By John Hubbuch
I only have watched Paula Dean for 5 minutes, but that was enough. Her faux Southern, oleaginous, treacly cornpone schtick was not for me. She does not interest me, but the reaction to her admission that she used the n-word as a youth does.
I just got back from visiting my family in southern Indiana. Reaction to Ms. Dean's comments and the consequent termination of her TV program and corporate sponsorships was very different than it was in uber-liberal Oak Park where it was pretty hard to find a Paula pal. Down south there were a lot more defenders of her use of the n-word 50 or more years ago.
I concluded that Ms. Dean's little dust up made for a kind of Rorschach test for racism. Liberals saw her as a straight up racist. Many liberals think almost every older white southerner is a racist. Conservatives saw Ms. Dean as only the latest victim of political correctness.
There is a further subtlety to the discussion framed by this question: is it racist to condemn the n-word usage by Ms. Dean , but defend her on the grounds that everybody was racist 50 years ago. If Thomas Jefferson and Gerge Washington can own slaves and be on Mt. Rushmore and be foregiven, then surely Paula Dean can be defended in this case. Times change. Paula's problem is that her whole down home throwback to the 50's personna and cooking style screams racist matron. ( See the movie The Help). Many of us believe she still uses the n-word. Imagine reaction to Meryl Streep's admission that she used the n-word 50 years ago. Crickets chirping.
The Paula Dean story is a reminder that the dark stain of slavery remains upon the fabric of our nation.