling me about a terrible snowstorm that had hit Toledo and that he had to walk several blocks to the bus stop because his driveway was snowed in. He said, “I must have looked like a turd on a white linoleum floor!” Was he being a racist, or just being himself, a man with a good sense of humor?

In my platoon, we had two guys, Terry Spahn and Robert Martinez, who were best friends. They referred to themselves as Spic and Span. Was that racist? Some might say so, but who were they hurting? Others would say that it was a different time and place. Just as were Paula Deen’s comments that have raised such a fuss and gotten her fired from the Food Network.

Do I think Paula Deen is a racist? Yes, I do, to some extent. Just as the rap singers are who use that offensive word. Just as Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson are, who all used the word in Dhango Unchained. And just as you and I are.

We are all racists to some extent, and if you deny that, you are lying to yourself. If you are walking down a street at night and see a group of young black or Latino men coming your way talking loudly and taking up the sidewalk, tell me you won’t feel at least a slight tension. Would you rather have your car break down on a pleasant residential street in a small town or on a crowded street on the south side of Chicago?

And that goes both ways. Regular blog reader Stephen Wilson, a middle aged black man I struck up a friendship with a few years ago, once told me about walking to his car one evening in a parking lot in Dayton, Ohio when he encountered three young white men with close shaven heads. Stephen said that the first thing he thought was that they were skinheads, and he found himself growing apprehensive. Then they nodded and said hello and got into their car, and he saw the sticker from the nearby Air Force base and was ashamed that his first thought was that he was seeing racists, instead of three young men serving their country.

Paula Deen is a product of her environment, as we all are. Yes, she has said and probably thought things in the past that could be considered racist by some. Can you honestly say that you never have? I can’t.

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42 Comments on Is Paula Deen A Racist?

  1. Janis says:

    Years ago, we had a nativity set on our front lawn at Christmas time. One of the wise men was portrayed as a black man and he was holding a lantern on a chain. At the time, my dad was the protestant chaplain for the NY Giants. One of the players, who was black, asked my dad why the black wise man was in chains. I get so annoyed with all this “political correctness”. Yes, we need to respect other races, religions, etc., but we also need to have a sense of humor!

  2. Jim@HiTek says:

    Wow. Spot on Nick. Another excellent ‘Bad Nick’, but, will you raise any controversy with it? I hope not. As we have evolved. And this post make perfect sense.

  3. Linda in NE says:

    The whole Paula Deen thing is ridiculous. Is the Food Network really so afraid that they’ll be called racist because one of their stars has said the word nigger? Everyone I know has and none of us consider ourselves to be die-hard racists. Is it really so much worse than black people calling white people whitey or honky? Or Hispanics calling whites gringos? All this political correctness this country suffers from is such BS. And yes, brazil nuts were nigger toes in the home I grew up in too. And as a kid my family inherited a dog named Nigger…..and he wasn’t a bit insulted by his name!! 😉 Quite frankly, if someone is upset because I have typed the dreaded word “nigger” they will just have to get over it.

  4. Ron Johnson says:

    Nick,
    You are spot on in your observations. Paula and I are probably in nearly the same age bracket. She has probably seen as I have (as a child) the segregationist south of the mid-twentieth century. All of us to some extent have seen racism around us as we grew up. This environment leave its imprint on us. It stays with us and continues to affect us through out our lives. Most of us try successfully to divest ourselves of this tired old racist baggage. Unfortunately the political correctness of today manifests itself as another insidious form of prejudice. We need to “live and let live”. I guess a heart felt apology is not good enough. Paula and her many employees all stand to be hurt by this needless firing.

  5. Linda in NE says:

    Guess I should have said also, “Good post, Nick.” You have once again hit the nail on the head.

  6. Glenda says:

    Perspective. That’s what life revolves around. When I was stationed on Guam in the US Navy in the 80’s, 6,000 miles from home, ANYONE from the US was SO much like me that race was never an issue because our perspective was from a common culture, even as varied as the US regions are. If we were all blind, would we even Care about race?

  7. Jim@HiTek says:

    Absolutely, Glenda. We are ALL descended (according to DNA) from a small group of humanoids in eastern central Africa around 2 million years ago. So, really, we are all related.

  8. Croft says:

    It is all a way to divide and separate us. “I am white so I am better” or “I am blue eyed and blonde haired so I am better” or “I am a Christian so I am better” or “I am an American so I am better”…. The list goes on. The result of it is that we hope to make ourselves feel superior by believing one attribute is better than another.

    We all slip up and use inappropriate terms, I know I do at times. I do however try to limit these slips. The odd one does not make us bad but the continued use of them or believing what we are thinking does.

