Poor Paula Deen. She was fired from her job with the Food Network for the unforgivable sin of having been born in Albany, Ga., in 1947. Having been born in Porterdale, Ga., a mere five years later, I will be castigated for even thinking about coming to her defense in print and painted with the same wide brush that is currently applying the tar to poor Paula. The feathers will come later.
The South of the '40s and '50s was a segregated South. A majority of white people -- not all, but a majority, as evidenced by election results and common commentary of the day -- desperately wanted the region to remain segregated. Their elected officials knew then, just as elected officials know now, that the best way to keep a job was to give the voting constituency what it wanted. If that means fighting to keep an entire race of people relegated to second-class citizenry, then so be it.
No matter how distasteful it now seems, the two primary races in the South referred to one another according to the color of their skin. There were not just people in the South (or the North), there were white people and colored people. Honkies and crackers and Negroes and the word Paula Deen got fired for admitting -- under oath -- that she used 20 years ago.
I am not saying this is right. I am not defending the white or black people of my generation who used those terms. It is a part of history. It was what it was and it is what it is, and all the wishing in the world cannot change it.
Now don't hear something I am not saying. The N-word was not condoned in my household. I never heard my mother or my father use it that I can recall. I have no idea what happened in Paula Deen's South Georgia household. But guess what? I didn't spend all of my time under the watchful care of my mother and father, both of whom tried desperately to "raise me right." I spent a lot of time among my peers, and I will admit that during the 1950s and 1960s it was common for my friends and me to toss about the N-word rather nonchalantly.
If the truth be known -- and I mean the absolute truth and not the sanctimonious self-righteous version of the truth that a lot of people would puff up and claim for themselves -- most people raised in that same place and time would have to admit to the same hanging offense as I just admitted to.
That doesn't mean we use the term now. That doesn't mean we are proud of the fact that we used it then. That doesn't say a single thing about our views on race and humankind today. That just means that we came from a different place and time.
All of the hoopla over Paula Deen came because she is part-owner of Uncle Bubba's Restaurant near Savannah -- on the road to Tybee Island. It is a great little seafood place. I have eaten there many times and I will eat there again. Ms. Deen and her brother are being sued for allegedly allowing a former employee to be harassed in the workplace. The complaint is 149 pages long so I can't go into all the details here and it will take a long, drawn out hearing and a jury to determine whether there is any credence to the charges.
Of course the Rainbow Push Coalition has already done its own investigation and found Paula and Bubba guilty of this charge and created dozens of other charges as well.
None of which is the point. The Food Network didn't fire Paula Deen for being involved in a lawsuit. Anybody can claim anything in a lawsuit. They fired her for the uproar created by the admission that she used the N-word in her past.
Can you imagine what television would look like if we banned all of the people who had used that word? BET would be off the air and if Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, were still alive, he wouldn't have a chance of getting his own reality show because there are documents galore in which Honest Abe disparaged the people he would later free.
I hope and pray for a day that we can all just be people in this great nation. MLK dreamed of that day. We aren't there yet -- not by a long shot. But one day, one day I hope that we can forgive and forget the sins of the past and that people can be judged by the content of their current hearts -- even people born in Albany, Ga., in 1947.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.