Paula Deen, Proposition 8, and the sometimes-nuance of bigotry

Quite a week.

Paula Deen brings the “N” word into national discourse, and the Supreme Court strikes down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

Yet, a day after this stunning reversal in our march toward civil rights, the Defense of Marriage Act is overturned, and marriage equality is affirmed.

It’s hard to make sense of it all. But here are two lessons I’ve taken from this week.

The first lesson is about our consumer culture and the role of brands.

Paula Deen has been a train wreck this week because she doesn’t understand the difference between a celebrity and a brand. She thinks she’s a celebrity. She’s wrong.

The Paula Deen brand is a fantasy of southern warmth and graciousness, based around comfort food. It’s a fantasy world where racism (and diabetes) don’t exist.

Paul Deen (photo courtesy of the Food Network)

Paul Deen (photo courtesy of the Food Network)

The first blow to the fantasy was her admission that she is in fact diabetic. The uproar over that should have been her first clue to her existence as a brand. Consumers project their hopes and aspirations onto a brand – we all wanted to believe we could eat Paula’s butter-laden food without consequence. When you rip that dream away from us, we get mad.

We also don’t want moral complexity from our brands.

When asked under oath is she’d ever used the “N” word, Deen replied: “Of course.”

It was the worst possible answer – albeit true and authentic to her culture and upbringing. Two sticks of butter we can take, but please don’t serve us the brutal honesty, and reality, of race relations in America. No one has an appetite for that!

Failing to understand brand dynamics, her horrendous defense this week has only made the problem worse, and her brand has become aligned with Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, among others.

And the Food Network and Smithfield Foods, fully understanding brand dynamics, have run as quickly as they could away from her.

The second lesson is about our need to simplify and reduce people to a single label.

In both the Paula Deen brouhaha, and during the Prop 8 battle, we saw how people are sometimes treated as brands instead of, well, people.

Labeling Paula Deen a racist makes all of us feel better about our own degrees of racism – we can point to “it” over there, as if none of “it” was also inside of us. When we divide the world up that way, and group people as racist, homophobic, sexist, etc., we risk reducing them to something more like brands, than like the people they truly are. We deprive them of the ability to be complex, to grow, and to change. Even the redemption narrative, so common in our culture, requires a bipolar theory of life: you were one thing, now you’re redeemed and you’ve become its opposite.

This point came home to me reading about a family in California that had been very involved in the fight in favor of Proposition 8 – the ballot measure that repealed, and banned, gay marriage in California in 2008 (and was just, de facto, struck down by the Supreme Court).

From the LA Times:

Wendy Montgomery, 37, of Bakersfield and her husband supported Proposition 8 in 2008 but changed their position “180 degrees” after they learned their 13-year-old son was gay a year and a half ago. Montgomery, a practicing Mormon, said she voted for the measure and spent a couple of days canvassing and working on a phone bank for it.

“We’re Mormon. The church asked us to participate in Prop. 8, and we did, pretty much unthinking,” she said.

When her son came out, he told his parents he had at first planned never to tell them he was gay, because he thought they hated gay people because they had supported Proposition 8.

I suspect in 2008 most of us would have described the Montgomerys as homophobes and bigots.

But what seems clear now is that they are in fact thoughtful loving people who work hard to incorporate their faith with the reality of everyday life. They are complex people, capable of growth and change — and change they did, for the better. They are exactly the sort of people I’d like to have in my life, and they’ve exhibited exactly the kind of change the gay community should welcome.

That doesn’t excuse what the Montgomerys did in 2008.  But it does suggest that there was, and is, more nuance to their bigotry than first met the eye. (See Ken Mehlman, or Senator Portman.)

If we’re to stay on a path toward justice, we need to create a world where Paula Deen, the Montgomerys, the Mehlmans and the Portmans of the world are discussed in public discourse as full people, not simply as bipolar labels incapable of imperfection, or improvement. A world where their own personal growth (and the potential for it) is supported, cultivated and acknowledged, along with our own.

In the future, I’m going to try to do better embracing the complexity of my fellow human beings, and avoiding labels.

And butter.

(Originally posted by Mike Bento to his personal blog.)

Mike Bento is a branding and marketing consultant based in Washington DC, with clients in the non-profit, corporate and government sectors. Mike was one of the founding volunteers of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and serves on the board of Food and Friends, in Washington DC. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeBento.

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181 Responses to “Paula Deen, Proposition 8, and the sometimes-nuance of bigotry”

  1. Whitewitch says:

    Being a woman in her late 50’s and growing up in California I am happy to say we did not hear such language in my household…and had my mother heard it from our lips I would have been spitting soap for a week from the mouth washing I received. I am glad to say I was not raised in such a way…albeit there were problems in my family – thankfully this was not one.

  2. caphillprof says:

    Facts, not rationalizations.

  3. dcinsider says:

    I agree with SC on this one. The Montgomery’s may not have realized how vile and hateful their actions were, but neither did Southern plantation owners.

