Paula Dean and the “N-word”

Please Note: The Commentary which follows and the Article which follows the Commentary use the actual “N-word”

Blogger Denene Millner Says: “Paula Deen Can Kiss My Grits; She Built Million Dollar Empire on Backs of Black Folks”

(Ms. Millner’s Article Follows Bull Sullivan’s Commentary)

Dear Miss Millner:

I want to begin by agreeing with your inference that Paula Deen has been, in her public statements, nothing short of disingenuous, and certainly less than forthcoming. Her obvious desire is to avoid lasting damage to her brand, and culinary enterprises. And I agree with you that her use of the word nigger is usual and normal for persons of her, and my, generation. I will not defend her or anyone whose conversation includes tasteless racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or scatological humor, or who uses God’s holy name to damn an act or a person, as in having struck a thumb while nailing, or cursing a fellow child of God. I don’t care if the joke is told by Lenny Bruce or Richard Pryor; such humor is classless, tasteless and pathetic.

Paula Deen is a product of her environment, her culture, just as you are of yours. In a perverse way, your criticism of her culture, justified as it may be, is as intolerant as her criticism, even if she now denies it, of yours. For her, my generation, and many younger Americans, even today the use of the word nigger in conversation implies a lack of respect for the Negro. Your ad hominen criticism of Paula Deen’s disposition’s statement, her business and employment practices, and even her cooking implies a lack of respect for her. It is difficult to have sympathy for either Paula or you.

Now, I may be incorrect in assuming you immediate response to my last statement is “I don’t want your sympathy,” but I believe that both viscerally and intellectually, that is how you have responded. I further believe that, despite your attempt at ameliorative language, “With all due respect to the brothers and sisters making it bubble in the kitchens of her restaurants…” you have disdain, bordering on disgust, for those of your race who earn an honest living working for Paula Deen. How it must grieve you that the “…talented black chefs and waitstaff at her popular Georgia restaurants…” regularly deposit, as a result of their talent and ambition, paychecks signed by “…the Dumpy Dumpling of Dixie.”

I am certain that those black employees also appreciate your public support of a single white female plaintiff, who may well have reason, bringing suit against their employer, and further your assertion that the food those “talented chefs prepare and talented wait staff” serve is, how did you put it, “filling America’s veins with sugar and fat and all the crap that kills us dead.” This last statement is made all the more difficult for me to accept as a valid criticism by your comment that you were raised on a southern diet and have ‘…soul food all up in my fingertips and deep in my bones.” Yet, here you are.

And because you are here, in print before me, let me “Axe ewe a question.” I have for some time sought an answer to a persistent concern I have about Negro DNA.  I only feel free to make an inquiry of you because of your obvious understanding and knowledge of racial DNA. If I may quote you, “Racist behavior lingers—dances all up and through the DNA.” I assume you meant that assertion to apply to all races, not just yours, Negro and mine, Caucasian, but to all who seek or hold a racial identity.

Before I pose that question, let me state unequivocally, that we will heal the wounds that Slavery and the Civil War created only when we all stop seeing color in each other. I for one, having participated in the struggle for Civil Rights for all Americans, and being one who continues to recognize that color remains the primary source of discriminatory behavior for all colors of Americans, continue to believe that healing can only take place when we really are open and honest in our dialogue. As to my bona fides, I cite here an article from my Commentary on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness:

I note to you that this article received the second most views of my commentaries, and I further regretfully note that the issue, as I see it, mooted by Mr. Davis’ execution, has “disappeared” from the public and common discourse.

So Ms. Millner, I now respectfully ask you, “Why do you, and others of your race object to being called “Nigger”? Why do you care what you or your race is called? I am not being facetious and certainly I am not fatuous in my curiosity.

I would point out to you that you may call me anything, by any name or epithet, and I would not care, so long as I had not earned the scorn or derision that the use of any term toward me implied. Further, had I earned the dubious distinction of deserving the name or epithet I was called, I would seek to correct myself, to better understand my offense or shortcoming, and to improve myself.

It is obvious to me, that for many Negro Americans, the epithet is painful. Why? If I call you a Child of God, isn’t that all that can be said? Isn’t the fact that for so many Negro Americans, the identity of being Christian, was sufficient to both cause a belief that you would overcome, and to temper and finally change the heart of those white “folks” whose laws diminished your citizenship?

It was for me the Spirituality of the Negro church and culture that gave me leave to march for equality, and the words of Black Ministers and Preachers that gave me hope that our children would “…one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Are those not the words of a Baptist Preacher? A Christian? Didn’t he say, even before he spoke of his hopes for his children, didn’t our dear blessed Doctor say: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

Ms. Millner, how many times did thugs and idiots and red necks and racists call Martin Luther King a “Nigger”? How many thousands of times? Dr. King constantly sought to engender respect, not of the white man for the Negro, but of each man for himself.  We are commanded, in Matt 22:39 and Mark 12:31 “…to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”

Are you not my equal? Do you not love me? Do you not love Paula Deen? The most important question to be asked, Ms. Millner, is “Do you not love yourself?” Dr. King loved himself, and because he did, he could love me, and I could love him. And all of this because God Almighty loves us!

