Savannah, Ga.—Celebrity chef Paula Deen faced a huge helping of scorn after she admitted using the N-word in the past. The Food Network and major corporate sponsors quickly severed ties with her.
The fallout began when a lawsuit deposition went public. Deen, 66, was asked if she’d ever used the N-word. She replied, “Yes, of course,” adding, “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”
After the backlash began, Deen made several tearful apology videos, denying she was a racist. But some people said she focused too much on herself rather than on people she may have offended. Professor Tricia Rose wrote, “For this apology tour to do real good, Deen might consider taking an anti-racist position, reaching out to black people and honoring the pain many face as a result of serious racial discrimination, and thinking about how she might have contributed to it.”
Orders for Deen’s upcoming cookbook skyrocketed, but then the publisher canceled it. Deen’s fans are criticizing sponsors who quickly tossed her aside. On Target’s Facebook page, a customer wrote that if the store drops Deen, it should also drop rap CDs containing offensive language.
While noting that he doesn’t approve of racist slurs, columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. expressed disgust at how the media likes to “rush to judgment” and how “self-righteous corporations” quickly turn on someone from whom they’ve profited.
“Is this what passes for racial progress these days?” Navarrette wrote. “Is it written somewhere that no one can ever say a certain racial slur any time or any place?” He added, “It’s depressing that—in this era where political correctness often supplants critical thinking—commentators can’t even question whether someone has been treated fairly without being accused of condoning her…language.”
Sources: cnn.com, newsday.com
- What’s your reaction to the sudden downfall of Deen’s empire? Do you think her conduct warrants all these consequences and losses? Why or why not?
- If you’ve seen any of Deen’s apologies, how sincere have they seemed to you, and why? What, if anything, could someone say at this point to remedy the situation? Do you think Deen will ever be able to restore her businesses and her good name? If so, how?
- If you were a corporation with ties to Deen, what would you do in light of these revelations? Is it best to act quickly in such a situation or to wait and see how things play out? Explain.
- What are some pros and cons of political correctness in our society? Do you think it leads to or prevents progress, and why?
- Why do people tend to rush to judgment when something like this occurs? Do you think it’s easier to turn a public figure into a scapegoat than to deal with tough issues that are raised? Explain.
- What behavior that you witness in other people makes you feel self-righteous? When have you stopped to consider whether someone under attack has been treated fairly? What would make you speak out in that person’s defense?
- What words, if any, do you think should be completely off limits? How closely do you guard your tongue? Why is it so hard to undo damage caused by careless words?
- Think of a time when everyone seemed to suddenly turn on you and abandon you: How did you cope when former friends became disloyal? Did you try to win them back or just move on? Explain.
Scripture links: Job 19:7-22; Psalm 19:12-14; Proverbs 13:2-3; Matthew 7:1-5; Matthew 26:33-35; and James 2:12-13.