Get PJ Media on your Apple

PJM Lifestyle

What Do Southerners Think of Paula Deen?

Her fans throughout Georgia largely support her, even though she has disappointed them. Related: #WarOnWomen: NY Times Shreds Paula Deen’s ‘Today’ Show Appearance

by
Chris Queen

Bio

June 25, 2013 - 6:22 pm

Paula Deen has become the talk of the country, just not for a reason she would ever want. I’ve written twice about her in the past few days, first about her deposition and the surrounding media coverage and then once the Food Network refused to renew her contract. Since then, Smithfield has severed ties with the celebrity chef, and QVC is evaluating its relationship with Deen.

But what do Deen’s fellow Southerners think of her? The question provoked a few discussions, and the verdict is decidedly mixed. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, David Gregory asked Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed about the controversy. (I can only imagine the discussion in the meeting. Let’s ask Kasim Reed. He’s from Georgia. And he’s black!) Reid said,

“I think it is very unfortunate. What she has basically said is she used language from her childhood growing up in the past, but we all have to change,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told “Meet the Press,” according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

“So I think folks are going to be hearing what she has to say over the next few weeks. I think she has apologized once, and she is going to continue to do that. It is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable,”  Reed said.

The feeling couldn’t have been more different outside The Lady and Sons, Deen’s restaurant in Savannah, GA, where supporters (and regular patrons) lined up Saturday well in advance of opening.

Most of the diners in line on Saturday morning were white and more than ready to defend one of their favorite cooking stars. But at the very front was Nicole T. Green, 36, an African-American who said she had made a detour from a vacation in New Orleans specifically to show up in support of Ms. Deen.

“I get it, believe me,” Ms. Green said. “But what’s hard for people to understand is that she didn’t mean it as racist. It sounds bad, but that’s not what’s in her heart. She’s just from another time.”

[...]

In the line Saturday, some pointed out that some African-Americans regularly used the word Ms. Deen had admitted to saying.

“I don’t understand why some people can use it and others can’t,” said Rebecca Beckerwerth, 55, a North Carolina native who lives in Arizona and had made reservations at the restaurant Friday.

[...]

“You still hear people talk that way if people think they are in a group of like-minded people,” said Richard Hattaway, 56, who lives just outside Savannah.

He said his grandfather used the word often and without rancor in referring to African-Americans. But Mr. Hattaway’s own parents forbade its use. It is an evolution common to many white families in the South, he said.

“She obviously didn’t get it but I think they are kind of blowing this up,” Mr. Hattaway said.

He was particularly bothered by a commentator on a national news program who suggested that Ms. Deen should have atoned for the pain of slavery, given credit to African-Americans who helped influence some of the country food that made her famous and offered a stronger statement against racism.

“She’s a cook,” Mr. Hattaway said. “She’s not a Harvard graduate.”

In a photo from 2011, diners wait outside The Lady and Sons for their turn to enjoy Paula Deen's food.

In a photo from 2011, diners wait outside The Lady and Sons for their turn to enjoy Paula Deen’s food.

WTOC, a Savannah-based news station, interviewed other patrons at The Lady and Sons.

Paula Deen’s fans are standing behind her and urging forgiveness after the Food Network decided not to renew her contract in the wake of her admission that she used racial slurs.

“I’m able to forgive her because we do it in our own culture, and you guys do it in your own culture,” Atlanta resident Sophia Starnes said after having dinner at The Lady and Sons. “You have words that you use for each other, and that’s why I don’t take it so personal because I know that’s not who I am.”

Starnes says she comes to the Lady and Sons every time she visits Savannah and doesn’t plan to stop. Friends who joined her for dinner echoed the support.

“Was it right, no,” China Smith said. “I mean, she could have used another term. But hey, it was a mistake that she made.”

Tourists thronged the restaurant, as they do every night and say they’re deeply disappointed to learn that Deen has lost her show.

