The whipped up Paula Deen racism controversy is a bad thing because real racism does exist and it’s awful. To set Paula Deen was the standard for racism lowers the bar so much that actual celebrity racists with recent history of such racism like, let’s say, Mel Gibson and his misogynist, racist crazy abuse of his girlfriend must be laughing manically in Malibu somewhere. Of course, Mel was probably doing that anyway. By the way, I believe Mel Gibson absolutely should have been condemned for what he said.
The controversy over what Paula Deen said in 1986 reminded me of the shock I had watching the 1980 film The Blues Brothers recently. I hadn’t seen it in twenty years, at least.
The Blues Brothers script was written by Dan Aykroyd, who is not only white but also Canadian, which I believe makes him extra white, technically. At one scene early in the film, the character played by music legend Cab Calloway–who is black–says to them:
“What’s one more old nigger to the board of education?”
I was take aback for a second when I heard that line. Whoa. Times have changed.
I don’t believe for a second that Aykroyd would have written that in a script today. He would have said the same thing in some other way. It took me out of the film for a moment; it was that jarring.
But in 1980, I don’t think it caused a stir. I don’t know why. It was a different time. I don’t think Aykroyd is a racist for writing it. I don’t think the audience in 1980 was racist for not freaking out about it. I think the shock today is progress.
I don’t believe Paula Deen is a racist but more to the point, I certainly don’t think she’s more racist today than she was 30 years ago. Her public beating has helped nobody.