  9. Melissa Rosenberg says:

    Nick, long time reader but this is the first time I have ever commented. As a Jewish woman I have experienced racism and prejudice. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know and love every JAP (Jewish American Princess) joke there is. You said once that the ability to laugh at oneself is the best defense in a world that can sometimes be cruel and heartless. I agree. Okay, so Paula Deen may have used a word that many people find offensive. In our first year of marriage my husband and I got into a terrible fight and said some very hurtful things to each other. We’re still together 38 years later because we learned from that experience and left the past in the past. I believe Ms. Deen has also learned from her experience. Let’s leave her past in the past.

  10. Karen Proctor says:

    You are so good with words. I so enjoy your comments and they are always so fair. Thanks for doing what you do.

  11. Stephen Wilson says:

    My friend Nick, I was surprised to read your blog and find myself quoted. What can I say that you have not already expressed so much better? I’m an African American who used to be person of color, black, a Negro and several more I’ve forgotten over the years. Who can keep up with it all? It doesn’t matter because it’s all nonsense. I’m a man, you’re a man, and neither of us are without sin. Paula Deen is a woman who at one time said things that are no worse than you and I have done ourselves. People need to let it go. Life is too short. I’m sitting here in the mud in Gillette, Wyoming after the FMCA rally and there is no black or white, just brown everywhere you look.

  12. Matthew T. says:

    Paula Deen is a product of her environment, as we all are. Yes, she has said and probably thought things in the past that could be considered racist by some. Can you honestly say that you never have? I can’t.

  13. Sheila Douglas says:

    Face it Nick, these days you can’t blink without offending somebody. This who thing is beyond stupid and only came up because a former employee and his shyster legal team found a way to exploit Paula Deen’s fame to cash in. Paula has apologized over and over, what more do they want? Money, obviously. Jeez, get over it!

  14. Harold Demenker says:

    Right on Nick! I feel the same way. Keep telling it like it is.

  15. Edward Wormley says:

    Isn’t it sad that while people are dying of terrible diseases, being killed in wars, being victimized by murders and rapists, and suffering in so many ways, THIS is an issue? It tells you something about our priorities, doesn’t it?

  16. Raylene Harris says:

    I will no longer watch the Food network after this injustice. Whether she did or didn’t do something back in the day, who cares? She’s done a lot for many people of all colors. But that doesn’t count does it. These days it’s all about being PC and to hell with common sense.

  17. Fred Hammer says:

    Now that obesity has officially been declared a disease, can we start a movement to declare that PC attitudes are a mental aberration?

  18. Mike says:

    Thanks Nick!!!! Can’t add any better words of wisdom.

  19. Candace says:

    This attitude of being PC because it offends someone is BS. If I were to take that stance, I’d be “offended” at the most of the news anchors who end sentences with the word “at” and thinks it HAS to have a mix of races on the 6’O clock team; or the stupid drug commercials that try to convince us we NEED their drugs to have a good life; or promote sugar-coated cereal commercials during children’s shows; or any of a number of other BS advertisements they send out over the Federally-issued airwaves.

    Paula Deen has done more good for more people than the Food Network and I can guran-damn-tee that THEY have a bunch of network execs who have used all kinds of words that they don’t believe are PC – so who really cares???

  20. Sue says:

    Lets all boycott food. Spot on Nick!

  21. Phyllis says:

    If everyone lost their job because they said something in the past that is NOW considered offensive, would anyone be employed?

  22. George Stoltz says:

    I guess the Food Network doesn’t believe in forgiveness. C’mon, Paula made a mistake and she really feels bad about it and she apologized. But the shirts that run that network most likely made this decision based on what makes them look good.

  23. George Rawley says:

    Nick, Another nail hitter. After being in the military in the late 60’s I have to agree that you are correct. If the Food Network is casting the first stone, I think they should be really ‘stoned’ for thinking they are truly innocent and pull the plug on a personality like Paula. I guess not everyone is purfect :>)))

  24. Shannon says:

    Right on Nick!! You said it again.

  25. Bill Joyce says:

    My experience is the people taking offense are younger than most of Nick’s readership. They have been taught to be PC in almost a religious way and have trouble believing things were different in the past. Nick, expect younger reviewers to complain about the language in your new novel. They want the past to reflect their “enlightened souls”.

  26. Jerry and Suzy LeRoy says:

    Nick, I’m amazed! Everybody agrees with you. Is this the first time? We even agree about the PC nonsense. We are Catholic, and we love all the jokes about us, even those that call us “Cat-lickers.” There is a lot of stupidity around us, and you do a great job of pointing in out.

  27. Gene Holcomb says:

    Well put Nick, great article.

  28. I have heard the apology and that Paula is being fired. I never did hear where and how and when she used the words she is accused of using. Listen to today’s music and watch TV shows if you want to really hear comments and words to singe your ears. You hit the nail on the head once again, Nick.