    When the Civil War ended, and those Southern plantation owners were forced to free their slaves, they did not have a change of heart about slavery. They simply lost.

    In this case, the Montgomery’s chose not to reject their child. I would hardly call that behavior to praise.

  4. dcinsider says:

    Wish I could like something more than once.

  5. Turanga Leela says:

    “I knew enough to be a decent human being at 10”

    So what happened between then and now?

  6. karmanot says:

    You did know that Jackson is dead, dead, dead?

  7. karmanot says:

    Good lord, do I ever wish Joe Bageant were still here today.

  8. karmanot says:

    It’s nearly impossible to think about a D-list SiFi story like the Mormon church.

  9. Joehio says:

    And who elected you king of the gays? If you’re incapable of forgiving, I feel bad for you because you will have a miserable life. There’s a saying that ‘Resentment is like acid: it eats its own container’.And if really think you sit on some throne of judgment and can dictate who and what other people are allowed to forgive or embrace (especially John on his own blog), then you’ve got a serious delusions of grandeur.

  10. Joehio says:

    Exactly. I haven’t set foot in a church in decades and I couldn’t now believe lots of what I was taught in 12 years of Catholic school even if I wanted to. But I still absolutely believe this – there is no such thing as good or bad people, only good or bad actions and thoughts. The nuns taught me that, and I still believe it. No, make that know it. The longer I live, the more I see that nobody is even close to perfect, that even the best people do some crummy things and the people you want to give up on will sometimes pleasantly surprise you.

  11. Houndentenor says:

    I completely agree about what passes for leadership these days. I respect the people who stood up for gay rights before it was a popular thing to do. Waiting until marriage equality was polling over 50% was hardly courageous. Jumping on the bandwagon before it speeds away from you is hardly an act of leadership. Sadly, there are too many pollsters, advisers and consultants around any elected official these days. I think many start out meaning well but after a few years even they don’t know what they think about any issue without consulting the latest focus groups.

  12. Joehio says:

    Not really. To me, this is just another example of how our understanding of nearly everything is socially conditioned. That was the whole point of Michel Foucault’s body of work: our concepts of criminal, of healthy and sick, of sane and insane, of “normal” have changed over time as society has changed.

    I believe all the credit for the victories we have seen lately really goes to the people who started changing the culture decades ago. Armistead Maupin, Patricia Nell Warren, Alice Walker, Larry Kramer, Ru Paul, Elton John, Ellen Degeneres, Martina Navratilova, Greg Louganis, “La Cage aux Folles” and “Will & Grace” all did more to promote equality than any current politician or judge, because they changed the way our society thinks.

    The politicians and judges are really just playing catch-up to a society that changed around them while they were all just timidly watching the poll numbers. Harvey Milk was a real leader who tried to advance equality and freedom before society was there and he paid the price. The current batch of pretend “leaders” are really followers who are acting in self-interest after the fact because they realize that the ground has shifted beneath them.

  13. karmanot says:

    “Should we keep criticizing him for it” Damn right!

  14. karmanot says:


  15. karmanot says:


  16. karmanot says:

    Especial if they have the only restroom around.

  17. karmanot says:

    I remember those days in the early 60’s. Apparently two down arrow racists disagree.

  18. benb says:

    Just that I don’t feel any animus behind the OMG-I-cant-believe-she-said-that things I’ve heard and read that she’s said. Maybe she’s just struggling to save her empire but she acts so bewildered about the public’s reaction …could it be that she doesn’t understand why her words are so offensive? I don’t feel outraged.

    But the alleged stuff at her restaurant…sexual harassment & discrimination…I can see a situation where she (or any successful ‘traditional’ woman who employs a lot of family and friends in her business) would pretend it wasn’t happening.

  19. GarySFBCN says:

    Nice perspective, Mike! What’s problematic for me is that everyone is focusing upon the ‘n-word’ The deposition contains other troubling allegations that nobody is discussing: That the restaurant the Paula owns with her brother would not allow black workers to use the ‘front’ restrooms – only customers and white workers were allowed, that black workers had to use the back entrance, etc.

    And as others have posted here, if Paula said ‘unfortunately I did use that word’ instead of ‘of course I used the word’ (as if it was obligatory), this would feel a bit different.

    It smells like racism, and no amount of flowery scents can hide that.

  20. Bill_Perdue says:

    We you part of the Obama re-branding effort?

  21. mirror says:

    Sometimes all that “nuance” is just a thick layer of self-deception and self-justification that needs some serious pounding to break through. Michael Stivic was right then and he would be right now.

  22. mirror says:

    I think it is clear that gays compromising LESS in the last 10 years that has had a rapid dramatic successful impact. I think a lot of these people got tired of seeing their beliefs and actions called hateful bigotry and started questioning whether there was really a basis for what they were doing that they wanted to be part of their self-identity.

  23. FunMe says:

    PS: as vejo points out below, Melhman caused A LOT of damage. That is not forgivable in just one second.

