Prejudice is more than just one word

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The brouhaha over use of the N-word more than 30 years ago by television celebrity Paula Deen has created a firestorm of racial division in an over-hyped, partisan media feeding frenzy.

Deen has joined a growing list of notables - remember Jimmy the Greek? - who have unwittingly stepped into the national dialogue on race.

It is at this point in the column where I should say the obligatory, "Deen was clearly wrong to use that offensive term."

But then the hypocrisy begins.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pulled her cooking products from its shelves, sponsors pulled their advertising support and at least four of her restaurants were shuttered.

But at the same time, does Wal-Mart not continue to sell rap CDs that are littered with that word and more - much more?

Is our double standard so entrenched that a sincere apology for a misspoken word has no value? Do we actually end lifetime careers for the uttering of an ugly word in a bygone day?

Apparently in the new normal, we do.

So now we have a new litmus test to determine the character of others. And if that's where we're drawing the line, would it not be appropriate to ask the same question of others?

How many politicians - regardless of color - have said the same word? And Hollywood, you don't get a pass either.

Let's put on record the responses to the same question posed to Deen.

But wait - let's examine a whole array of inappropriate words that have been uttered from every mouth in this country.

The N-word is an ugly relic of an ugly past. On that you'll find universal agreement.

But that solitary word does not hold a monopoly on hurtful and demeaning words that are casually used in our society.

So if we want to open wide this national discussion, then all words are fair game.

The boiling issue right under the surface of our national debate is brought to light when incidences like Paula Deen surface from time to time.

But those hypocritical national discussions end with one word from one mouth.

If we're going to have this debate, then let's be honest and open and fair-minded.

Prejudice - real or perceived - cuts across all ethnic lines and includes much, much more than one single word.

If Paula Deen can be the new poster child in this ugly debate, then let's look around with an honest eye and apply that very same standard to any and all.

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