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Everyone has heard about Paula Deen’s latest dilemma.  According to CNN.com, “accusations against Deen stem from a lawsuit filed by a former manager of Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Georgia. Lisa T. Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of Jackson’s five-year tenure at Deen’s Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House eateries in Savannah.”  She is also accused of using the dreaded n-word and of being a racist.  Deen has been very vocal about denying these allegations, claiming that she used the n-word when being held at gunpoint by an African American male about 30 years ago.  She admitted that she has used the n-word, but it was a long time ago and during a time that our country viewed other races very differently.  She also stated that she may have also said the n-word while repeating a conversation that took place between black people.

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As a result of the lawsuit and the fact that Deen has admitted to using the n-word, she has been dropped by the Food Network, by Caesars Entertainment (she has restaurants at four casinos), by Wal-Mart, by Smithfield Foods, and other sponsors are considering cutting ties as well.  Lucky for her, her cruise has gained so much popularity that a second voyage was added.  As damage control, Deen went on NBC’s Today Show for an interview with Matt Lauer.  This was her first appearance that did not involve smiles and cooking up some of her famous dishes.  She stated the following:

[In reference to the sponsors who have let her go]  “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No.  I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me.”

[In response to being asked if she is a racist]  “No, I am not.  The day I used that word it was a world ago.  It was 30 years ago.  It’s very distressing for me to go in my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other…It’s very distressing for me.  Because I think for this problem to be worked on, that these young people are going to have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throwing that word at each other. It makes my skin crawl.”

“If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you’re out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me.  Please — I want to meet you.”

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Some say the apology was decent, or at least well coached, but others think it did more damage than good.  David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a public relations and branding agency based in Suwanee, Ga., called it “the worst celebrity apology in history” and says that she “totally bombed.”  He went on to say that “by referring to “hurtful lies” and “someone evil” out to get her, as Deen did, “it’s obvious she thinks she’s the victim of this entire situation. This is a bigger issue than just her.  Instead, there were crocodile tears.”  Mark Pasetsky, CEO of public relations and marketing firm Mark Allen & CO stated  that “it was really by far the most uncomfortable celebrity interview I have watched in a very long time.  She really needed to take full responsibility for what she said, and it appeared to me that the strategy for this interview was to be pointing the fingers rather than to take responsibility.”

I fully understand that Deen grew up in a different era than I, a time that was still heavy with resentment, anger, and hatred towards other races.  I get that the n-word was once considered an acceptable term.  What I cannot accept is that during her younger years, the n-word was okay to say.  She is close to my parents in age and they sure as hell knew that there were certain words you do not say unless you’re racist and insensitive.  I won’t speculate on her level of racism, but I feel confident in saying that this beloved southern cook is most definitely a racist person, whether she will admit to it or not.

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But let us not forget that Deen is not in hot water simply for using the n-word a few times in her life.  Lisa Jackson’s lawsuit, filed last year, claims that Deen’s brother, Bubba Hiers, stated they should send President Obama to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico so he could n***er-rig it and that Deen used the n-word frequently in front of employees.  Jackson says she was appointed by Deen to handle the catering and staff for Bubba’s wedding in 2007, and upon asking what the servers should wear, Deen told her “well what I would really like is a bunch of little n***ers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.  Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”  The allegations go on, including sexual harassment allegations against Hiers, but you get the jist of it.  Jackson left the restaurant in 2010 after management did nothing to assist against her claims.

Deen has already admitted to using the n-word at the restaurant in her deposition, although she insists that it was only in recalling conversations that others had.  She insists that the use was not derogatory.  Now, I have recalled conversations that others have had and I state “n-word” and not “n***er.”  I do not see how her reasoning is a valid excuse for the language.  I do not see how “well he said it, so I can say it too” is an excuse that a grown woman should be using.  I don’t understand why her defense is that everyone screws up, that people are out to get her, saying that the person trying to ruin her with allegations is an “evil opportunist.”  She said, point blank, “there’s someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for, and they wanted it.”

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I’ve heard a lot of people getting extremely worked up over these allegations.  Their defense of Deen has been that she’s just a sweet old lady, that she grew up when it was okay to say the n-word, that it’s not a big deal, that people are jealous, and so on.  If this was simply a case of jealousy, why would her sponsors be dropping her?  Why would this lawsuit have gone so far?  Why would Deen make those admissions?  The bottom line is that Deen screwed up.  The extent of the screw up has yet to be determined, but her fans need to quit feeding her innocent victim act.  Part of being an adult (and especially a public figure) is accepting responsibility for the things you have done.  Unless she does so, her empire could very well be destroyed and millions of fans will have to get their butter fix elsewhere.