  24. FunMe says:

    Love you John! But, I wouldn’t be hailing the efforts of Melhman until many years have passed and he truly has redeemed himself.

  25. FunMe says:

    When you have VERY wealthy gay donors who will NOT give to your reelection in 2012, you have only 1 thing to do regarding gay marriage equality:


    Otherwise, lose so much money needed for your reelection.

  26. FunMe says:

    Those parents sound SELFISH … they only care for an issue if it affects THEIR family. Soooooooo wrong!

  27. It's not just about the racism says:

    She won’t have to wrestle now with that particular ethical dilemma. Novo’s dropped her like a hot potato so she can wrestle with all her other ones:

    Novo Nordisk is the sixth company to end their Deen endorsement deal. A
    company spokesperson told Forbes they’d consider getting back into
    business with her once she’s regained the trust of her audience. “It
    does leave us with an option,” said Novo Nordisk’s Ken Inchausti, “but
    she needs to focus on rebuilding her relationship with the public.”

  28. emjayay says:

    Again, the Republicans he supports damage all people every minute of every day in many, many ways.

  29. emjayay says:

    Did to fellow gays? He worked to elect George W Bush. The damage his administration did to ALL Americans in a million ways was unprecedented.

  30. emjayay says:

    Almost like?

  31. emjayay says:

    Yes, but it seems to me being a Mormon takes an extra level of suspension of disbelief. Believing stuff mostly shrouded in the mists of prehistory on the other side of the world is one thing. Believing a transparent scam promulgated in post-Enlightenment basically modern contemporary times right in your own country by some grifter, including disappearing golden disks and magic translator rocks and unknown planets and absurd ideas about Indians being Jews or something plus of course polygamy is definitely a step beyond.

  32. emjayay says:

    Wow. Did not know that.

  33. emjayay says:

    For some reason I keep thinking about that other hypocritical rich white trash woman from up North. Way up North.

  34. emjayay says:

    Oh my….

  35. judybrowni says:

    So fucking what.

    I knew enough to be a decent human being at 10: she has no excuse at 65.

  36. Indigo says:

    She’s got everybody’s attention for now but as our author said, she’s a brand not a celebrity and her brand is kaput. She might be back in a year or so but for now she’s as dead a brand as there is. The longer she’s defiant, the longer she’ll be gone.

  37. Jim says:

    I suggest next time you’re typing in a doctor’s office, you don’t make sweeping generalizations that you can’t defend. You’re spposed to be a reporter. And since this isn’t your posting, maybe you shouldn’t involve yourself in what was a comment to the author. But, then, I’ve gotten the impression you quite love your own voice.

    Apples and oranges with Bauer: Bauer isn’t gay. Since you couldn’t figure it out, I’ll make it explicit: those who betray their own deserve a heightened condemnation.

  38. caphillprof says:

    Your experience is not the same as hers.

    Subject: Re: New comment posted on Paula Deen, Proposition 8, and the sometimes-nuance of bigotry

  39. cole3244 says:

    they participated without thinking, most bigots don’t think until it hits home then they become tolerant of their own, if you can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes you are at a bare minimum intolerant and callous.

    paula deen is backtracking out of greed not passion & i for one am not falling for it.

  40. It's not just about the racism says:

    Awww…remember her darling little crazy talk show with Jm J. Bullock?

    ♫ Two times the fun…Three times the makeup! ♫

    Blast from the past, anyone?

  41. BeccaM says:

    I’m not saying she hasn’t a deep streak of self-hating sexism, too. But Benb seemed to be trying to say Deen’s racism wasn’t really her fault, that it didn’t reflect her true opinions but those of the men around her.

    I disagreed. And I still do.

  42. It's not just about the racism says:

    True enough, but explaining to a female restaurant that yes, she’s totally qualified for a promotion, but it won’t ever happen because Jamie and Bobby would never stand for a woman telling them what to do…that’s sexism.

    Refusing her a raise because the men on staff wouldn’t tolerate a woman making as much as they do…that’s sexism.

    If the allegations are true, then PD and her family weren’t even savvy enough to internalize it. They thought they could come right out with the crazy and nobody would ever call them on it.

  43. karmanot says:

    “It’s racism. And Paula Deen should be made to own it.” Oh, the irony—-good one Becca!

  44. karmanot says:

    rotfl! :-)

  45. BlueIdaho says:

    Oh goodness gracious. Talk like that makes me want to swoon. :)

  46. BeccaM says:

    Wanting a wedding reception staffed by tap-dancing African American children dressed in short pants and bow-ties like they used to wear in the Shirley Temple movies isn’t internalized sexism or deferral to males.

    It’s racism. And Paula Deen should be made to own it.

  47. karmanot says:

    Bobbi Lee Bubba and Missy Sas Scarlet are just have’un a hissy over diss’un the old South and Miss Paula!

