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“In my experience the motivation of black friends and colleagues isn’t to make white people feel guilty, to beat us up over our racial history, or to just complain about it.  What I hear is deep concern for their children and for their future, and the reasonable expectation that white people not defend themselves from the past but rather join efforts to build a better multiracial future.”  (p. 36)

That’s what Jim Wallis wrote in his book, America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America.  It’s a great read because of his compassionate, insightful, nonjudgmental, moral, theological analysis of where we are as a country.  Even though Wallis, a white man, talks about white privilege, it’s not an attack on white people, but more of an examination of a social construct of whiteness and its influence on America.  And he does not just pay lip service to multiracial America.  He goes further than the Black/White dynamic that dominates many race-related dialogues and discusses the history of Native and Asian Americans.  Wallis also provides a framework to think through issues of mass incarceration and immigration as well.

His conclusion is that when we genuinely begin to hear one another’s stories, we begin to understand one another, and then we’re able to do the work necessary to cross that “bridge” to a new America.  Every time an ugly incident happens, people start declaring that we need a conversation, a dialogue, a discussion.  The value of America’s Original Sin is that it brings some profound insights about why it’s been so hard for us to have that conversation and touches upon issues of segregation, isolation, and fragility.  Once we get over those issues we can move across that bridge.

“. . . the next bridge to cross is America’s transition from a majority white nation to a majority of racial minorities”. (p. 194)

It’s well worth the read.

Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

Paula Deen's Pound of Flesh

Paula Deen is in the news again and, no, it’s not because people discovered that frying food in massive amounts of butter is not healthy. This time she was fired her contract was not renewed by Food Network because she did not perjure herself.

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly for not perjuring herself but that may as well be the reason. She admitted under oath in a deposition that she has used the N word in her lifetime. The tabloids picked it up, which of course was inevitable, which then leads to the forced public apology.

In the worst PR move ever, her handlers or her attorneys or I can’t really figure out who, put out her apology which was heavily edited and bizarre. It was so strange that it was then taken down and replaced with another apology video, which many thought was not sincere or heartfelt or maybe they just couldn’t get past the first strange one. Anyway, that was that. Buh bye Paula Deen.

I don’t watch her show and I’ve never bought her products but in my limited knowledge I remember her getting slammed for not going public with her Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis until an endorsement deal was in place. It damaged her brand and was really the beginning of the end for her.

Still, I think she got the rawest of deals. Accepting her explanation that it was acceptable for a woman growing up in the South in the 60’s to use that word is not the same as condoning it or even liking it. It is understanding a larger history in our country and the small part that Paula Deen plays in it.

She was not the cause of segregation nor was she the beginning or end of racism. She was a by-product of her culture and upbringing. She admitted using the ugly word, offered an explanation, apologized, even if it was strange. Why can’t we just move on? Why can’t we accept that people can evolve?

The N word is a word I heard growing up and I didn’t grow up in the South in the 60’s but it is still something that seemed to be acceptable to say. I always hated the word and I remember my mother hating the word and cringing when it was said in what should have been polite company.

Recently someone I went to high school with posted a status on social media using the N word in the most vile way possible.  I guess he still thinks it’s acceptable.

I have seen an evolution though and while I do hear it on occasion, it is very rare. I suppose the fact that I have seen an evolution in the frequency and usage of the word makes me understand Paula Deen’s position a little more. And again, understanding or accepting her explanation is not the same as condoning her use of the word. It is looking at the larger picture and acknowledging that race has been an issue in our country for a long time and that it’s not always as black and white as we’d like to make it.

Sometimes as much as we don’t like it, we have to accept that there are generational and cultural beliefs that are harder to purge.

I don’t know that Paula Deen is not a racist but in this tabloid society that we live in I lean towards believing the word would have seeped out long before her deposition went public. Celebrities can’t go food shopping on a bad hair day without a picture popping up somewhere. I have trouble believing that Deen was making her African American employees use separate entrances and that nobody ever called a lawyer and then TMZ.

When do we move past the sensationalism and look at the reality? Paula Deen wasn’t trying to be our moral compass. She wasn’t telling us how to raise our kids or even making important decisions involving anyone’s future. She had a cooking show.

But I do wonder why we take such pleasure when people fall in this country. When do we remember that despite their fame they are still humans just like the rest of us?  No angry mob needed. We have social media for that now. Kill a career. No proof needed. Move on to the next scandal.

You don’t have to feel sorry for Paula Deen. She’s made millions showing us how to cook. Ask yourself a question though. Was she fired because she’s a racist or was she fired because her apology was a public relations disaster? And then ask yourself if it was really fair.

Kristen is a single mom of 3 kids and studying at The CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is blogging while she still figures out what she wants to be when she grows up.