In the wake of Paula Deen's career, the autopsy is offering some provoking insights. Paula Deen justified her proclivity of causally using the n-word and planning a wedding with black servers dressed as slaves by way of her southern roots.
That's like saying, "Yes, I persecuted the Jews but it was all the rage! You can't blame me without blaming everyone."
While we certainly can, and will judge her regardless of where she's from, and freedom of speech issues aside, a wedding with slaves? This is more something a Sacha Baron Cohen character would devise not a beloved, if duplicitous TV star. You'd think someone who injects her cooking with a tub of butter would have better taste.
This use of culture as a scapegoat for indiscretions throws how we view our identity into question. It’s comforting to understand your identity, to know who you are. Yet there’s a big difference between knowing your identity and excusing your behavior by way of geographical-proxy.
I know I'm American, but I'm neither ashamed nor proud. It was the place I was born, raised, and reside. I had no say in the matter to begin with so how can I claim to be proud of something I had no role in? Is our identity esoteric to our blood? Maybe if we're from a long line of Albinos. Does our ancestry really play such a huge role in our current circumstances? The choices we make? In cases such as our familial history, do we study the past to learn from it, or dwell on it?
The fact that I'm part Polish means to me that if there was ever a nuclear holocaust or any sort of post-apocalyptic scenario, my family might fare better than most. This is not because I associate Polish people with great survival skills; rather we're prone to eating anything that isn't nailed down.
Here's a brief summation of things I've heard family members say over the years.
"It was only in the cat's dish for a second"
"I noticed the milk was lumpy, I told myself I'd give it another day then throw it out"
"cut around the mold"
"I'm eating rancid meat right now”
“I split my leg open saving a waffle from an upturned lawn mower"
Our diets could sometimes be described as a cross between third world country provisions and what the survivors of The Road might have eaten. This is not because we are destitute by any means. We simply love food, and we're not always so fussy about its condition or resemblance to plant or animal.
This doesn't mean I would cop-out if I ate my friend's entire birthday cake by way of "well, I am Polish so it was kind of your fault leaving it on the counter." Paula Deen can't shed her crocodile tears while blubbering that its common where she’s from and that she's so sorry for ever using such a hurtful word. All the while in the interview with Matt Lauer, Deen is digging herself deeper and deeper into a hole by first denying she's said the n-word multiple times, and contradicting herself later by confirming in her deposition that it was as freely used as the heart-attack inducing indigents in her cooking.
America will begrudge you a generous amount of slack but you have to admit you were in the wrong wholeheartedly. See Letterman's apology after sleeping with women from his show or Christian Bale's apology after his infamous tantrum on the set of Terminator Salvation. Mel Gibson went to great lengths to repair his image but his virulent voice mail to an ex-girlfriend did him no favors and he’s still very much in the red. At least Gibson was drunk the first time speech-of-questionable-taste was recorded, and it wasn’t a premeditated affair like say, planning a major event with slave roles. Some missteps in speech can be chalked up to lapses in judgment but there’s no defending bad taste.