  29. Kevin says:

    I agree with all the comments on bigotry and PC. It’s all BS. BUT I don’t think the comments in Paula Dean’s past are the actual issue with Food Network. It appears that someone has had a bee in their bonnet for some time toward her. Now, they found something to hang her with.

    Kind of smacks of bigotry, doesn’t it????

  30. Connie Bradish says:

    Agree with you, Nick. I have heard black people call each other nigger. And yes, we called Brazil nuts nigger toes when we were young. So all of us have probably used the word nigger at some time. So what has that to do with Dean keeping her job or not? Sounds like someone with an ax to grind and they are trumping up PC charges. Also everyone is prejudiced about something. I don’t like to see people with lots of tattoos, piercings, etc. So does that make me a racist? I don’t think so, I just don’t like their fashion statement. Getting to be a sick world in the USA these days.

  31. Kayjulia says:

    The boys in ties are nervous lot, they worry about all kinds of things and in their fear they make things worse. They live and breath by the bottom line and they feared loss of revenue if they didn’t do something. It never occurred to them to check out the situations facts and ask those who might be upset with those facts what they thought of the situation. Why? Because they are afraid of losing some money which would make them look bad to their higher ups. Now if the loss of this program and its star causes them to lose real money they will be on the chopping block, because its all about money ! Right now I would say the boys in ties are looking not to bright in handling this situation and it could get much worse for them if Paula gets picked up by some other network and becomes an even bigger success. Which I would love to see.

  32. Debra says:

    Well said, enjoy your Bad Nick comments

  33. Linda Sand says:

    I like the comment about it being a generational thing. If you grew up in this PC world how can you know what it was back when? And how can we hold anyone accountable now for how it was back then? I feel lucky that my Mom taught us to be colorblind when it came to skin and oblivious when it came to income level. We played with everyone then and still do now.

  34. Butch & Fonda says:

    I truly believe that there must be a large group of people out there that wake up in the morning and ask themselves, “What can I be offended by today?” Or “Who can I be offended by today?”

    In the end, follow the money, somehow, somewhere it will be involved.

    Butch

  35. KLO says:

    Good for Bad Nick! I agree with everything he had to say about this issue. I’m a Paula Deen fan, for the most part, and I would have to say she is no more a racist than any of us are at the core.Me thinks people are making way to much of this, you have to consider the times when she made the remarks.

  36. Rick says:

    I was hoping Bad Nick would sound off on this and he hit it right on! Good job, Bad Nick. I loved it.

  37. Allan says:

    I do not use those terms now and I do not like to hear them used but many years ago terms like that were common place. There are much more offensive language being used on tv today that is not being censored and no one is losing their jobs over them. I also think Political Correctness is way overplayed. It would be good if everyone treated everyone else with respect but being realistic that probably will not always be the case. I believe in holding strong to foundational principles but having flexibility in the small stuff, and this seems like small stuff.

  38. Clark says:

    Do I smell a classic “gotcha?” Someone (why do I suspect the CEO?) with an agenda found the excuse he needed and used it. Food network? I don’t think my TV gets that any longer . . .

  39. Judy says:

    Ditto to Clark’s comments and furthermore, I will not patronize sponcers that drop Paula’s program or stop carrying her products. No one is perfect and some people have an ax to grind. I saw the news snippet about the CEO and her apology, I’m supporting Paula Deen.

  40. betsy says:

    Nothing so special here…..because you are making this about the use of the n word, when in fact only the press made it about that. The lawsuit filed against Paula Deen by a former employee was about so much more then the N word. It included, but was not limited to racial slurs of several minorities and sexist comments allowed in her workplace. It was about lower wages for women in the same position as men and about minorities being required to enter thru the rear door of the business. The conversations Deen engaged in as well as the conversations she allowed in HER workplace prove that Paula did NOT make a mistake some 20 odd years ago. In fact they paint a very ugly, sexist, racist working environment that we have not seen the likes of since 1950. THAT is waht the public needs to know.

  41. Greg says:

    Great post Nick, once again you call it as it really is, not how some see things through their rosé colored(no pun intended) glasses.

  42. Owen Dailey says:

    Right on Nick. You say so eloquently what so many of us are thinking. I am not a racist in any way but the N word has been used so many times in my experience as a football coach manly by black players but a few times by white players in a jokingly way and got a totally different reaction form the black players in a very negative way. Why is that ok, well in my opinion it’s not. Society has become so sensitive to that one word and the media has taken it to new levels of ( if you’ve ever used that word then you are EVIL) rederick I am worried where our society is headed. Keep up the great Blogs some of us are listening.

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