[R]acism is no simple matter of top/down: it is bottom/up, in/out, port to starboard, and stem to stern. Opting to look at it as a unilateral project is to deny individual participation in its maintenance (i.e., reverse racism, inter alia) and risk becoming co-conspirators of oppression in all its forms: marginalization, disenfranchisement, discrimination, and dispossession across myriad social strata; to include, but not limited to: Indigeneity, disability, gender nonconformity, sexual diversity, destitution, et cetera, et cetera…
s/n: I have been asked (some time ago) if I was a white apologist/sympathizer, and I recall thinking “has this fool lost his ever-lovin’ mind.” But, no matter what my response was then, I’m certain he would today indict me on grounds of treason against every non-white person—expecting me to plead insanity—were he to read this response about “Momma Deen” (term of facetious endearment). Call her what you will; this woman was America’s beloved icon of home and hearth before June 2013.
Paula Deen was an easy target: her sins were revealed in their immediacy. The theatre of the antebellum South had merely changed actors and Paula was cast in the lead role. She was cooking in public and oppressing in private, that is, until she was “outed.” Her performance was convenient for lambasting, but that enactment is a relic; it is more an archaeological discovery than an accurate portrayal of racism in its ubiquitous forms and functions today.
Moreover, thrusting Paula into the limelight insinuates the torrid notion of a post-racial society, one which, she alone so happened to desecrate.
But, in the same breath it took to convict Paula of “first degree oppression,” there was, and remains, this active campaign to forego the absolution of individual ‘participation in’ and ‘preservation of’ the living, time-honored, cultural institution of racism and racializing rhetoric.
“We are easily shocked by crimes which appear at once in their full magnitude, but the gradual growth of our own wickedness, endeared by interest, and palliated by all the artifices of self-deceit, gives us time to form distinctions in our own favor.” ~Samuel Johnson~
That said, and despite popular outcry, Paula Deen offered public repentance for the preservation and practice of her antebellum heritage. However, her appeals for forgiveness, falling on deaf ears, were regrettably interpreted as inauthentic, which begs the question: given Paula Deen’s social identity as a white woman, with down-home syndrome, and upper echelon status, was she ever going to be received, and will she ever be perceived, as authentic and truly remorseful?
But whether she was—or was not—authentic in her capitulation is of no consequence to me. That is between Paula Deen and republican Jesus. My grievance is with the pundit’s willful neglect to engage in remedial discourse.
This is no plea to exonerate Paula Deen. My argument is thus: Critique(s) and discourse(s) of racism need to be, first and foremost, listed amongst the ingredients included [within] the recipe for a cultural salve (read: medicine) meant to heal the malignancy of racism. Critique alone is insufficient for treatment and too many doses causes toxic levels of academic chauvinism; whereas, discourse alone, is no more than a cultural placebo (read: snake oil). Racism is far beyond a novel phenomenon, but ‘prescriptions for healing’ are as rare as men’s birth control.
This “episode” was a prime opportunity to (I love this cliché) “come to Jesus” in an (inter)national conversation about racism, and what then can be done to find a cure for this affliction and the aforementioned modes of oppression. That is, of course, assuming, the underlying objective is to perform some holistic cultural healing. It’s not just about whether Paula was guilty or not—it’s about owning up to individual, self-stylized brands of racism.
While lighting a fire beneath Paula’s feet…Individuals are encumbered by “rationalized deficits” of courage when it comes to the painstaking work of self-examination, bringing to light the “roles” each individual constituent of western civilization assumes in the theatre of a globalized antebellum.
‘Every minute of every hour’, waterborne vessels bearing containers, ripe with the matériel harvest of exploitation and disenfranchisement, breach impregnable boundaries of the US and its allied territories filling ports with all the luxuries that constitute Western civilization as it is today. Moreover, these containers, come also, solemnly-filled with lives and livelihoods folded neatly and packaged, ready for American consumption (on credit, no less, meaning: ‘purchasing life’ with no money down on a deferred payment plan, to be paid whenever, if ever).
The gist: “inconsistencies in critique of racism lead toward absolving individual complicity of racism and ultimately undermining genuine claims of racism” ~mourning son~
Should Paula Deen ‘take the weight’—alone? The dissolution of racism requires a ‘moving into one’s self’ to move toward an ‘other self’. Reconciliation can begin, (again, assuming this is the intention of critique and discourse), through jettisoning hateful prejudices meant to buttress a false sense of self-worth vis-à-vis dehumanizing others, albeit, for the very same crimes (against humanity).
The scope of this blog post has been to emphasize the ineptitude of self-serving critique and the “placebic” effects of (re)activist discourse, which, both alone become racializing agents painting the color lines darker, driving the wedge of suspicion and fear that much deeper into the heart until cleaving communities in two. Racism has become an ostensibly normal and naturalized social behavior, making it all the more volatile, but no matter how well accepted it maintains a clear and present danger to the sanctity of all life.