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Karma

For almost three years now, I have been working about twenty feet away from who I consider to be the most vile person I have ever encountered in my 32 years on this planet.  Not-Paula Deen, AKA Tubberpottimus, AKA Tubbs is my middle-aged coworker who has been in a government job for nearly 38 years and is still a GS7.  Most people with those years have reached GS13 at least, but she would rather be lazy than better herself by advancing and furthering her education.  She is the worst gossip I have ever met or seen on one of those terrible television shows; she finds joy in the misery of others and is not above making something up when she can’t find dirt on a person she dislikes.  She is lazy, loves to eat and complain, whines about not having enough time for her job after spending hours online shopping and gossiping, and is very mean spirited.

Tubberpottimus has tried on multiple occasions to get me fired.  She went as far as to yell at me across the office one day (conveniently when both her supervisor and our branch chief were not present).  She has lied to me, tried to sabotage me, and claimed that work I did was her own doing.  She eats like she has been raised in a barn and pops and cracks her gum loudly, insisting that anyone annoyed by the noise is simply jealous.  She berates her own husband with her friends, treats him like a servant when he comes into the office, and often eats his lunch before he has a chance to retrieve it from our office’s fridge.  She is the worst.

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A few weeks ago, I heard the fantastic news that Tubbs would finally be retiring!  I nearly did a backflip; I enjoy my sometimes boring job and love the blissful days when not-Paula Deen is out sick or on vacation.  The thought of her never returning, leaving me free to work in peace, is heavenly.  Every day that passes gets me closer to seeing her walk out the door for the final time.  She gets lazier and louder with every passing work day, but I try to stay focused on the fact that it’s one more day down in what is becoming a short road to retirement.  But just when I begin to feel that she’s out of my hair, I get tasked with planning her retirement party.

Really?  Of all the people in this office, the person who she can’t stand (and who can’t stand her right back) is told to make the plans and get things moving?  The person who got called into the chief’s office to defend herself against Tubberpottimus’s accusations has to now make Tubbs’s last day a great one?  Why not ask one of her friends in the office; she talks behind their backs too but they seem to at least enjoy her company from time to time.  I want to see her fall off a cliff; clearly I am not the one to plan a damn party for her.  I’m not the one to buy her gifts.  I’m not the one who should be trusted to make her day special.  Do you know how hard it is for me not to be a smart ass and purchase cases of Slim Fast for her party?  Or fill her cube with Cheetos?  I am not right for this!

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Sigh.  Is it karma’s fault that this was placed in my hands, or am I possibly being tested?  Whatever the case may be, I am (reluctantly) taking this seriously and doing what I can.  I have put out word in our building’s newsletter that we will be holding an open house so her family, coworkers, and others in the building can wish her farewell.  I am organizing a pitch-in lunch for the same day.  I’ve coordinated with coworkers to have balloons brought in for her open house and to assist me with decorating.  I am making signs to direct everyone to her open house.  I have started collecting money for gifts and so far I have purchased a monogrammed retirement afghan, a personalized retirement plaque, various decorations for her desk, supplies to make a large signature mat to be framed for everyone to write their farewell wishes, and various beachy gifts to get her prepared for her trip to Florida soon after retirement.

I want to be doing absolutely none of this, but I’m putting the best I have into it because I don’t know another way to do things.  Part of me is going into this as if I’m planning a party for the rest of us.  Rather than thinking of this as a farewell party for Tubbs, I’m claiming it as a HELL YES, SHE’S OUT OF OUR LIVES party for myself and other people who don’t care for her.  It helps a bit, but it’s still a struggle for me to be putting so much time and effort into someone who treats me like shit and who already whined to people to get me to reschedule the open house and pitch-in because she decided she wanted her husband (also retiring) to come to it (he works in the building, so he’s always here).  I fully expect her to whine about the gifts, whine about the pitch-in, and whine about anything else I do just because that’s what she does.  I’m so annoyed.

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All I can hope is that everyone else sees that I’m putting a hell of a lot of effort into this, that I did my best, and that any complaint she may have is being raised out of spite and pure hatefulness.  This stupid retirement party is the last step along what has been a difficult road.  I’m glad to be closing this bloated chapter in my life and getting rid of Tubbs for good.  Less than a month to go before the thorn in my side is gone for good.  Not a moment too soon….

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