Paula, Trayvon show we have a long way to go
by Kevin Foley
Columnist
July 11, 2013 11:18 PM | 1014 views | 3 3 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Paula Deen and Trayvon Martin started out in almost the same place. Deen was once a struggling single mother in the South. Martin was the son of a struggling single mother in the South.

Both are in the national news for entirely different reasons, but their lives have converged nonetheless, ripping open an old wound.

According to Paula Deen’s homegrown legend, her story begins in Savannah where her self-published cookbook was purchased by an editor from a big New York publishing house. The editor loved it, offered Deen a contract and the rest is history.

Peaches and cream Paula became a Southern cooking icon. Then, in a public legal proceeding, she admitted using a racial slur to describe blacks.

Let’s be clear. The “n-word” should always be off limits to white people. It’s an ugly word rooted in the worst of white-black relations, linked to a time when African-Americans were considered sub-human chattel. When used by whites, the n-word is associated by blacks with slavery, segregation and lynching.

Trayvon Martin was the 17-year-old African-American son of a divorced couple. His middle-class parents were evidently doing what they could to make sure Trayvon grew up right. Like a lot of teenagers, he apparently got into trouble from time to time.

Walking home from a convenience store last year, minding his own business, Trayvon was stalked by the white George Zimmerman then shot during a struggle. Forty-five days passed before Zimmerman was finally charged with a crime.

Martin’s death has led not only to the cop-wannabe’s jury trial, but Trayvon’s trial in the court of public opinion.

Just weeks before Zimmerman’s hearing began, his lawyer attempted to sway possible jury members by smearing Trayvon as a dangerous thug, the stereotypical, black street tough soaked in drugs and crime, a vicious punk who got what was coming to him.

Naturally, far right media types exploited that racist narrative.

“If anyone had a crime committed against them (it was Zimmerman),” pronounced Rush Limbaugh, who added, “The race industry ... made this trial happen.”

Paula Deen wasn’t shot to death, but she did pay a steep professional price for her use of the n-word. The Food Network canceled her popular show and nearly all her major sponsors abandoned her.

Now the right wing’s favorite piñata — the so-called “liberal media” — is to blame for the cooking diva’s crash and burn.

“The media pounced on this violation of political correctness, and that’s all this is,” growled Glenn Beck, who said The Food Network “gave in to the growing American atmosphere of fear and silence.”

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes added, “The liberal, anti-South media … (is) trying to crucify Paula Deen.”

“My reaction to all of the companies … that have decided to punish Mrs. Deen is to use other suppliers due to their hypocrisy,” wrote an MDJ reader this week. “If they were to question all of their employees and receive honest answers about the use of the n-word in the past and terminated them on that basis, many stores would close for lack of personnel.”

To a point, the reader is right. We’ve all used the slur. The difference is we aren’t national public figures. We don’t have a TV show and we don’t sell merchandise bearing our smiling faces to consumers. And many television viewers and consumers are African-Americans who are deeply and understandably offended when whites utter the n-word.

Paula Deen and Trayvon Martin have become the latest avatars for race relations in America. In the self-inflicted downfall of Deen, we hear sympathy and support from many white people. In the senseless shooting of Martin, we hear contempt and justification.

America still has a long way to go.

Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.
Comments
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Luek
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July 12, 2013
This trial will also be a verdict on how women can be socially responsible and do the right thing instead of being oversized children ruled by their emotions. An all female jury and a female judge. The world will be watching this all female jury to see if they can see through the political hype that brought this judicial lynching into being in the first place and find Mr. Zimmerman not guilty on all counts. So far the erratic behaviour of the female judge has not been encouraging in this regard.
anonymous
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July 13, 2013
I totally agree. As a woman, I have been offended by the media commentators suggesting that the prosecution will be able to sway an all female jury more because women are more emotional than men. Even worse, is when it is brought up about how the prosecutor is "good looking". That's right, we weak-minded women with children can't possibly be expected to examine the evidence and render a verdict based on intelligence and not emotions.
Luek
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July 12, 2013
Poor Paula just doesn't get it. She is not being ostracized because of the dreaded "n" word, even "n" words use it i.e. rap. She is being shunned because of her constant god awful groveling and slobbering tearful apologizing to everything that moves.
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