There are a couple of reasons I can’t believe I’m writing this. For one, I’m writing to you as myself this time. For another, the amazing events of the SCOTUS today makes this seem trivial, but racism is never trivial, frankly, to me. Finally, it’s because I was once your biggest fan.
Ms. Deen, I own a beer cozy in hot pink that says “Hey Y’ALL!” from one of your stores. A friend sent me butter-flavored lip gloss in your brand, which I gleefully once showed to everyone I met. I own ALL of your cookbooks. Also, I own (and have read) your memoir – which genuinely touched me. But you should know WHY I loved you so much: The first time I lived away from home, I hear your voice by accident and it sounded like my mom’s – who I missed so, so much at the time.
My mother is 68 and also grew up in the fucked-up South of the 1950’s and 60’s. She was once in a Minstrel Show, to her current horror – because everyone else was in it, and it was school-sanctioned. Thank god she never wore black face, but I think she did a horrifying hula-hoop act. You know what, though? She NEVER USED THE N-WORD. Neither did my grandparents. And if she’d been a famous TV chef and they found out she’d been in a minstrel show? I think it would have been out-weighed by the fact she spent the rest of her life caring about Civil Rights and trying to be the kind of Southern woman who was liberal, kind and humanitarian. Here’s what she NEVER would have done: thought the idea of black people dressed as slaves was even, FOR A MOMENT, ok.
I digress. I only mention this because how I, early on, associated you with her voice, and how she is of the same generation. The key difference? She CHOSE CHANGE. She saw racism first-hand as a teacher in the 60’s while segregation was still going on and she decided to spend her life rejecting such a hateful way of life. She decided to work on being a better person – learn more, care more, DO more. She worked against it, protested, actively tried to make sure her children’s’ world would be a better, more accepting place through outreach.
My brother and I grew up in a diverse neighborhood – a deliberate choice on her (and my father’s) part. She instilled in us the idea that you actively FIGHT racism, not just deny it.
What you don’t seem to understand, honestly, is what you’ve done wrong. Let me explain it for you:
Your claim that you used the n-word once, back in the day? Not the whole problem. Here’s the whole problem – you don’t have an issue with thinking black men in nice outfits should be servers in representing the ante-bellum South. I have no idea why you would think this is ok. Having grown up in the Civil Rights era (Remember, I read your book – I recall how you said you wished how you could go back and be nicer to those first black kids admitted to your school), there is just no fucking excuse for this. Why would it even cross your mind that an echo of slavery might be “cute” or funny? Oh, because you’re FUCKING RACIST. Sorry, that’s what it comes down to. You admitted this. You didn’t think it was a big deal. That means (once again, with feeling) YOU ARE A FUCKING RACIST.
Nevermind the allegations… yet. They are still to –be-proven. But your brother sounds like a completely racist, sexist, insensitive assclown, and the fact you’ve maybe allowed such a shitass to run a restaurant is… troubling, at the least.
DO you know how much I would have liked to defend you, given how much I really liked your personality, life-story and recipes? Do you know how shitty it is you’ve given me NO GODDAMN CHOICE but to hate you? Because we have an obligation, as a society, to hate racists and racism. It’s the only way we ever get better.
Get your shit together, lady. I don’t think it’s too late for you to work on becoming a better person, but you don’t have forever. Instead of weeping on television and making garbled apologizes, consider doing something that matters. Volunteer. Protest. WORK against racism. One thing I’ll give you – I think you’ve worked hard your entire life. So work for a greater good. Doesn’t mean I’ll ever forgive you, but maybe you’ll be able to live with yourself again. Some day.