Luis M. Luque is still struggling to finish his first novel. He served as a U.S. Navy mass communications specialist for 20 years and now works as a writer-editor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program. He and his wife, Vera, live in Newnan, Georgia.
Paula Deen Cooks Up A Hot Mess
Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I find a small measure of amusement surrounding the recent tribulations of celebrity chef Paula Deen. Deen, whose name I wouldn’t have known as recently as a month ago, has found herself the target of much finger-wagging in the media over comments she made that were rightly construed as racist but mostly betray the 66-year-old’s insulated upbringing in Albany, Georgia, which repealed its Jim Crow laws in 1963, the year Deen turned 16.
Deen’s life was turned upside down when both of her parents died while she was in her 20s. She suffered from panic attacks and agoraphobia, finding solace in the only place she felt comfortable, her kitchen, cooking down-home, Southern-style recipes she learned from her grandmother. To assume a white woman who grew up with a mediocre education and few marketable skills in Albany during the civil rights upheavals didn’t at some point harbor racial animosity, or at least distrust, is merely disingenuous. And to her credit, during her recent deposition in a trial in which she and her brother, Earl, are accused of racial and sexual discrimination, Deen was honest, admitting she had often used the word “nigger.” “Yes, of course,” she said. Given her age and upbringing, saying otherwise would have been a blatant and provable lie.
I’m not trying to urge anyone to feel sympathy for Paula Deen. Even if her tears on the Today Show were genuine, even if she never signs another media contract or endorsement deal, Deen and her descendants will continue to enjoy the many millions she has made as a celebrity chef, author, restaurateur, and brand name for many years to come. No, I frankly don’t care what happens to Paula Deen. She will soon enough disappear and be forgotten.
It does amuse me that the Deen racial controversy couldn’t have come at a more interesting time, coinciding with the trial of George Zimmerman for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ducking of a case about affirmative action in university admissions and that same court’s striking of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, with the 50th anniversary of the violent summer of Bull Connor, fire hoses, and police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama, the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech in 1963, and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. In some ways, I feel the Civil War has never ended. As William Faulkner observed, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” (more…)