Paula Deen: What is the Truth?

by G C Forsman

It seems nearly everyone is talking about Paula Deen.  A good friend encouraged me to read both a summary of charges against her, and Ms. Deen’s Deposition. After that, we had a healthy discussion on the topic.  I thought you might be interested in what I found.

Here is a summary of charges:

Paula Deen, while planning her brother’s wedding in 2007, was asked what look the wedding should have. She replied, “I want a true southern plantation-style wedding.” When asked what type of uniforms the servers should wear, Paula stated, “well what I would really like is a bunch of little n*ggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around;

Black staff had to use the back entrance to enter and leave restaurant;

Black staff could only use one bathroom;

Black staff couldn’t work the front of the restaurants;

Brother Bubba stated his wishes: “ I wish I could put all those n*ggers in the kitchen on a boat to Africa”;

Bubba asked a black driver and security guard “don’t you wish you could rub all the black off you and be like me? You just look dirty; I bet you wish you could.” ;

Bubba on President Obama: they should send him to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, so he could n*gger-rig it;

Bubba shook a black employee and said” F your civil rights…you work for me and my sister Paula Deen;

The manager of the Lady & Sons restaurant threatened to fire all the ‘Monkeys’ in the kitchen. When Paula found out…she slapped him on the wrist and suggested that the employee visit her mansion so he felt special and could be massaged.

And you can read Paula’s deposition here.

I found it interesting that the woman who brought the charges is white. I, as many others, assumed it was a woman of color, and a disgruntled employee. This manager employee (from Bubba’s restaurant) claims to have witnessed the abuse for years, thinking that one of the employees directly involved would say something.  But then she realized that these employees were enduring the abuse in order to feed their families.  Finally reaching her limit, she blew the whistle.

Between the charges, and the deposition, it seems Ms. Deen was interested in duplicating an experience she had at a restaurant (where middle aged black servers were used, dressed in black pants, white dinner jackets, and bow ties) for her brother’s wedding. The rest of the charges are alleged against her brother and a restaurant manager in her employ.  I was surprised to discover (via the EEOC) that an employer can treat their employees as horrible as they want, as long as they treat everyone the same.

Let’s be realistic. Although it should not be, we all know there are many people out there who use racial and other slurs. I do not think there are many people who can honestly say that they have never said something stupid in their lives. If someone wants to discontinue supporting Paula, they are well within their rights to do so. Everyone, on both sides of the issue, is being terribly sensitive. Free speech gives us the right to say any dumb thing we want. The question is “Should a person’s life (white, black, gay or whatever) be destroyed because of something stupid they said?” If that’s the case, I think most of us would be in ruins. As individuals, we can stop buying products from people if we don’t like them, but the PC police shouldn’t ruin a person’s life.

The other question is “Did Paula Deen know of the alleged incidents and ignore them, or was she unaware?” It does seem that Ms. Deen trusted her brother much more than she should have. If employees, and a consulting company, thought Bubba was the problem at the restaurant, and the restaurant was losing money, why didn’t she do something?  I understand wanting to trust and support your sibling, but would not it help him more if the problems could be resolved and the restaurant began to turn a profit?

Everyone is responsible for their words and actions.  Does not Ms. Deen have the responsibility to know what is going on in her restaurants, and take appropriate actions?  Do we believe that she knew and did nothing?  Is it possible that she really did not know because of her busy schedule? Is the politically correct movement out of control? So where does that leave us? It seems apparent that Bubba has issues. Is Paula deserving of all the destruction coming her way? Should people be crucified over words spoken? Many would contend that Paula knew and did nothing. There are also those who believe her apology was not sincere. How much responsibility does the media have in this situation? Was Paula standing by her brother, or covering for him? Being from Georgia, should Paula been more sensitive to the racial issue? Did Paula both know about and perpetuate the environment of racist hostility and sexual harassment?

I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I believe there is good in everyone. Since this is a civil suit, it seems that it is Paula’s word against the word of her accuser.

Wealth is measured in many ways. Did Paula allow money to become her measure of wealth and forget to store her treasures up in Heaven? One thing is certain, this will play out in the public eye. It is my sincere hope, however this plays out, that everyone will learn something about loving their neighbors.