Finding our new, old road to God | Bellevue First Congregational Church, Bellevue, WA
(I am posting an article written by Pastor Kevin Brown for our Church newsletter. Well said, Kevin!)
I am puzzled. How is it that Paula Deen has become the face of racism in America? It is my understanding that she admitted that she had used the “N” word in the past and recognizes that it was wrong (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/19/paula-deen-racist-comments-n-word-caught-on-video_n_3467287.html for a transcript). Frankly, I would question the veracity of any Southern white person of her age who claimed never to have used That Word, which certainly does not make it right, but that is the reality of folks of that generation who grew up in the South.
There are many levels of racism; one does not have to be a sheet-wearing, cross-burning Kluxer to qualify as a racist; other of Ms. Deen’s comments, such as reflecting on the romance of southern plantation weddings with African-American servants, or telling an African-American employee to move away from a black board since he couldn’t be seen there, clearly reflects her complete lack of sensitivity to people of color – a clear mark of racist tendencies. She has acted boorishly, no question, but how is it that with the Supreme Court having gutted the Voting Rights Act, with one politico having stated that Mr. Obama “shucked and jived” his way into the White House while another called him “the food stamp president” that Paula Deen is labeled as the racist? She has lost her television contracts while the others remain on the screen and retain their paychecks? Do we reward the veneer of civility even as we accept the reality of life destroying behaviors? Do we quietly affirm that if we refrain from overt intemperate language that covert racism is acceptable? One commentator suggested that the actions of Ms. Deen represent Racism 1.0, while the more subtle racism of Scalia, Palin, et al represents Racism 2.0, which is far more dangerous precisely because it is covert.
As many African-American writers such as Robin Ford have posited, we are not a post-racial society: “”
Many years ago the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the book Moral Man and Immoral Society. His thesis was that what we find intolerable in individuals – like racist language – we find acceptable in larger, corporate behaviors. The words and actions of Paula Deen help reveal the depth of the problem in America and perhaps that is why she is being punished. She was foolish enough to admit her racist attitudes. Her words and actions revealed that the emperor has no clothes and for that uncloaking she has become the face of racism … a further effect of Racism 2.0, an ad hominem attack that allows the more destructive effects of racism to remain in the shadows. The words of Paula Deen and the corporate actions which followed clearly show that we are still far from the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is a lot of work yet to be done. See you in church,