An Open Letter to Paula Deen

Dear Paula,

I understand that you’re concerned over the idea that some people are more or less given passes for their awful behavior, such as Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, while your career has taken a swift nosedive since you admitted that you used a particular racial slur, even if it was, as you say, “a long time ago.”

It’s hard to take you seriously, though, when you’re still painting yourself as a victim. It’s worse when you try to compare yourself to somebody who may actually be a victim of hateful language or worse.

Just to review, here’s your statement:

“I feel like ‘embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name. It’s like that black football player who recently came out. He said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.”

First off, let’s be clear on something. These two situations don’t line up. If you wanted to say, “I don’t want to be known as a racist food personality,” while acknowledging that you are in fact racist, then you’d be a little closer. Even then, you’ve made a lot of money before your statement came to light, and you’ll continue to make more in the years to come. In fact, you recently secured a new contract worth at least $75 million. You aren’t hurting, and you’ve actually managed to come out okay from your controversy.

Second, Paula… You’re right on something. I’m sure Michael Sam doesn’t want “gay” attached to the front of “football player” every single time he’s mentioned for the rest of his life. I’m also pretty sure that he doesn’t want “black” attached in front, either. Oh, and mentioning Sam in the same breath as your “embattled” and “disgraced” comments seems to imply that he should be ashamed for being gay. Or black. Or both. Maybe that wasn’t your intent, but that’s how it comes across. And surely, after the year you’ve had, someone handling your PR should be getting you hooked up with some lessons on communication, because honey – honey, you need it.

Elijah Sarkesian

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