“She made a mistake and she said that, and I think maybe we ought to take that for what it’s worth,” Dean Gibbs, of Spartanburg, S.C., said before dinner at The Lady and Sons.

Starnes acknowledged the seriousness of the epithet but said, “I think this is a learning lesson for her as well as for the people who do forgive her.”

In Columbus, on the other side of the largest state east of the Mississippi, residents had mixed reactions to the controversy:

News Leader 9 met with Constance Surratt, a senior sales associate in The Book House. The local bookstore employee said many customers purchased Paula Deen’s cooking books frequently; and Surratt still believes that the Southern chef’s cookbooks will continue to sell fairly well.

[...]

Other residents of Columbus had different opinions. Latasha Carrigan, a Columbus State University student, said she is still a big fan of Paula Deen. She used to watch her shows to learn more about cooking. However, Carrigan said that she would have a hard time purchasing Paula Deen’s cooking books anymore.

“Even though I love her, I probably will not look into her recipe books anymore,” Latasha Carrigan said. “I don’t know if I can support her as much as I did before. There are consequences for what you do. I mean, I know it happened 20 something years ago, and I know I’ve forgiven her as well. But it’s hard to look at her the same way.”

Another resident, Janta Marshall, said she supports Paula Deen, regardless of the racial slurs she made years ago. Marshall works as the food nutrition manager for Columbus High School, and she says it is easy to lose patience and self-control in a stressful environment.

“I have been in the food and beverage industry for 25 years. I do not think that many people understand the level of stress the workers from this business receive. The stress causes you to say things you do not really mean, and I do not think Paula Deen is a racist for saying the N-Word,” Marshall added. “I mean, I cannot tolerate the fact that she made racial slurs. I think that’s quite disrespectful, and I don’t appreciate what she said. But she’s just a person, and I think the media has blown this way out of proportion. Paula Deen did a great job on the Food Network, and she should get it back.”

Fans flock to The Lady and Sons for the food, not for Paula's opinions on race relations.

Fans flock to The Lady and Sons for the food, not for Paula Deen’s opinions on race relations.

At the company I work for in a small town just outside of Atlanta, there’s not a Yankee in sight. I talked about Deen with my coworkers, and they agreed that her use of the N-word is beyond the pale but thought her sponsors jumped the gun in sacking her so soon.

“The sponsors have made more of it than they needed to,” said Kayti Ridley, one of our technicians, “but racism will be a problem as long as some people teach their kids to hate.”

Even Deen’s former publicist got in on the action. Nancy Sanchez said, “I know her heart and her heart is a good one. I know that she is very giving. I know that she loves.”

Here in the South — at least here in Georgia — it appears that an attitude of support for Paula Deen prevails, even in the midst of disapproval of her actions. The consensus is pretty much the same: her fans in the South love her, even though she has disappointed them. Here’s hoping she finds a little comfort in the affection of her fans.