What is in your racial DNA? Why does the mere movement of a tongue and breath across vocal cords cause so many such discomfort? And why is it so common to hear the same term in contemporary musical lyrics?  Ms. Millner, it is just a word, yet your culture has ascribed to it the power of life and death and from that power the notion that human respect for each other is an external attribute, not an intrinsic gift of God. I await your answer, your explanation. I really need to know what drives such a response. I thank you in advance.

Until then let’s work together for Justice for Lisa Jackson and for Paula Deen, for justice for one is justice for both. Let’s work for understanding, compassion and love. And I don’t mean that glossy modern episcopal “God is love” type of love. I mean real true unconditional love of the sinner and the saint; not approval, but acceptance; not submission but obedience. When we achieve that, or even come near, then there will be only two “names” we call each other, Brother and Sister.

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Ms. Millner’s Article:

Denene Millner is a New York Times bestselling author of 21 books and the editor of
I’ve been to The Lady and Sons, the renowned Savannah, Ga., restaurant owned by America’s lard-loving Food Network star Paula Deen. Not gonna lie: we waited in line for an hour, easy, to eat there, and when we finally got in, we worked that buffet like a stripper does a pole on a hot summer Saturday night. Fried chicken and whiting, greens, candied yams, gooey macaroni and cheese, homemade biscuits and jelly—we swallowed it all down. And when we finally looked up from our plates and stopped licking our fingers, we came to what we were sure was a pretty logical conclusion: wasn’t nothing but black folks back there in that kitchen stirring those pots.

You can’t fool me. I was raised in the North but I’m the child of Black Southerners with soul food all up in my fingertips and deep in my bones. We created and mastered the cuisine. Paula Deen was simply smart enough to slap a picture of herself and her All-American sons on the door while a kitchen full of Negroes toil in the steam and sizzle of her restaurant, doing all the hard work while their jolly, finger-licking boss takes all the credit.

You know—that great Southern tradition.

But word on the streets and in court depositions suggests that the Dumpy Dumpling of Dixie has been acting more like the plantation mistress than benevolent employer of talented black chefs and waitstaff at her popular Georgia restaurants. Lisa Jackson claims in a $1.2 million lawsuit that Deen used the “N-word” on several occasions, and that the restaurateur’s brother, Bubby Heirs, sexually assaulted her during a five-year stint as the general manager of Deen’s Georgia restaurants.

While she’s claiming in public releases today that she just loves her some black folk, Deen admitted in a court deposition taken last month that she’s said “nigger” before.

“Yes, of course,” the 66-year-old chef said when Jackson’s attorney asked her if she’s ever said it.

Like, duh.

She went on to admit that she’s also been known to tell a few racists jokes, too, and struggled to answer when asked if she thought those kinds of jokes are “mean.”

“That’s kind of hard,” Deen said. “Most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks … They usually target, though, a group. Gays or straights, black, redneck, you know, I just don’t know — I just don’t know what to say. I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”

*insert image of Denene making dead fish eyes here*

A teeny weeny spot on my buttery soul would just love to believe Paula’s statement today that she “does not condone or find the use of racial epithets acceptable.” But the rest of my dark brown bottom knows better.This is a 66-year-old woman from the South, born close enough to segregation to see the whites of Jim Crow’s eyes. I’ll bet she knows how rank he smells—that rancid, putrid bouquet that escapes when the word “nigger” curls off the tongue. I’m betting, too, that she knows how scary he looks on a dark country road on a hot Southern summer’s night. Or in an equally hot kitchen where Negroes toil.

I’m not saying this is the way of every 66-year-old white woman from the South. But I’ve been living in the South for almost a decade, and I’ve got enough honest good white friends down here who’ve told me in confidence that their grandfathers and daddies and uncles still have white sheets hanging in their closets—not the kind for beds, but the ones rocked with pride in front of burning crosses. Racist behavior lingers—dances all up and through the DNA.

More importantly, I’m the daughter of African American parents who are of Deen’s generation and who’ve made sure I know, for sure, how it felt to be called names and be denied a sound education and be relegated to menial jobs and live in fear of becoming that strange fruit, not because they were bad people but because of the color of their skin.

All that’s to say that there’s nothing surprising about this Paula Deen revelation, and really, she should know that no one is fooled by the waffling and her awkward word shimmies—Black Twitter and its #PaulaDeenRecipes included.

Frankly, her apparent comfort with the word notwithstanding, what we need to be mad about is that Paula is a peddler of Type 2 diabetes—that she’s all up and down our TV dial, filling America’s veins with sugar and fat and all the crap that kills us dead.

With all due respect to the brothers and sisters making it bubble in the kitchens of her restaurants, Paula Deen can take her racist jokes and her “N” words and stick them where the butter is sure to melt.





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