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My Pal Paula

By Hannah Reich Berman

Some actions are unacceptable. Others are questionable. And sometimes it is hard to differentiate. Racial profiling has gotten a lot of publicity since 9/11, and opinion on it is mixed. Some people feel it is necessary for our security; others disagree. Those responsible for protecting U.S. citizens and who do engage in profiling say things like, “We don’t see a little old white-haired lady walking with a cane as much of a threat, but a youthful, dark-skinned male with a Middle Eastern appearance draws suspicion.” Like it or not, the explanation has some merit. It’s a case of better safe than sorry. But liberals think otherwise.

Long before profiling became an issue, there were racists. That hasn’t changed. One difference between a profiler and a racist is that there is no excuse for racism, and none is ever given. Another difference is that profilers know that they are profilers, but not all racists recognize themselves as such. The few who do, sometimes acknowledge it. And they do so without shame.

It is unclear where Paula Deen fits into the picture. Not everyone who uses a racial epithet is a racist, just as not all racists expose themselves by using epithets. Got that?

Unquestionably, Paula Deen, a doyenne of The Food Network channel, made a boo-boo. The woman has a television cooking show, owns a successful restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, has kitchen restaurants in Caesars casinos, and has her own brand of cookware in multiple department stores across the country. But the lady goofed! She used the N word. Chances are that she has used it more than once in her life. And rumor has it that, over the years, she has been heard to make disparaging remarks about members of other groups. Maybe she’s a “grouper.” By their nature, groups make easy targets.

Whatever she is, she has been outed for something she said many years ago, and she is in trouble. Her explanation is that she said used the N word after a gun was trained on her during a bank robbery. The inference, of course, is that the robber was an African-American. It isn’t hard to understand how having been badly scared might have caused her to say what she did. And we shouldn’t forget that this woman was born and bred in the Deep South, where, for some segments of society, bigotry is as natural as breathing. Maybe we should cut her some slack.

Clearly, use of the N word is inappropriate. But is the woman really deserving of what is currently being done to her? Her career is in jeopardy and her empire is crumbling. And all of it is happening with lightning speed. Her public mea culpas have moved some people but have annoyed others. In my opinion, she did too much crying when she was interviewed by Matt Lauer—who is himself no stranger to controversy and bad behavior.

Beyond enjoying her cooking show, most of us foodies know little about the woman. We don’t know if she is mean or nice. We don’t know if she is a true racist, someone who picked up bad habits, or just someone with a propensity for making insensitive comments. Make that a former propensity, since she is unlikely to do it again anytime soon. What is known about Paula Deen is that she has a flair for drama. It’s obvious because of the fluffy white hairdo that resembles clouds in the sky and because of the long, black false eyelashes that are so visible when she bats her eyes—which she frequently does. We also hear her drama. It’s in her exaggerated Southern drawl. Do people in Georgia really speak like that?

It appears that her flair for theatrics backfired. Moses said to his people, “Do not be afraid; for G‑d has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” That sounds pretty reasonable. But it’s doubtful that Paula is familiar with anything Moshe Rabbeinu had to say. She may, however, be acquainted with a different bible, in which the statement about sin goes like this: “Let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.” But poor Paula, she misquoted it. What she said in front of millions of viewers was “I invite anyone who has never, ever said the wrong thing to feel free to find a big rock and throw it at my head and kill me.” Now that is drama!

Despite my sluggish memory, I assume that over the years I have made my share of inappropriate or hurtful remarks. Regardless of anything I might have said, however, I don’t see myself inviting anyone to take a shot at my head in order to kill me. Just thinking about it gives me a migraine.

Thanks to Paula’s bit of foolish drama, and to all the weeping and blubbering that accompanied her apology, she has stirred up more controversy. Since her use of the N word became public knowledge, she has been vilified, ridiculed, and punished. Everyone is having a picnic at her expense, and there is a video on YouTube that is an absolute scream! First I laughed. And now I say, enough already!

I am not a racist, nor do I condone racism. And I am not a liberal. Still, I don’t like what is being done to her. Punishment is supposed to fit the crime, and this is overkill. Every day, another major corporation cancels a contract with her or bans her products from their stores. She is losing everything that she worked so hard to build. I would like to let her know that she hasn’t lost me, but somehow I doubt that would be of much comfort. It certainly won’t bring her any cash. But, along with millions of others, I enjoy her cooking shows. True, she is the queen of unhealthy eating, but her food tastes great. What wouldn’t taste good if it had half a pound of butter and two cups of sugar in it? And she gives us permission to eat it. Who else is going to OK that? My doctor?

As regards my health, there is some good news. I am proud to say that I don’t follow all her instructions. I skip one of the key ingredients in most of her food preparations: I never use bacon.

And I am not the only one who is unhappy about what is happening to Paula. There has been a tremendous backlash from many of her fans. We want her back on television. And we recognize that her troubles started two years ago, when she failed to disclose that she had diabetes. People were angry about that. But why? What do I care if she chose to keep quiet about that? Yeah, yeah, I know the drill—she is a public figure. But who says that public figures have to bare their souls and share their infirmities? Where is that written?

The woman has been punished enough. She misspoke. We have all, at one time or another, done the same thing, but we have gone on with our lives without interruption. But Paula continues to be publicly criticized and humiliated even after she begged forgiveness and understanding, crying like a baby. Was she crying about the loss of revenue? Possibly! But the tears were genuine. She did everything possible to make amends. Now let’s let the lady get on with her life! She will not misspeak again. That’s the way it is. v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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Posted by on July 4, 2013. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.