Paula Deen is as American as apple pie. That being said, she has recently come under fire for allegedly using racial slurs in the African American community. These allegations surfaced a few days ago when Paula Deen took the stand and admitted to using the N-word around employees at her and her brother’s businesses. This has ultimately resulted in public outcry from fans and critics which led to the cancellation of her famous cooking show on The Food Network. Many questions have since arisen about her predicament and the course of action that was taken by Paula and The Food Network. Was her apology sincere? Was her punishment too harsh? Why would she use these racial slurs? Why would she admit to it? How does this affect the nation? I believe that all these questions and more are part of a bigger problem relating back to white privilege and prejudice.
White privilege is a decades old theory that claims people of the Caucasian race are automatically predetermined to receive a better life, better education, better treatment, and just about better everything. It goes on to say that white people become accustomed to this life and begin to think that those of other races are of significantly less value and treat them accordingly. For instance, an African American person may be shopping at department store, minding their own business, only to be stopped by a white security guard and charged with shoplifting. For many people, the African American race has become synomonous with the word lesser and little is being done to change it. Prejudice has spread like a plague and a vast array of stereotypes, discrimination, and ignorance have grown along with it.
Prejudice is the most threatening evil to plague a country. It leads people to think that they are better than others and that those others are worthless. This, in turn, leads to the institution of stereotypes for these groups of others. Stereotypes create predetermined thoughts and ideas about members of a certain group, often derogatory and baseless. These stereotypes become so incredibly ingrained in society that soon all members of a certain race have their entire future decided for them. For example, an Asian student may be placed into the highest level math course without asking for his opinion or testing his math skills. The teachers had a stereotype that Asian people are naturally smarter and should thus be placed in the toughest programs. The student never had the chance to prove himself or even introduce himself. He was suddenly a faceless being in a sea of elaborate ignorance.
So the question remains: Is Paula Deen a vicious racist or merely a product of a racist country?
America has come a long way since its inception. However, we are constantly evolving and the issues that threaten us are evolving as well. For instance, the N-word used to have an incredibly negative connotation and anyone who used it was instantly of lesser character. However, many of today’s most respected African American rappers refer to themselves and others as N-words and not a thing is done about it. Yes, there may be reasons for them using this word but nonetheless white people listen to their music and then think it’s alright to use the word regularly and so they do. The African Americans who want so badly to stop the cycle are more or less contributing to it themselves. However, it is important not to forget the monumental advancements we have made as a country as well.
For the first time in our nation’s history, we have a two term African American president. The vast majority of the American people voted for this man because they respected him, trusted him, and wanted him to lead their country. Need I remind you that this came a mere few decades after the esteemed civil rights era when blacks were forced to use separate bathrooms and slave to the white man’s every need? We, as a country, have made incredible progress. Even many of today’s most respected musicians are of African American decent. Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, Usher, and many more are all pioneers in the industry making the way for others. We have come so far and yet have so far to go.
Paula Deen is not alone. Thousands of people in this country make the same mistake and have far less consequences. However, her alleged negative attitude towards African Americans is unacceptable and contributes to the sores of the country. However, I do not think that she should be getting all the blame. The country must too take some responsibility for this injustice and do a better job of combating it in the future. Americans are again reminded that racism, prejudice, and discrimination are still alive in this country and pose a constant threat to our survival. We must continue to stand up for what we believe in- justice, equality, and love — and stand with our fellow brothers and sisters as we walk this road together through the storm.