Do not get me wrong – I’ve never been a Paula Dean fan. I’m shocked – shocked I tell you – that a chef from the deep south has used the “n” word and allegedly engaged in other racist behaviors.
That said, I think people need to remember that children grow up believing what their parents believe, and when Paula Dean was a child most people in her world were racist – it was just how it was. They were educated to be racist by the example their parents, teachers, preachers, friends were. It takes time and education to undo that. Over the years our country has made great strides, and the attitudes of people – in the south and elsewhere -are evolving. Thank goodness! The older they are the longer it seems to take.
IMO, I do wonder, though, whether/how we should punish people for things they said 10, 15, 20 years ago – when they were on their journey. Who amongst us has not uttered things they (often immediately, sometimes not for many years later) regret in moments of anger or stupidity? Of course it should be acknowledged – but perhaps the consequences should be tempered with a bit of mercy.
Growing up in NJ I didn’t truly understand how people – otherwise good and kind people -could also be racist until I lived in North Carolina 20 years ago. I saw it, saw it being passed by example from parent to child. It shocked me, but also helped me to see how and why racism thrived in the deep south, and made me a little more tolerant of people on that “evolvement” journey.
I don’t know if Paula Dean is a racist or not, but I do think the best way for us to help people to evolve is not to attack them for what they used to believe, but to continue to encourage them to see the light.