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Saturday, June 22, 2013

From One Southerner To Another

Dear Paula ~

I know I don't mention it often, but I am indeed a southerner. My heart has me from New England, but that is my heart. My heritage is all South.

I want to tell you I understand. That I get that the south is different. That it used to be even more different. That our culture is more resigned to racism and that, while we don't condone it, we also understand the difference between true racism and what you have been doing. I know these arguments. I have heard these arguments. I can quote them, chapter and verse. After all, I am a southerner.

Which is the issue here, Paula. I am a Southerner. I was raised by Southerners. While you are older than I, you are younger than my father, only a few years younger than my mother. You are barely the babysitter generation to me and my peers. And my parents never used the words you claim to have learned not to use. They never held the attitudes you say you have lost.

My parents were white and privileged, so I guarantee you they were not perfect. No more than I am. But I guarantee you, Paula, they didn't require a lawsuit to check that privilege. And they certainly didn't need one to check mine. I remember being 13 or 14, when I announced that I had come to learn there were black people and then there were n*****s and they were totally different. Those parents ~ those Southern parents who were not that much older than you are ~ shut that shit down. They shut that shit down hard. 

I want to tell you I understand, Paula, because I have always liked your on air persona, and feel that perhaps it matches your real life one. You are funny and bubbly and kind and I liked what I knew of you. Plus, there's that Southern thing, that as much as I run from it, I do find comfortable and familiar.

I want to tell you I understand ~ but I can't. The arguments don't hold water. The explanations aren't true. You have no excuse. 

You say you are learning. Good. I hope that's true. I will never begrudge someone a life lesson. They are always reason to celebrate. But I want to see you learn. I want to see you live it. I want to see you change your thoughts the same way you changed your diet. Otherwise, Paula, they are just words. Words I don't understand.

Sincerely,

The Boston Pobble

Those are Pobble Thoughts. That and a buck fifty will get you coffee.

10 comments:

Mike Christie said...

I'm a born and bred Californian, so I don't really have standing to comment, and I can't really relate. But I have to say, very, very well written. And that integrity reflects what I know of your mother and what I have read her and you say about your dad.

Neo-Prodigy said...

Excellent piece.

A friend and I were chatting and he made the best point. When it comes to Southerners, they are often the two extremes.

They can be the kindest, most genuine people you will ever meet, and they can also be the cruelest and most malicious.

I think Deen's on air persona displayed the former which is what made her a hit, but it seems her true nature might be more akin to the latter which appears is going to be her undoing.

BostonPobble said...

Mike Christie ~ Thank you. And yes, both my parents had/have integrity to spare.

Neo-Prodigy ~ Your friend's point is spot on. I think you're right about her, which makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

Fellow southerner here: Your experience isn't the same as hers. Don't expect that just because your parents taught you the "right" way to be that hers did too. You said you learned that there is a difference between black people and n*s? Someone taught you that, and that person, their parents, and many friends believe the same things- and think they're being enlightened and non-racist (silly, but true). So, sure, her behavior looks really bad. But there is a cultural explanation. While she doesn't deserve to keep her job, she doesn't deserve to be slandered endlessly.

BostonPobble said...

Anonymous ~

1. Legally, truth is an absolute defense against a claim of slander. While I cannot speak to anything else you might have read, or that anyone else might have written, here in this space, there has been nothing but truth, therefore, no slander.

2. My experience was unique and I am grateful for that. I read another article by a black, southern, male chef who was actually grateful that she admitted to having used to N-word, because the southern culture is still so deeply rooted in racism, and was so much more at the time she admits to using the language. That being said, her experience, unlike mine, has included greater exposure to the world and its people than I can ever hope to have. The fact that no one taught her better at 13 is not an excuse for a 66 year old woman.

3. Along those lines, the implication that simply because a 66 year old woman was not taught something in her teens, or even ever taught something explicitly by someone, that she is incapable of, or exempt from, learning it, is far more insulting ~ to the point of bordering on slanderous ~ than anything I've said here.

4. She isn't being slandered "endlessly." The public is talking about a public figure who has made her reputation in part based on us liking her, while the events are still going on.

5. Even, for the sake of argument, let's agree that it has been being discussed for too long and it was time to move on. his blog *had* moved on to something completely different, and yet I am now having to reply to a comment from a defender who is not letting Paula/us/the world/the commenter/or me, the Pobble, move on. So...who is keeping the spotlight here and keeping this going on "endlessly?"

6. Paula, herself, has now backed off from her apologies and her promises to learn from this. She has stated she is what she is and she's not changing. Truthfully, I admire that level of honesty more than the faux apologies that tend to be all the rage and mean nothing more than "I'm so sorry ~ I got caught." Nonetheless, she, too, is continuing this saga. It will be time to stop talking about her racism when she stops excusing it and others stop making apologies for it.

7. Yes, the south has its own culture. But we, as human beings, change and grow and throw out things that don't work, no longer serve us, or are otherwise holding us back all the time. We have thrown off cultures of cruelty, of ignorance, of oppression. We learn, we grow, we change. We do not have to look at something and say "oh, that's bad. That hurts people. Well, there's nothing we can do about it because it's the culture." As a southerner, I know as well as you do all the influences from the south and our culture. But I also know we are better than this. We just are. And to deny that by blaming our culture does us too great a disservice and I won't co-sign on it.

cats said...

amen pobble! yes, our culture helps create who we are, but at some point we need to take responsibility for who we are regardless of where we came from.

owning up to who we are, rather than blaming anything and everyone else, is a grown-up thing to do. keep spreading that truth - just like you always do.

BostonPobble said...

Cats ~ Thank you. :)

CrowMother said...

You are my favorite reality check of all time! I wish I had your talent for bullshit detection and your eloquence for composting it into something worthwhile! Thank you.

BostonPobble said...

CrowMother ~ My bullshit detector is pretty solid. My ability to compost is less reliable. But thank you.

BostonPobble said...

Anonymous ~ 1. Your comment was marked as spam, and potentially hazardous so I'm not publishing it. HOWEVER! 2. I have dug around in blogger and can't find a way for me to deactivate that on my end. Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Know I did try.