I am tired of hearing about Paula Deen. I am tired of those condemning her. I am tired of those defending her. I am tired of her sponsors dropping her. I am even tired of seeing pictures of her smiling face.
It has become passé for media celebrities to be convicted in the court of Political Correctness, serve their time away from the spotlight (or, as in the case of Martha Stewart, literally serve your time), and then come back to redemption by a public that seems to have no memory.
I never watched Paula Deen’s shows on the Food Network, but that is not a commentary on Paula Deen; I just don’t watch the Food Network. The only time I can remember actively seeking out the Food Network was when there was a segment on a show that featured Taylor Grocery in Taylor, Mississippi, and I was on it playing music. But that was ten years and more than ten pounds ago. Maybe the pounds are because I ate too much Paula Deen-like, rich Southern fare, known as Soul Food by those outside, but simply known as food to us Southerners. I share the taste of that food with Paula Deen, just like millions of native Southerners of all racial persuasions.
That is not all I share with Paula Deen. I admit that I have used the n-word in the past. There are no doubt some native Southerners of my generation and older who have never used the word, but they are precious few. And, the word is not exclusively used in a disparaging manner by white Southerners. I have heard it used in Chicago, Boston, NYC, and California . . . all of them supposedly more tolerant and urbane places than Mississippi.
I won’t be so disingenuous as to insult the intelligence of Mississippians who happen to be African-American. If I maintained that I had never a single time in my life used the n-word word, no one, black or white, would believe me, particularly African-Americans. They would simply know better. Nor would they likely deny using words about Caucasians that I might find disparaging. It is a fact of life in most every place, I think.
I grew up in a household where, as a child, if I were overheard using the n-word, or any of a long list of words used like expletives, such as dad-gummit, dad-burn, dag-nabbit, dang, darn, durn, doodley-squat, crap, gee-whiz, golly, or holy-moly, I would get a first-hand on-the-job refresher course in the taste of Ivory soap, issued by my mother, my grandmother, or one of my loving aunts. There was no escaping it. Lord have mercy on me if I was overheard saying “Jesus,” “Good God,” or “God Almighty,” as a vain expletive. Even saying “Lord have Mercy” would not do unless, head bowed and hands clasped, I was earnestly petitioning the Lord to have mercy . . . if it was thought that I had used it in vain repetition, as a form of a curse, I might get to enjoy the whole bar of Ivory soap, or worse, the dreaded Octagon laundry soap. Welcome to the South, y’all.
“I’m sorry, y’all,” said Paula Deen.
Us, too, ma’am. We are all sorry for our prejudices. We are all sorry for our bigotry. We are all sorry for our imperfections as human beings. We are all sorry that our foot gets into our mouth, sometimes . . . sorry that the foot is there, and sorry for the mouth that caused the foot to get there, and sorry for the mindset that enabled the mouth to coax the foot to our lips, and most likely, sorriest about what it all may have cost us. Foot tastes worse than Ivory soap, but not quite as bad as Octagon.
I recall some similar things happening in other arenas.
After the nation got tough on impaired driving, I overheard one heavy-drinker ask another, “Have you gotten your DUI, yet?” It seemed to be a right of passage among drinkers who enjoyed the honky-tonk scene.
One overweight middle-aged Southern man asked another, apparently both of them on the Paula Deen diet, “Have you had your bypass yet?”
“No.” The other one said, adding, his chest stuck out like there was a medal for valor pinned on it, “But, I have had a couple of stints put in.”
“Have you had your politically incorrect conviction and public humiliation, yet?” one celebrity asked another.
“Yes, I have,” the other said, glad to be on the upswing again and have all that behind him. “You see, I’m now listed as SUCCESSFULLY REHABILITATED.”
Ah! Successfully rehabilitated. That sounds like Al Sharpton, who has, himself, defended Paula Deen. Al was rehabilitated after the terribly discrediting, race-baiting Tawanna Brawley case, the very thing that brought the Reverend Sharpton to the national scene. Since then, he has apparently traded soul food for tofu, lost a lot of weight, and made a lot of money. That he survived the taint of Tawanna Brawley is a testament to the savvy of Al Sharpton. I salute him for that. I also salute him for his defense of Paula Deen. He is quoted in various sources as saying, “A lot of us have in the past said things we have regretted saying . . .” If it weren’t for Tawanna Brawley bringing him into the media spotlight, where he managed to figure out how to stick, Al Sharpton may have regretted saying anything on behalf of Tawanna Brawley, or against her non-existent, invented racist attackers. Instead, he has to be thankful for her . . . an odd twist, don’t you think?
Oh please! Not a single African-American, anywhere would believe me if I testified in a thousand oath-bound depositions that I have never used the n-word. But I can testify, in a thousand more oath-bound depositions, that I know, instantly and precisely, the taste of Ivory soap.
My mother, grandmother, and aunts? They would likely be charged with child abuse, today, but to them I am grateful, for the n-word never crosses my mind but that it is instantly followed by mental images of Ivory soap, and even the white and red paper wrapper with the legend, “OCTAGON” printed on its face.
Best wishes, Paula Deen. May you soon regain whatever it is that you think you have lost, if not for your own benefit, then for the benefit of those who no longer have a job because of the frailties of the human mouth. I suppose it would have been better had you perjured yourself during your deposition. After all, presidents have perjured themselves with no effect.
I wish someone would ask Bill Clinton (Arkansan) has he ever used the n-word. Or Jimmy Carter (Georgian). Or Lyndon Johnson (Texan . . . well, OK, it’s a bit late to ask LBJ). Maybe ask Al Gore (Tennessee, though he mostly grew up in DC). The use of the n-word is not limited to Southerners, nor is familiarity with the taste of Ivory soap.
Thanks, mother, grandmother, and Aunt Ann. A little soap never hurt me, and I am thankful for the example you set for me, since you were consistent and never, ever let me hear you use any of the words for which I received a mouth washing. I finally figured out that if you could do it, so could I. A mental image of Ivory soap seemed to help a lot.
Maybe Paula Deen can get her TV show back so I can not watch her, again, as was my custom. She never needed me, anyway.
Turn the page now.