  48. benb says:

    My feeling is that it’s really about sexism, that special kind of sexism in the South, culturally endemic, ‘Biblically’- backed, internalized sexism that can cripple Southern women like some horrible genetic disease, switching off their brains and making them defer to the men around them.

    I say send Paula Deen to a Womyn’s Collective in Oregon for six months as an intervention.

  49. It's not just about the racism says:

    Her lawyers may have put her up to it (go on out there and make yourself the victim, quick!) Hell, maybe her lawyers are family members too.

    Or, maybe she’s so stubborn that she went against their advice and they just threw up their hands. No matter how this works out, the lawyers are getting paid.

    Waiting for the follow-up media tour from dear old Uncle Bubba: “It’s hot down here in the South…we all get thirsty on the job now and again, don’t you, Matt? And I didn’t mean nothing, kissing on that grumpy little Jew gal. Why I’m just a big old friendly country teddy bear! The money? Well sure I dipped into the cash register once in awhile. It’s all in the family, and you have to know my sister, bless her, she’s just the salt of the earth, she’s not worried about any little 26 thousand dollars, hee hee hee! Guess some of our younger workers weren’t brought up with them old-fashioned values, but Paula and me, we just love life, and we know how to laugh off the small stuff.”

  50. BlueIdaho says:

    My ex-mormon friends here in the great morman back country of Idaho say that submitting annual tax returns is a requirement if you want to keep your temple privileges.

  51. BlueIdaho says:

    It must be Jamie and Bobby.

  52. BlueIdaho says:


  53. BlueIdaho says:


  54. karmanot says:

    That’s why the stopped baptizing the dead! Oh? Wait—-never mind.

  55. BeccaM says:

    If you click it again, it goes away. ;-) Or should anyway.

  56. nicho says:

    On the Mormon church thing, I think that the church might well shift its view.

    The Mormon Church is, if nothing else, a shape shifter. Any time it finds itself in political hot water, it miraculously has a new “revelation” that gets it out of that hot water. That’s how polygamy went away. That’s why they stopped making members swear a blood oath to destroy the US. That’s why they stopped openly discriminating against blacks,

  57. karmanot says:

    Racist lawyers are like flies to shit.

  58. karmanot says:

    But Tammy Faye had a heart of gold. Paula has a ball of grease wrapped in green backs for a heart.

  59. Thom Allen says:

    Paula just fainted. :^) Sorry, clicked the down arrow instead of “Reply.”

  60. MyrddinWilt says:

    I think Dean has a Hummer type problem with her brand. If it was just the racism thing she could have taken time off, done the rehab and contrition thing and returned a few years later. If it was just the diabetes thing she could have changed to make healthy food (like her son is doing).

    Both problems at once are likely to be terminal for her brand. Everyone knew that the Hummer was terrible for the environment since they started selling them to the public. But they managed to stay afloat. Then suddenly there was the Great Recession and driving a Hummer was suddenly as popular as herpes. And the brand just unwound in the space of 6 months. The environmental issues were not enough to kill Hummer on their own but they have stopped any chance of the brand being resurrected.

    Dean’s problem with racism is similar. She could probably work her way back from the racism fiasco but the racism row has reminded everyone that the lying cow was hiding the fact that her food quite literally kills people.

    On the Mormon church thing, I think that the church might well shift its view. In fact they have already shifted. In the wake of Mitt losing, the church has pulled support for anti-equality efforts that they led only 24 months earlier.

    Mormons are used to being social outcasts due to their faith. What they are not used to is being regarded as bigots themselves. And the Prop-Hate backlash has made many of them very uncomfortable about the bigotry.

    Not saying this is a given, but it is easier for the LDS to move than for the Catholic church.

  61. BlueIdaho says:

    Hey she pays good money to look that tacky. For some reason Tammy Faye Baker comes to mind.

  62. BeccaM says:

    Both of those just made my aorta pucker in dismay.

  63. karmanot says:

    Not enough. Tina Fay kissed his ass and held his hand through the whole thing.

  64. BeccaM says:

    Unsweetened Rooibos home-brewed iced tea. Sometimes with a splash of organic lemonade for variety.

  65. karmanot says:

    “she may just be culturally insensitive.” Ya think! At least she didn’t have those nigra mens dressed in waiter tuxes break into ‘Swanee River’ as the bride walked down the aisle.

  66. BlueIdaho says:

    Oh good one!

  67. Badgerite says:

    Your post is very good. But can someone explain to me why this woman (PD) did not just settle that lawsuit right off with a profuse apology to the parties involved and set about instituting changes in her management policies. If everything that was said in the lawsuit complaint was true, why in the world did her lawyers let her fight this. Why didn’t they tell her to settle and plead ignorance and subtle cultural bias that she now sees was wrong, etc….. What in the world was she thinking. That it is alright to treat the ‘help’ this way? Why didn’t her lawyers see this coming?

  68. karmanot says:

    Now there are two of us. I got your back!

