I had planned to post a mock recipe for “Coon Fried Chicken” as a means of calling attention to the unfortunate thing that is Paula Deen – and just leave it at that. But I got bogged down in whether I wanted her to recommend using all white meat or all dark meat in the recipe. And while thinking about which option would be funnier, I started to give the whole thing a little more thought.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Though it seems that Paula Deen tends to do just that, judging people based on the color of their skin. And in her case, the book appears to be a lot like the cover: ugly. Which reminds me of another saying: beauty is only skin deep. Ugly, however, seems to penetrate down to the very core.
I have little tolerance for intolerance. And it’s very hard to excuse prejudice these days. But I do want to draw attention to an issue raised by Deen in her “bigot for life” reconciliation campaign, and that is the use of the word nigger.
In addition to an apparent inability to push away from the dinner table, I have something else in common with Paula Deen. I, too, have a problem when people use words steeped in prejudice and hatred. And I don’t think the color of one’s skin should have any bearing on what you are allowed to say and what is worthy of getting you sacked by the Food Network. After all, the color of one’s skin shouldn’t have anything to do with whether or not you are hired or fired from a place like the Food Network, so it certainly shouldn’t have anything to do with what words you can and cannot say, right?
Comedian Chris Rock did a famous bit about the difference between black people and niggers in one of his recorded performances. He was using the term to illustrate a point, and did so exceptionally well. Though I’d love to see him take it even further and tackle colorism, the racism practiced within the black community based on the darkness of one’s skin.
Rock’s comedic performance aside, I would not consider it acceptable for him – or any individual, regardless of the color of their skin – to use a term like nigger in every day usage. For example, if he went to a restaurant and referred to the waiters as a bunch of niggers, that’s no different than what Paula Deen has done. The fact that his skin is black and her skin is a rusty tan-in-a-can should not be a factor. That would be a double-standard.
If our fundamental position is that the color of one’s skin is irrelevant (unless, of course, you are a dermatologist…or a portrait painter), then that rule must be universal. It cannot be applied when you feel it’s convenient. You cannot claim that it’s OK to use a word like nigger just because you are black, and that people of different skin colors cannot use the word. Making such a distinction is in and of itself an act of racism, judging people and setting rules for them based on the color of their skin. And you cannot employ racism to excuse acts of racism.