Paula Deen deserves forgiveness after sincere apology

HHump Dayump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Celebrity chef Paula Deen is in hot water this week because she’s admitted to using racist language in the past. Many are outraged. The Food Network has dropped her show. At least one of her sponsors has also bailed, Smithfield Foods. Others will likely follow. Her cookbooks publisher is on the fence, waiting to see if the winds shift in her favour.

Paula Deen crying during June 26, 2013, interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
Paula Deen crying during her June 26, 2013, interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s The Today Show.

No one can condone what she said. Specifically, she’s admitted to using the “N” word on a number of occasions, but she says she’s not racist. Some former employees claim they’ve been mistreated because of their race, while others have leapt to her defence, including African-American friends who know her personally.

Meanwhile, she’s made two videos apologizing for her language and asking for forgiveness. This week, she’ll also be appearing on NBC’s The Today Show after missing an earlier scheduled interview. While I can’t predict what she’ll say, her friends at The Today Show will likely ask some tough questions for which she’d better have some good answers. She’ll likely ask for forgiveness again.

Before this most recent controversy, critics were also being hard on Ms. Deen for the recipes she put forward in her magazine, cookbooks and cooking shows. They say her food is unhealthy and she should know better, especially after admitting to being recently diagnosed with diabetes.

On that particular point, I say it’s a free world. Her recipes are clearly not made for eating day in and day out or you’ll find yourself having the wall of your bedroom being cut out by firefighters as they attempt to get a crane into your bedroom to get you out of your house. While her recipes aren’t exactly health food, a treat now and then won’t hurt you. And if you can’t control yourself, then stay away from her recipes. Pretty simple, if you ask me.

Now, in all this hubbub over her choice of language and the anger it has caused from the public and critics — and the angry reaction of fans toward The Food Network for cancelling her show — one thing has gotten lost in all of this.

The woman has asked for forgiveness. I believe her when she says she’s sorry. I truly do. I know media critics have gone nuts over how bad her first video was (I didn’t see that one), but I did see the second apology video and can tell you that at least in my opinion it was downright pitiful, especially if you’re a Paula Deen fan like me.

I’ve watched her for years and can’t imagine her having a mean bone in her body. Sure, the inappropriate language is not acceptable, but from the African-Americans who’ve been in the media who are friends of hers, they’re defending her. I give a lot credence to that. If there were hordes of people coming out of the woodwork screaming, “Well, it’s about time!” then I may not be so forgiving.

But I have a really hard time not forgiving someone who sincerely asks for my forgiveness. Unless they have done something so heinous toward me, I would hope that I would forgive them. I consider myself a pretty good judge of character, and I just don’t see Paula Deen as some sort of racist monster. I just don’t. Maybe I’m being naïve. Maybe she’s got some Jekyll-and-Hyde thing going on, but I doubt it.

When I see her smile and listen to that southern drawl, I just don’t see or hear the cruelty, fear and ignorance of a racist. I know that many times when someone I know personally or a celebrity does something questionable, I’ll often say, “I always thought there was something ‘off’ about them. My intuition was right!” But not with Paula Deen. Didn’t see that one coming.

I believe her when she’s says she’s sorry. I really do.

Now, many out there may think I’m nuts to give her a break, but let me assure you that likely every one of us would be in her position if everything we’d said in the past would be put in the media for others to judge. Words that are out of context. Words that were said before we evolved and matured. Words that were said out of anger or fear.

As for me, I’m pretty sure people would be crossing the street to avoid me if some of the stuff I’ve said in the past would be put to public judgment. I have a raunchy and politically incorrect sense of humour. Among a select group of close friends, I like to shock people by saying inappropriate things for the sake of humour — and we all laugh. But trust me, if someone recorded what I say and put it out there and out of context, you’d probably rather hang out with Adolf Hitler than me.

Of course, if we offend, we must apologize and we must ask for forgiveness, right? Right. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t we also have some sense of obligation to accept that apology and give the person another chance? Are we really going to throw someone’s career to the crocodiles over one word used in the past — a word they admit was wrong and a word for which they’ve apologized?

My hope for Paula Deen is that she has the strength to weather this storm of controversy. It won’t be easy. My hope for those who are bashing her over the head for this even though she’s begged for forgiveness is that you find a shred of decency in your hearts to give her a second chance. After all, you may be the one asking for forgiveness one day after something you’ve said or done. And we all have to do that at some point.

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