Let’s Talk Paula Deen And Apology Culture -- Should Celebrities Be Forced To Apologize In Spite Of Their Beliefs?

Paula Deen finally broke down and said sorry. But why should she have to?
Publish date:
June 24, 2013
racism, celebrities, paula deen

I’m not much of a cook, so the Food Network and the like aren’t really my jam. (Never have been, never will be.) With that said, I know exactly who Paula Deen is. Having grown up in Atlanta, I was raised on the whole ‘comfort food’ circuit, and I’m well aware of who that particular industry's local stars are. Plus, I’ve been to Savannah numerous times, and I’ve actually dined in her famed restaurant The Lady & Sons. (Real talk -- one glass of that sweet tea will have you seriously contemplating switching Gods.)

This past Friday evening, I found myself in a rare place: Hanging out on Facebook(!) discussing my thoughts on the fallout regarding Deen’s racist comments and her swift dismissal from the Food Network. At first, it was all pretty lighthearted (albeit snarky) until one of my whip-smart, incredibly introspective girlfriends left this thought-provoking comment:

"I don't understand the apology culture of our society. She apologized for beliefs/behavior she's held for most of her life, but over the course of five days she finally sees the light? Why does no one ever say, "Yes, I have said and done things that are racist. Part of it was the culture I absorbed growing up in the South, and part of it was my failure as a human being to revisit those values once it became clear that they were deemed untrue, harmful, and outmoded by society-at-large. I will withdraw from my sponsorships and television contracts immediately so that I can examine my beliefs and attitudes, do my best to understand how I have hurt others, and learn what I need to so that I don't repeat those mistakes. I am deeply sorry. [Though not for butter. You will pry my Land-o-Lakes only from my cold, dead, hands, y’all!]"

Of course, this got me to thinking. Deen is 66 years old; she's a savvy businesswoman who knows exactly who she is -- someone who was clearly brought up in a family that allowed her to think that using the N-word was wholly acceptable, to the point where she even felt comfortable enough dishing that kind of deplorable dialogue in front of her employees and contractors. (Have you read through the official complaint filed by Lisa Jackson against Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers? It’s appalling.)

Yet, when her country fried chickens (read: verbal indiscretions) came to home to roost, she all of a sudden saw the light and error of her ways, to the point where she felt the need to serve up a prompt plate of Georgia groveling apology? Naw.

Sorry-not-sorry Paula; I’m not buying it. Her lackluster, heavily-edited mea culpa -- and those given by every other celebrity whose ignorant, biased views culminated in a spectacular fall from grace -- felt very fake and forced and politically correct and completely predictable. All of which begs the question: Why does the public so readily accept these P.C. apologies? (And why should she even have to issue a faux apology for the way she feels, however racist her thoughts may be?)

Hear me out. I totally get that people are expected to feel shame and atone for what is considered unacceptable behavior -- especially as a celebrity -- but as a Black woman, I’d feel much more comfortable in my everyday life if racists proudly wore their bigotries on their sleeves. That way I’d know who to steer well clear of, whose endeavors I should not financially support, and whose sickeningly delicious sweet tea I shouldn't give two shits about.

All in all, we know the main reason she apologized was to try and save her network television show (fail), lucrative endorsements and distribution deals. I like to think I would have reserved a sliver of respect for her had she have been completely honest about her feelings about my people and actually owned up to her ignorant opinions, and made it feel like she genuinely was interested in changing her POV. Calling all of this a mistake is one hell of an understatement.

Catch the kid slanging shit, sass and (NON-RACIST) shade over on Twitter: @IndiaJewelJax.

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