  69. Hue-Man says:

    As one of the few who welcomed Sen. Portman’s change of heart, I’ve speculated that the gay and lesbian community is so used to being beat-up physically and psychologically, so used to having to fight all enemies, that it’s unable to move off its “take no prisoners” hypersensitive reaction. It’s a totally monochromatic view that does not allow for any education, any evolution, let alone rehabilitation, over a person’s lifetime. Worse, it’s a huge disincentive to the next Portman or Mehlman to come out in support and add their considerable weight to the cause. With more security at work and at home, with less public vilification and more acceptance, gays and lesbians will develop into a more conciliatory stance to new allies.

  70. karmanot says:

    I know, but her doubled buttered, sugar coated hair balls are so delicious.

  71. NCMan says:

    I may be wrong,but I thought that Mehlman still hasn’t actually apologized for the work and damage he did as Republican chairman. It’s also my understanding that he is still trying to convince people that he didn’t know he was gay at the time either.

  72. Thom Allen says:

    Using the word “snort” on a thread about Paula Deen brings up a few nasty images . . .

  73. karmanot says:

    Yep, the ole’ god bless their little pea pick’un hearts who just know we don’t appreciate the gracious ways of the old South and how well treated were the ‘coloreds” . (cept’un of course ropes, trees, white sheets, burning crosses and hoods. Oh, and voter suppression)

  74. paulabflat says:

    okay. that made me laugh.

  75. nicho says:

    I don’t know, Unitarians think a lot — sometimes too much.

  76. paulabflat says:

    “But what seems clear now is that they are in fact thoughtful loving people who work hard to incorporate their faith with the reality of everyday life.”

    hold it. right there. until it was one of their own, bigotry was okay. until then, it was okay to trammel others with their religion.
    the reality is that their religion condemns gays, actively promotes and finances large anti-gay legislation campaigns.
    what now? still going to tabernacle and repeating nonsense to a cult which is in direct contradiction to the real reality of their everyday life, in which they bore a gay son, obviously just so god could condemn him?
    why does god keep doing that? that’s sick.

  77. BeccaM says:

    Indeed. By the reports from those court depositions, Deen, her brother, and her husband all seem to be appalling people, on every level.

  78. karmanot says:

    I am definitely saving that Crisco double fried chocolate filled potato fritter drizzled with caramel sauce and covered in Jimmies recipe.

  79. nicho says:

    That’s inculcated early in childhood — as you’re being sent to your room– “I’ll be good, mom. Honest, I’ll be good. Mom? Mom? Honest, I’ll be good.”

  80. PeteWa says:

    that’s my favorite kind of unthinking.

  81. PeteWa says:

    If you actually understand the comment you are disagreeing with, SC is saying that they were persuaded, and did come around. SC is merely disagreeing with the vehicle for that growth and change, not the actual change itself.

  82. karmanot says:


  83. BeccaM says:

    True, but if you make that “Zen Buddhist” it’s an entirely different sort of ‘unthinking’. ;-)

  84. karmanot says:

    Well, god bless her lil profit driven, pea pick’un brain.

  85. karmanot says:

    Let ye without racism cast the first stone. Where’s that boulder?

  86. ThinkerT says:

    You and the people uprating you are part of the reason success will continue to be so difficult. Instead of viewing people as the complex people capable of growth and change that can be persuaded to come around and agree to our way of thinking, you prefer to view them as unthinking and hateful drones that only deserve your scorn. Thinking and referring to people in that fashion won’t win them over to our side and will make ultimate victory all the much more difficult.

  87. Thom Allen says:

    Iced tea with three tablespoons of white sugar drunk with a biscuit covered in butter and Hershey’s syrup?

  88. BeccaM says:

    I grew up in the other kind of family, where my father thought it was funny to teach his toddler kids to say the n-word.

    About the only sliver of self-awareness he had on the subject of racism was that even in the 1960s, we were soon told not to say the word in public. Nevertheless, my rejection of racism (and later, misogyny and homophobia) made me a black sheep in my own family.

  89. A) It’s not my post, so I don’t have to address everything you wrote when I’m in a doctor’s office typing on my phone :)

    B) I am suggesting what I’ve suggested multiple times on this blog and in the media. Having people like Mehlman on our side is HUGE IMPORTANT. Who do you think helped Senator Portman come out, as it were? And THAT was hugely important to the community. As was Mehlman’s letter from the 100+ republicans. Remember, part of our mission was to convince this court that moving ahead on gay marriage wasn’t contrary to the culture climate in this country. People like Mehlman helped make that happen. And he sure did help in NY and Maryland too.

    I understand why people hate him – we roasted the guy for years on this blog. But I’ll embrace Gary Bauer if he wants to turn pro-gay – that’s the strongest kind of advocate we can have.

  90. PeteWa says:

    I saw that and chuckled – do they really think I would give a shit about a downvote? LOL

  91. BeccaM says:

    Oh look — you got a downvote. Here come the inevitable racist trolls.

