See previous post and thread for explanation of why I just published this
I've followed some of the Paula Deen story from a distance. After a while, it started to get interesting, but not for the reasons anyone would expect.
We start with someone who admits to having said something racist a quarter of a century ago. Who cares?
There were two ways to play this:
1. Distance herself from it (the smart way). "I've changed."
2. Attempt to justify it (the stupid way). "It was no big deal."
Choosing 1. would have defused this whole thing instantly. "Back then, such expressions were unfortunately common in my part of the world," or "I was younger and less sensitive then; we all were."
Honesty, mea culpa, Done.
Unfortunately, she didn't say "unfortunately."
She chose Option 2. Really bad idea, because this doesn't justify.
"Why is everyone making such a fuss about my doing something that everyone around me did back then?"
Not "it was wrong" but "it was no big deal." Sorry, Paula, that's not your call. And that guy who attacked you? The problem with him was that he attacked you, not that he was Black.
Taking that stance brought the action straight to today, and that, in addition to a few other allegations on the table involving her restaurant (that cuteness was unintentional), has led to what should have been an insignificant incident turning into the basis for a scandal.
And so the story should end, but it doesn't.
A lot of people came out of the woodwork to attack Ms. Deen, but a lot of those attacks had nothing to do with her racism. They had to do with her cooking ingredients, her manner, etc.
In other words, they attacked her culture. And, quite possibly, her class. (No, by "her culture" I do not mean "all Southerners;" I mean the sizeable subset of Southerners who share some of the characteristics under attack. There may be an education component here, particularly when it comes to how much of a priority is placed on arterial safety in diet.)
Great. Let's add some bigotry on the other side of this equation, shall we?
This is not to equate the two forms of bigotry. They aren't remotely equivalent. However, the direct result of the second incidence of bigotry is to lead a whole lot of people to defend Ms. Deen about the first. (Not that the first incidence of bigotry is even the damned issue; what's at issue is her defending it now, effectively making it current. If you follow the arguments on that issue, watch how many times per paragraph the real issue is obscured.)
So now a whole lot of people get to defend Ms. Deen while feeling self-righteous about it. They feel that they are under attack, and they feel that there's a holier than thou aspect to the attacks that involves more than a little hypocrisy. They are right on both counts.
So they'll blame liberals for bigotry when liberals are the ones who hypocritically complain constantly about bigotry, right?
No such luck. That's not how this will be framed.
Who's going to get blamed by Ms. Deen's defenders are people who are over-sensitive about racism. "The Supreme Court was right about the Voting Rights Act." In other words, because liberals packaged a justified complaint about racism with unjustified class/region bigotry, the fallout is going to head straight for where it always heads:
Toward Black people.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I'll make a prediction:
Paula Deen will be used in Republican fund-raising appeals. And, of course, none of the attacks on her will be blamed on culture bigots. All of it will be blamed on the civil rights pendulum swinging Too Far.
Over years of observation, I've noticed that liberals don't always have the most tolerant attitudes toward non-liberals. But, you know, we keep screaming a message that, once in a while, we should stop and listen to ourselves:
Intolerance has consequences.