Related: #WarOnWomen: NY Times Shreds Paula Deen’s ‘Today’ Show Appearance

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered office manager for an IT managed services provider, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website, www.chrisqueen.net.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
I'm a southern boy transplanted to the North 55 years ago. I've seen more real racial bigotry here than I ever did in the homes of my devout Southern Baptist grandparents. Destroying someone for something they said years ago is beyond the pale.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Does this mean the food network is going to start asking Black hosts if they ever used the words "cracker" or "honky?" I feel bad for Paula. Not that I ever saw her show. I'm a little too busy with work and fixing cars and upgrading my house, etc. But she got hung out to dry for using words 30 years ago that were part of ordinary vocabulary at the time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There's a missed opportunity here, which is to use this unfortunate incident to point out the utter uselessness of policing language to correct prejudice. The pain of racism isn't in the words, it's in the hearts and heads of the racists and those against whom they harbor prejudice. Castigating Paula Deen for words said so long ago does absolutely nothing to end racism and, in fact, can make it more entrenched. I think this ridiculous and stupid fixation on language is an easy way for the left to feel superior - not that they need help in that department.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
I would like to see those people who condemn Paula Deen asked if they have ever cursed using the Lord's name. If the answer is 'yes' then ask them how their lives would be if God was as petty as they are.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't particularly admire Ms Deen, however I believe that destroying someone for something said 30 plus years ago goes way beyond the pale - especially in Obama's "post racial society."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
According to reliable reports, the Department of Justice has determined that celebrity chef Paula Deen will be subject to a trial by submersion in the Savannah River. The event is scheduled to take place by the end of July. Under the terms of the agreement between the Justice Department and its national public relations arm, the National News Media, the event will be broadcast live, with minute-to-minute coverage made possible by generous corporate sponsorship. Ms. Deen, who has admitted to the use of a very bad word more than a generation ago, will be bound, her hands and feet tied with heavy rocks, and thrown into the Savannah River at its deepest point. If Ms. Deen sinks and drowns, her innocence will be proclaimed. If Ms. Deen floats, her guilt will be self-evident, and she will be executed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why the heck is this a story worthy of PJ Media? Who cares?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Have any of the execs at Food Network, Target and all the other places who have kicked her to the curb ever uttered a disparaging word or comment about a person's color of skin, nationality, gender, etc. in their lives, today or 30 years ago when they were kids or adults? If they are as clean of mind and mouth as they want us to believe, they are a bunch of liars. Look in a mirror, you corporate execs: you are disingenuous and sanctimonious. You cannot tell me with a straight face that you've never spoken bad words about a person's background, race, religion, etc.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The article mentioned at least one person who said they "forgave" her, yet they still intended to behave towards her with the intent to punish her. This attitude is common throughout the grievance community. Large formal occasions of forgiveness begged and granted may be held, but no one in the aggrieved population ever forgives or forgets. It isn't about offence, it's about obtaining additional power thru offence acclaimed, and power grabs never end.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When I was a boy, the n-word was the norm used by all races to refer to African-Americans. Now the only people I hear say it are transplanted Yankees and African-Americans.

As for Deen, I didn't have a clue who she was before this.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Y'all are missing the bigger point here.

What person, in their right mind, who has heard this story will admit to having used a word - A WORD - not a knife, stick, gun or stone but a freaking word, 30 years in their past if the consequences are what Paula is now encountering?

If I was being interviewed by anyone for anything and they asked me if I ever said the WORD, I would look them straight in the face and lie my ass off!

No, I have never used that WORD! No really, not once and how dare you assume that I have with that mendacious follow-up question!

Of course, everyone who was party to the interview or who saw it or read it would rightly assume that I lied, but what can they do? I took the power away from them by refusing to play their game.

What a bunch of lunatic nonsense!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Greetings:

Having grown up in an oppressive maternally-mandated matriarchy that repeatedly insisted not only that "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me." but also that "They're not 'colored', they're born that way.", I believe that I have a somewhat different perspective.

Face it, the "n-word" fetish, although a cornerstone of the Negro rights industry, is nothing more than so much balderdash. I mean, really, to put it the current jargon, am I to believe that the 'n-word' is worse than the "m-f words"? Really??? As a philosophical certitude???

The "n-word" fetish is a tool of reverse racial oppression. It's the way the Negro rights industry not only protects its sources of income and power through various extortionate means but also reminds improperly re-educated Caucasians of their perpetual racial guilt. Similarly, there is that inner joy when the reprehensible for white to use "n-word" is so easily bandied about within "the community.

As for Paula Deen's current travails, what I would ask and insist on being answered is "Who was harmed and to what degree?" and "Who is now benefitting?". I am expecting much silence to ensue in that regard.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm a southern boy transplanted to the North 55 years ago. I've seen more real racial bigotry here than I ever did in the homes of my devout Southern Baptist grandparents. Destroying someone for something they said years ago is beyond the pale.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
1 2 Next View All