  92. I’ll still welcome Ken Mehlman, and have, if he wants to use his power to help gay people. I’ve seen too many examples of the years of bad people turning good, from Barry Goldwater on down, to simply write off bad people when they want to turn over a new leaf and help us. That doesn’t mean I don’t condemn their homophobia when it happens, but I always hold out, perhaps 1%, of my ire for any sign of contrition ,and if there is, and it’s sincere, I’ll embrace it.

  93. Outspoken1 says:

    To be a good ‘fill in the religion’, you have to be unthinking.

  94. Outspoken1 says:

    It is my understanding (and I could be in error), but my Mormon clients have told me that a Mormon’s income is tithed at a set rate. So if they are still Mormon, they are contributing and the church tells them what is the minimum to contribute.

    I have heard that income tax forms are to be shared with the church if the ‘donation’ is possibly too small – but I am not sure if that is factual, anecdotal or urban legend.

  95. BeccaM says:

    When they head on down into the cycle of denial and aggressive defiance, that’s when you know the apology was never really sincere, but merely self-serving.

  96. BeccaM says:

    Paula Deen and ethics? You nearly made me snort iced tea out my nose.

  97. PeteWa says:

    “I believe Paula Deen is in this third category.”

    Indeed, as Thom Allen points out above, Deen’s latest apology / excuse is a racist joke punch-line.
    a dog whistle for the like minded, I’m sure.

  98. BeccaM says:

    Thanks. I also wanted to add that there’s another type: “self-centered phony reform.”

    This is when someone disavows their earlier bigoted statements or behavior, but only after it’s clear that they’ve seriously damaged their career or financial prospects. They don’t actually give up their bigotry; all that’s happened is they’ve realized they cannot express it publicly without suffering severe personal consequences.

    I believe Paula Deen is in this third category.

  99. Houndentenor says:

    All that money and then that hair. Makes me sad that some people have that much money and still look so tacky.

  100. Thom Allen says:

    Now, back to Paula’s current situation. Did anyone else notice how her actions and remarks have changed as this unfolded? First, she was all weepy, begging forgiveness and being ashamed and apologetic. As a few more sponsors deserted her, she got a little more biblical and defiant. Saying something like, any one of you who hasn’t made a mistake can throw a rock at my head. Then Walmart, Home Depot and Novo Nordisk fled and then she really got pissy and racist, reportedly saying, “I is what I is” which was part of an old racist joke.

    Also, anybody notice that Paula’s restaurant is named “The Lady and Sons”? LADY?

  101. PeteWa says:

    Trump comes to mind.

  102. PeteWa says:

    exactly – it’s really infuriating, there is so much awful racism and sexism going on with the Deen case, and to pretend that it’s a one time use of a word “ages ago” as the media at large is presenting it, does everyone a disservice.

  103. Houndentenor says:

    I have a few Mormon friends (actually more colleagues than friends) around the country and they told many stories in 2008 of being pressured to donate money and time to the Prop 8 campaign. Of course it says something about people that it doesn’t occur to them that these anti-gay ballot initiatives are bigoted and mean-spirited until it affects someone they care about. It shows a complete lack of empathy and compassion which borders on the sociopathic.

  104. Houndentenor says:

    You can be rich and trashy. Watch pretty much any “reality” show for examples.

  105. NCMan says:

    We don’t need to keep criticizing. But, we don’t need to treat him like a hero of the community either. For example,I don’t give Obama any credit for DADT repeal. That was all Nancy Pelosi who dragged Obama kicking and screaming along with her when he didn’t want to go.

    We can certainly thank Mehlman for his work on marriage equality. But, there was no need to HONOR him as part of the “OUT 100” when he doesn’t support the rest of our agenda and continues to support Republicans who vote against us with his money.

  106. judybrowni says:

    Or mine.

  107. Houndentenor says:

    I know I’m a bit younger, but if I ever used that word my daddy would have spanked me so hard I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week! I grew up in East Texas. Other people used that word, but my family most certainly didn’t and they weren’t liberals. Just good decent hard-working people. My father considered such bigotry un-Christian and my mother thought of it as representative of the white trash she had worked her whole life to rise above.

  108. Thom Allen says:

    Moving off of the Deen bigotry topic for a moment, there’s something else she was involved with that makes me question her thinking and motives. Novo Nordisk, a huge pharmaceutical company, hired Paula to represent them and their anti-diabetes drug, Victoza for type II diabetes. There’s a strong genetic element in the causation of type II diabetes. But factors contributing to the disease are being overweight and not exercising. Paula’s meals are NOT conducive to weight loss. It’s interesting that both she, and Novo Nordisk partnered to market a drug for a disease that her recipes were “feeding.” Tends to make me think that Paula is all about making money for Paula. And the same holds true for Novo Nordisk. I wonder if Paula ever even thought about the ethics of getting involved in something like that?

  109. Naja pallida says:

    And buttered?

