Saturday, June 22, 2013

Where Are Paula Deen's Black Friends?

It's funny to me that Paula Deen became "Racist of the Week" as I am in the midst of reading Baratunde Thurston's hilarious satire text How to Be Black.  Just as the headlines hit that Paula Deen was being sued by a former employee and the details of her frequent use of the N-word became public, I had just read Thurston's characterization of the nationally important Black Friend.  In short, Thurston describes the Black friend as critical double agent who is able to maintain their "blackness" while being equally skilled at navigating mainstream spaces.  Thurston goes on to detail the types of instances where a Black Friend keeps controversy from arising, and the Paula Deen moment is a perfect example of where a one would've been useful.

It boggles my mind that in 2013 there are still people who don't have to deal with someone of a different ethnicity in some way shape or form, that would help them understand the PC rules for being a public figure.  This is particularly the case for someone like Deen who has a career based in making diabetes-causing Southern comfort food.  George W. Bush had Condi and Colin Powell, Frank Sinatra had Sammie Davis, Jr., Forrest Gump had Bubba (I know, that's a stretch).  When I heard of how Deen allegedly said out loud that what would really make a good Southern wedding would be to have a "bunch of little Ni&&ers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties", I immediately thought No Black Friends.  Which is unfortunate for Deen because now she's going to lose her contract on the Food Network, and probably a few endorsements.  She'll be in image rehab sessions with Michael Richards reminiscing about how big they used to be.

As a Black Friend to more than a few, I pride myself on steering my friends of different ethnicities away from behavior that might cause them public humiliation.  It's not even anything that I have to do explicitly.  If they are really my friend, then feeling like they would have any license to use the N-word around me or any other Black person should never cross their mind.  If they're my friend, then I can tell when a question is asked out of true curiosity as opposed to mockery (Do Black people tan?)  I thank Paula Deen for the most recent reminder that we do not in fact live in a Post-Racial world, and I call upon all fellow Black friends to keep educating the masses.  This is the only way that we'll make progress.  If you're tired of teaching, buy a copy of How to be Black for a friend.  They'll be entertained and educated at the same time.

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