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June 2013

Paula Deen's Troubles are Bigger Than a Racial Slur

Paula Deen apologizes

Celebrity chef Paula Deen has been in hot water lately and can't seem to get herself out of it. Her latest troubles stem from an employment discrimination, racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit brought by former employee, Lisa T. Jackson.

Media coverage of the lawsuit took off when Ms. Deen admitted to using the word "nigger". Other allegations in the deposition seemed to take a back seat to that. I was surprised Ms. Deen was honest in her answer because many people lie and take the pious, holier-than-thou route.

Of course Ms. Deen mentioned that she'd heard blacks use that word. Now, being black myself, I don't like when anyone uses it. I chalk it up to ignorance, lack class and lack of vocabulary. I can't join the club of blacks that basically says "we can use that word but they can't". It's also not a label of affection if it ends in "a" or "-ah" rather than "-er".

That being said, way more offensive was her talk of a "southern style plantation wedding" replete with servers that reminded Ms. Deen of The Civil War period. Ms. Deen did try to clean up her explanation but it seemed the more she did, the worse it got.

There was also mention of testimony of another former employer that Bubba Hiers, Paula Deen's brother, told Lisa Jackson to keep the front 'light' when hiring. Wow. That means blacks and other dark-skinned people were welcome to work in the kitchen but not as servers, managers, etc. in the front of the restaurant.

Ms. Deen was a no-show for an interview with Matt Lauer on Friday's Today Show. She did release a couple of videos apologizing for her how her words hurt other people.

The Food Network chose to not to renew the contract for Ms. Deen's show which expires this month. If you also agree with that decision, before you jump up for joy, remember that memory of such racial episodes tend to be short lived, especially with most black people. As with similar instances involving Dog the Bounty Hunter and Don Imus, so Paula Deen could return to television soon.



Father's Day Reflections

On days such as today, I am both amazed by and appreciative of the capacity and impact of social media. Looking at the pictures, reading the status updates, comments, tweets and blog posts celebrating fathers is so heartwarming and uplifting.

As my own father ages (as do I), I remember my early years with him in our small Florida Panhandle town. I would later realize that my formative years were very much a village environment. What I mean by that is, many of the adults and children in the town were my "aunts, uncles and cousins" although there was not a family biological or marital connection. The adults looked after us and the children, well we looked after each other, at least the best we could.

I grew up sharing my dad with the community. That was my normal, even after we moved to Miami. To a lesser extent I still share him today. Realistically, I also understand that our days are numbered and therefore more precious.

When I think of my Dad, I also think of the other men who are and have been father figures in my life. Uncles, cousins, godfathers and friends who protected me, guided me, advised me and demonstrated what being a father truly means. I am especially in awe of those fathers who stepped up and filled in for men absent due to death or other circumstances.

Today, like many other days, I will probably listen to my dad talk about the accomplishments of many of his former students with immense pride. I will share Facebook messages to him from relatives, his former students and friends. He will smile and talk some more. That is my normal. I am Blessed.

If your father or father figure is still alive today, give him a hug, if you can. If you can't give him a hug, call him on the phone. If he's not here in the natural, gather your family together and remember him in words, deeds and thoughts.

Happy Father's Day!


Fight for Education

Parents, please do all you can to improve the schools in your neighborhood and keep your children in school. Please do not allow them to drop out or be kicked out of school.

It was recently reported that 23 schools in the Philadelphia public school system will be closed. More than 80% of the students affected are black. What is most egregious is the fact that while those 23 schools are being closed, $400 million is being spent to build a prison.

Scheduled to be completed in 2015, the new prison’s cell blocks and classroom will also be capable of housing 5,000 inmates. There will also be facilities for female inmates, the mentally ill and a death row population.

What's the message here? We don't want your children to be educated we want them to be incarcerated and we eventually want you eliminated. Closing so many schools while building a prison is beyond shameful and we are far too quiet about it.

Now is not the time to give up on our children and just allow them to fend for themselves or let the chips to fall where they may. We must advocate for our children. We must do all we can to love them, protect them and give them opportunities for the best life possible.

Photo: Black Youth Project

Related Links:
Philadelphia to Close 23 Public Schools While Building $400 Million Prison
The Urgency of Now: The Schott 50 State Report on Black Males and Public Education 2012