Who Cares that Paula Deen’s a Racist?

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This morning, I turned on the news and was treated to my usual dose of negativity. It was all there: Syria’s an awful place to be, the government’s been looking at our email, a few people were abducted. The usual stuff. Then, they shared a story that really pulled me away from my corn flakes: Paula Deen is a racist!

Wait! What?!

As it turns out, the queen of cholesterol was accused of using racial slurs to discriminate against a number of restaurant employees. To make things worse, she actually admits to having used these words, and has done a number of racist things in the past.

Oh no! What is the world coming to?!

I’m not a fan of Ms. Deen, and I’m certainly not a fan of the negative language she has admitted to using, but the surge in attention this is getting from the media has made me think. It’s not a discussion about racism or freedom of speech. Instead, it’s one centered around a single question: Why is this news?

Let’s look at some of the social considerations people didn’t bother to fret about before. This woman has built a multimillion dollar empire on pillars of butter. Preceding her days of being a known racist, Deen was the Southern woman with big hair who cooked dishes that were, on average, 52% grease. Before we go talking about how she’s falling from the heavens, let’s acknowledge that we first put her there for teaching us how to pack macaroni and cheese around a stick of butter, wrap that in bacon, dip it in bourbon deep-frying batter, fry it, and then cover it in melted Velveeta cheese and bacon bits on cable television. The report this morning informed me that she is the head of a domain worth around 16 million dollars. She’s published a number of cookbooks that would kill you before you managed to cook your way through them. She has a new line of flavored butters coming out… maybe. We’ve seen her put countless, entire sticks of butter into sauce pans on television. We let all of this happen.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that this is news. Finding anything reported without a “holier-than-thou,” attitude is a challenge. People jump at the opportunity to sound better than someone else, especially if it’s on TV.

“There is potential for Paula Deen’s career to fall flat like a bad souffle,” said a nameless commenter during a clip aired on Good Morning America. Wasn’t that so clever? How long do you think he prepared that sentence? Ten minutes? An hour? Did he sit up the whole night before, waiting for his chance to strike? This woman is – I’m jokingly estimating – the cause of 20% of the obesity in this country, and we’re just now finding an excuse to derail her reign of saturated fat.

Allow me to tie this into my experience at the University like I should. Whether you’re an incoming freshman, or an upperclassman who still has to knock out a couple of gen eds, try to take your rhetoric classes seriously. Perhaps the most useful thing you’re required to learn at the University – and a majority of others – is how to dissect someone’s argument and make a decision for yourself. Am I saying Paula Deen shouldn’t be getting flak for her statements? No, obviously not. Instead, I’m looking outside of the entire situation, and using it as a reminder as to why you shouldn’t ignorantly allow the media to decide what makes you mad. That should be your privilege.