Before I get into the larger life-lesson about critical thinking that I think we can all learn from the current debacle, let me just say that I am against the use of hate speech, but I would never say that anyone should be censored. It's just a matter of being willing to deal with the consequences of what comes out of your mouth. I know folks will say "oh, but she said it when she was being held up at a bank and it was YEARS ago." Sure, but that's not why Deen has been let go from the Food Network and by Smithfield, nor is it the reason she's likely to be "released" by just about any corporate sponsors.
What is fascinating to me is that this is a prime example of how people don't really read or investigate things well. Critical thinking is not being used by those on the "support Paula Deen" side, or at least that is how it seems to me. Granted, the media keeps the racial slur in the spotlight as her "sin" and the reason for the backlash, but that's not all there is. That's what the media wants you to focus on. Poor Paula Deen--she got forced into testifying that she used the N word years ago. Poor genteel white lady. That's the media spin, and people are eating it up (sorry for the obvious pun), apparently. Comments on CNN and other spots focus on how "everyone has said things" and that she should not be punished for being "honest" and for something she said long ago. Heck, she grew up in a culture that supported her position of privilege, and so on.
The problem here is that I don't see how anyone can read the 140+ pages of her deposition and think that the ONLY reason she is in trouble today is because she once used that word in a high pressure situation. It goes much further. If folks will read the transcript of her deposition, they will find that:
- Deen was told about her brother's misconduct in terms of showing up under the influence and knew he had a history of substance abuse and rehab. Yet, she still holds everything he says as true, without question.
- The stealing Bubba did was "justified" because Lisa Jackson--the one who is suing--was making more than he was. So, she says that he wasn't embezzling or stealing--he was "owed" that money, which is why that was written off as wages for him, rather than making him pay it back or going through a normal channel to get a raise.
- Deen seems to think that her brother has done nothing wrong. Specifically, jokes about how a woman's husband must be happy about her having no teeth and getting dentures are perfectly fine, depending on who you tell them to. Likewise, men like to watch pornography, so she can see where it would be possible Bubba was watching it and someone at work walked in the office and saw something. Also, men pass around inappropriate jokes and drink a lot. That's just what men do.
- When a consulting firm was hired to do an independent observation of the business and report on what was going on, Deen decided that since their report supported Miss Jackson's version of things and contradicted her brother's claims that they were unduly influenced by Jackson and others (Karl Shumacher) who were "jealous" of Paula and Bubba's success. Despite being told that Jackson had cause to bring an EEOC case (she was still working at the restaurant at the time), Deen decided her brother was the one who was right and ignored the report. Jackson did the only thing she could short of staying on the job and continuing to be abused or just walking away after five years with nothing to show fr it--she left and filed charges.
- Deen was told of a physical assault and of instances where her brother referred to African Americans on the job as "monkeys". In the deposition, the she claims that she never went to look at the video that would have proven or dis-proven the claims of the assault because there was no reason to check it, since her brother told her it didn't happen.
- Going back to the racism issue, Deen shows awareness of the inappropriateness of her plans for the "plantation wedding"--she indicates the reason she didn't do it is because people wouldn't understand. I think in reality, we would have understood just fine what she was going for.
Is the general public's lack of motivation to read the deposition and realize that the *word* is just the tiny tip of the iceberg there because we can't let go of that facade? Is it like the student I had years ago who couldn't finish reading "A Good Man is Hard to Find" because she knew the grandmother was going to get killed at the end, but she couldn't read critically enough to realize that grandmother was a bigot because she dressed like a lady?
I'd like to think that as more information comes out, and I know it will because the media will shake that deposition transcript every day until all of the juicy bits are squeezed out of it, the public's perception will change as they start to add the little pieces together. I fear, though, that some folks are already too far gone into thinking that Deen, like the grandmother in Flannery O'Connor's story, is a victim.