I do not think it possible to be raised in a monoculture society and not have permanent scarring. If a person is brought up to believe races are separate but equal that person is more likely to believe in separate and unequal than someone who grew up during the times of the unsegregated society. There’s a hitch in all of this, and that hitch is that most people remember their past fondly so the times of segregation are the good old days and the way things once were are the happier times. This isn’t racism the way most people envision it but it is a form of racism.
When I worked with a young black man for six month it was a soul expanding journey for us both. He had never seen a sign that read “Whites Only” or “Colored Section”. He had never lived in a world where interracial dating was punishable by lynching. He had never lived in a world separated by black and white. The tales told to him by his grandfather and his father were simply war stories, mere legend, like the times before the internet and the lives lived before smart phones. It was surprising to me that he thought racism was totally dead and gone. But he had never sat down with a white man my age and discussed race. I grew up in a time where he and I could have never had this conversation in public. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it at all. When he was in the military and then again in college his friends were decided by fate and interest not race. When we ate lunch in a small South Georgian town I told him to look around and indeed, he and I were the only two people in the building having a meal with someone whose skin tone did not match.
What Paula Deen did was simply tell the truth of the matter. The way life was when she grew up described her mindset and the attitudes of society in general as not racist. A few generations ago, slavery wasn’t considered a racist activity and each generation, for the most part, has stepped away from that extreme form of self-hatred to a lower and lower form, but this has not been without loss and it has not been without sacrifice.
What Paula Deen didn’t realize and likely still doesn’t realize, is even though it was the norm back in the day her attitude is shackled to that past. To admit that we, as a society, did egregious harm to a people whose only crime was being born darker is to admit that our beloved ancestors, both recent and long dead, were flawed, horribly flawed, human beings.
And so are we.
At the same time Paula Deen is being burned at the cross for committing the sin of truth while refusing to acknowledge the sins of the past, we missed a chance for discussion and instead would much rather issue condemnations. We seek to root out all traces of racism but we do not understand the nature of racism in its many and various forms. Keywords have been spoken! Public execution must follow! And the discussion is once again closed, the issues once again hidden from view and the wound festers.
Paula Deen is a racist. She holds many views steeped into her life through many years of living in a world that was just so because it had always been that way. Paula Deen may not wear a white sheet and she certainly isn’t a member of the Klan and that’s the real point here; Paula Deen’s crimes are small and petty not outrageous and horrible. Her form of racism is that of separate but equal and she truly believes in all her heart that this doesn’t make her racist in the least.
That point of view, with all its dangers inherent in it, is less dangerous than condemning someone because it’s what we are supposed to do when this subject comes up. I suspect political correctness, not racism, has destroyed Paula Deen.
Ruining a woman’s career simply because she is attached to her past doesn’t address the problem but rather pushes people to hide what they feel and why they feel that way. It helps no one. It heals no wounds. It solves nothing.
Until we can sit down and have lunch together we’re still separate and we are not equal. Of all people, Paula Deen ought to understand that. But should we denounce her for this?
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.