I am a chickenshit.
I have been avoiding the Paula Deen debacle because I LOVE Paula Deen. I love her southern accent, her oh-so-bad-for-me recipes, I just love her. And I didn’t want to not love her anymore.
Like a kid who finds out that Mickey Mouse is really just a man in a costume, I’ve been dreading the moment I would become disenchanted. Because I knew I would. Because whether she said the word, typed the word, or was just present when the word was used, what happened was wrong, no matter how it’s spun.
See, it’s not about whether something is meant in an offensive way. If it’s an offensive word, it shouldn’t be used. As I shared with Jen, I am Native American and have referred to myself as an “injun” often. When I first met my fiance, it made him hunch his shoulders…and he’s not Native. He couldn’t believe that I would use such a word. I argued that it wasn’t hurtful, because I am an Indian. (Much to the line of the I can use the N word because I’m African-American.)
It wasn’t until I read a post from Paula over at Band Back Together that I stopped and really looked hard at the language I use. I grew up using the R word, it was slang in my peer group. We also used words like gay and homo. In fact, my own family still uses these words. Did I know they were wrong? Sure. Did I know they might offend someone? Yup. My defense? I don’t mean them that way.
It took someone opening my eyes to realize it doesn’t matter how you mean something. Someone else may still be offended by that word or phrase. And how do you defend your actions when if someone called you a certain word, you’d be upset?
I’ve made a conscious choice, in my household we don’t use anything that may be offensive. We don’t use the R word, we don’t ask “Know how I know you’re gay?” and we don’t call Mama an injun. There are people I’ve come to love that would be appalled, if not outright angry, if they heard these phrases from me, whether they were meant in jest or not. My son knows that even though Grandpa may say it, it’s wrong and we don’t tolerate it here. I cannot change my parents or even my father-in-law. I cannot erase my past and pretend that I didn’t use harmful language. But I can change. And I can make sure that my son knows how to be respectful when he speaks, not just in front of others, but all the time.
As for Paula Deen…
Well, I won’t be watching her on TV anymore. I won’t be buying her products. I will be keeping her in my thoughts, though. Hoping that she has learned the error of her ways. That maybe she will change. That she will own up to what happened, what she allowed to happen, and that she will apologize.
It’s never to late to admit we were wrong.