  110. judybrowni says:

    I was born in 1950, and yet Colored and White bathrooms and water fountains sickened me in the summer of 1960 my father had to work in Tennessee.

    Never used the N word in my life. That Paula Deen is three years older than I am, doesn’t give her a fucking pass.

    Or for someone who insists it’s de rigueur in someone from our age group.

  111. nicho says:

    I’m sassy all the time. ;-)

  112. Sweetie says:

    Perhaps. The key is that speech directed at racial minorities appears to carry a bigger price than speech directed at sexual minorities. If a comedian had joked that he would have stabbed any biracial child to save himself the horror of racial impurity I bet it would gave knocked him off 30 Rock.

    I also think it’s telling that comments from heckling and ambush are considered more offensive than prepared ones. When Helen Thomas said Jews should stop occupying Gaza, suggesting they move back to Israel, Germany, the US, and elsewhere — that was contrastingly career-ending. The most interesting part is that the comment is only racist if one believes in time travel going back, something Stephen Hawking and others have said is impossible.

  113. nicho says:

    To be a good Mormon, you pretty much have to be unthinking. Think too much and the Mormons get antsy.

  114. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I generally agree, but Mehlman is a bit different. Asking straight Republicans to support us and welcoming them when they do is one thing. Forgiving a vile closet case who led the fight to render us all permanent constitutional outcasts is a special case. I’m glad he’s doing the work he is doing too. But I also think he dug himself such a deep anti-gay hole that he’s understandably having a hard time getting lots of us to decide at what point he has climbed all the way out of it and is fit to be treated like any other gay activist.

  115. caphillprof says:

    She was born in 1947 and grew up in the South. Georgia was slow to desegregate schools and slow to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    I visited Washington DC as a child and saw a “No Coloreds Served” sign in the gift shop at Mount Vernon.

  116. Skeptical Cicada says:

    A deposition is sworn testimony under oath. You’re mixing “out of court” statements with pre-trial “testimony.” They are two different things.

  117. keirmeister says:

    And therein lies the point about encouraging allies…even reluctant or “soft” ones. I’m so gay friendly it’s been called “suspicious.” :) What would be gained by admonishing me for my youthful behavior?

    Granted, that’s an extreme example. I would imagine it might be different if my “youthful indiscretions” were only 5 years ago…

  118. BlueIdaho says:

    Not really, but it would be interesting to know how many heart attacks that one precipitated. :-)

  119. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! This has all been so marginalized by the N-word stuff.

  120. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Good question! Still just drones for their church.

  121. Skeptical Cicada says:

    I loved Eugene Robinson’s take on it. Yes, she’s a white southerner, but she’s 65, not 95!

  122. Skeptical Cicada says:

    Have to disagree about the Montgomerys. They were unthinking bigots, drones for their anti-gay church. They were not somehow won over by any appeal to fairness, reason, humanity, or anything else. They simply found out that their son was one of those disgusting faggots and were forced to either re-evaluate their hate or apply it to their own child.

  123. nicho says:

    If you like meatloaf wrapped in bacon and boiled in butter, do you really need a recipe? That’s like needing a recipe to eat Ben & Jerry’s right from the carton.

  124. BlueIdaho says:

    Well I’m just glad that I have my bacon-wrapped meatloaf in butter sauce recipe saved on my computer before she goes into oblivion.

  125. nicho says:

    She should pay up first.

  126. BlueIdaho says:

    I got in trouble the last time I said that! :-)

  127. BlueIdaho says:

    Oh please, if anyone believes she has only used the N word once then you are being very naïve. I’m sure if this ever gets to court we will find out that she has used it more than any of the rappers she was yapping about on the Today show.

  128. karmanot says:


  129. karmanot says:


  130. karmanot says:

    Double derp!

  131. karmanot says:

    Obozo did not evolve—-he punted sideways.

  132. BlueIdaho says:

    I read her biography or was it an auto-biography–I forget. Anyway what I took away from the book is that she is white trash…well I guess rich white trash now. :)

  133. vejo says:

    What Ken Mehlman did to his fellow gays all those years is epically unconscionable. He has earned the societal equivalent of life in prison without parole. He deserves no credit for any “help” now. Those victories were won on the backs of the truly courageous people, those here now and those who have come before us. He does not deserve any special credit. People like you and me and countless others who have been trying to move the ball forward do.

    Yes, I do want to see people to change, but we have to be very, very careful about giving the appearance that we forget the evil perpetrated by people like Ken Mehlman by being too generous with accolades.

  134. PeteWa says:


  135. karmanot says:

    I can just see it now: The new Deen—-Paula A-fillet.

  136. BeccaM says:

    I thought Jessica Williams’ take on it, from the Daily Show, was brilliant.

    “One slave is a lot of slaves, Paula Deen. Just one. One.”—prejudice—paula-deen-s-diagnosis

  137. BrandySpears says:

    Why don’t you ask attorney John Aravosis if out of court testimony (aka deposition) is the same as having your day in court. Don’t take my word for it.

  138. Naja pallida says:

    Maybe in her circles they do… but not in mine.

  139. BrandySpears says:

    Wonder how much money they still contribute to the Mormon coffers? They’re all still active devout church members.

  140. karmanot says:

    How about “Wa, Ah honestly don’t rememba.”

  141. BeccaM says:

    Bingo. It was EXACTLY the message they wanted to convey. And if we had any doubt, there were all those commercials they blanketed the airwaves with, just about explicitly stating that gays and lesbians were a danger to children everywhere.

    If that’s not bigoted hate, I don’t know what is.

  142. karmanot says:

    I think Brandy should just shut up, no?

  143. BeccaM says:

    …and a credulous way of expressing, “Who hasn’t? Everybody says it.”

  144. karmanot says:

    Brandy don’t know nuttin about birth’n the truth.

  145. Exactly. It almost sounded gleeful.

  146. BeccaM says:

    I, like many others, do go ahead and throw around the labels and epithets. Racist. Misogynist. Homophobe. Xenophobe. Ignorant bigot.

    I didn’t think it needed to be made clear, but maybe it does: When I say that someone is a misogynist, what I’m actually saying, but in fewer words, is that the person in question has demonstrated woman-hating behavior and/or expressed woman-hating opinions and misconceptions.

    People can change. Unlike being gay or gender identity, being a bigot is a lifestyle choice. Anybody can give it up through self-education and the adoption of a more tolerant worldview. If they develop more empathy and are willing to give up false preconceptions and stereotyping beliefs. There is such a thing as a reformed racist, misogynist, or homophobe. Sometimes they might slip and unconsciously fall into old patterns, but at least the intent to do better is there.

    The Montgomerys are apparently reformed homophobes. I’m sorry, but even if they think their support of Prop 8 was no big deal, just doing what their Mormon church asked, it doesn’t reduce their culpability. Somewhere in the back of their minds, they had to know what they were doing was to try to prevent gays and lesbians from having the legal protections of civil marriage — and whether consciously or unconsciously, this was an act of homophobic bigotry. They’re responsible.

    The other thing I wanted to note is — this is just how I feel about it — but I give one hell of a lot less credit to those people who’ll deny civil rights and dignity to others, until it happens to affect them personally. Those who are against reproductive rights, until it’s their daughter or wife with the under-age or non-viable pregnancy, or a pregnancy resulting from rape. The ones who are opposed to racial discrimination laws — until it’s their mixed-race grand-kid who encounters a racist bigot. Or, as in this case here, a family who supports anti-gay bigotry and think there’s nothing wrong with it — until it’s their son who comes out as gay. Then they’re against it.

    This is what I refer to as “self-centered reform.” Their empathy and tolerance didn’t kick in until it was about them. Which also means their changing attitudes about gay people probably only goes as far as what’s directly in front of them. And I’m afraid that while it’s encouraging, I nevertheless have a whole lot less respect for that kind of reform than I do when it’s more honest and selfless.

    As for the other topic of this post? I don’t care what the excuses were. There’s not much nuance to Paula Deen’s racism — it’s right there in the depositions. She may have made a pretty decent apology, but deep down, I rather doubt she’s given up her bizarre belief that there’s nothing wrong with her romanticizing of the South’s racist, segregationist past and her apparently core belief that African Americans are supposed to be the servants of white people.

  147. Naja pallida says:

    Well, being sassy in court gets you into even more trouble. I’m not really one to go out of my way to protect people from digging their own holes. Especially when it comes to bigotry.

  148. judybrowni says:

    If Paula Deen had replied, “Unfortunately, I have used the N word, in the past…”

    She might have been given a pass: like those who have changed their opinion on Equality Marriage.

    But that “Of course” sticks in the craw.

  149. Naja pallida says:

    All the more reason why churches should not be permitted to participate in politics. Any mention of a political cause from any church officials should be immediate grounds for removal of their tax exempt status.

  150. karmanot says:

    Ah know, an Ah regret Ah will be po again! lol

  151. He did get a lot of hell for it though

  152. That’s an interesting point. And I think judging someone a bigot has a time element to it. In your case, we’re you “homophobic” before. Maybe. Are you now? No. Should we punish you now for what you may have said or done before? Unlikely

  153. dula says:

    Well tomorrow IS another day, after all!

  154. karmanot says:

    Thirty years ago…..I imagine Ms. Scarlet has uttered ‘nigra’ more than once since then.

  155. Clearly he’s referencing the “of course!” For starters. She was painfully honest to the point of almost sounding giddy. It was the wrong tone and language both. There a myriad of ways that you can answer questions, even under oath. To a yes or no question I could answer “yes sir” or I could answer “yeah, asshole” – both are affirmations and both are true under oath, but they’d be received differently :-)

  156. karmanot says:

    Exactly! Thank you ” and we did, pretty much unthinking,””“I know that’s not the message that the Mormon Church was intending to convey,”What colossal BS!