by Mia McKenzie
Black Girl Dangerous was invited to sit down with Paula Deen, the celebrity chef who is right now embroiled in a scandal after a former employee accused her of, among other things, racism in the workplace. Deen admitted in a deposition that she has used the N-word and that she is not offended by jokes that use it, stating, “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”
I met with Deen at her home in Savannah, GA. She invited me to sit at her kitchen table where I was served coffee, and donuts wrapped in bacon, which, I won’t even lie, were delicious. Ms. Deen was wearing a simple pink frock and her eyes were as pink as the dress. She’d clearly been crying.
PD: This has all been so upsetting for me. People are saying such terrible, awful things. I don’t understand why folks don’t think before they speak. Especially in public. You know, you can really hurt someone with your words if you’re not careful.
BGD: Are you guilty of the racist behavior you’re being accused of?
PD: Oh no! Of course not!
BGD: So, you didn’t use the N-word and laugh at jokes at the expense of black people?
PD: Oh, well, yes, I did do those things. Which I am very, very sorry for. But I’m not a racist. I mean, I’m not running around in a white hood burning crosses on some darkie’s lawn like some crazy redneck! In fact, there hasn’t been a grand dragon of the ku klux klan in my family for generations.
BGD: Generations? Really?
PD: Well, a generation, at least.
BGD: A whole generation?
PD: Well…a couple weeks for sure. You know what? Let’s go ahead and call it eleven days just to be safe.
BGD: But you do understand that racism isn’t just a matter of running around in a white hood and burning crosses? That for a white person to use the N-word, and especially to use it in the workplace, is racist?
PD: I’m not following you, sweetie. You want some more butter in your coffee?
BGD: Um, no. One pat is enough, thanks. Um, Ms. Deen…actually, can I call you Paula? Ms. Deen carries with it an amount of respect that I feel unable to fake with you right now.
PD: Sure. May I just call you black girl? That’s what you go by, right? Also, I’ve never been any good at remembering nigg — erm, black people’s names. They’re so strange! Laqueefah and Janeesika and so forth.
BGD: My name is just Mia, though.
PD: Jusmia?! Lord! See what I mean?
BGD: On second thought, I think I will have more butter.
PD: You know what’s really burning my behind is all these white folks acting like they don’t use the word. Most of ’em do. And even if they don’t use it, they think it. I’ll give you an example: you’re on the freeway and somebody cuts you off. You look over and see it’s a black man. Now, you might not say, effin’ you-know-what. But most whites, north or south, are gonna think it. You see what I’m saying?
BGD: Yes. And I agree with you. Does that excuse you saying it?
PD: Well, yeah, I was kinda hoping it would.
BGD: (rolls eyes)
PD: Listen. What I really want people to understand is that I am a good person. I don’t care if you’re black, green with purple spots, super black with a big ol’ nappy afro, Mexican with one of those stinky burrito trucks, or just a normal white person. I will hire anyone to work in my kitchen, as long as they are qualified and don’t actually talk to the customers unless they are lighter-skinned than this here brown paper bag.
BGD: Why do you have that in your pocket? You just carry that with you all the time?
PD: Oh, you never know when you’re gonna have to do a shade-check. Some black people look deceptively light-skinned when they’re standing with a group of darker black people, but then when they are around white people they suddenly look all blackety-black. They go from Denise straight to Rudy on the Huxtable scale, you know what I mean? Not that I won’t hire a “Rudy”! I’m not saying that. Somebody’s gotta wash the dishes, after all.
BGD: Yes, you’ve also been accused of putting darker-skinned people back in the kitchen and only wanting whites and light-skinned blacks to interact with customers.
PD: Oh, we’ve been doing that for centuries. My great-great-great grandaddy used to put all the darker ones out in the fields and all the lighter ones in the house. Everybody did that. That’s just tradition.
BGD: Oh God. You’re talking about slavery, aren’t you?
PD: Oh, I don’t like that term. It’s so ugly. Such an ugly term for a such a beautiful time. Now, I’m not necessarily saying that enslaving a whole race is the right thing to do. But you have to admit, your people never looked classier than they did as house slaves, in their crisp white shirts and bow ties. Am I right?
BGD: (blank stare)
PD: (wide smile)
BGD: How can anyone think that using racial slurs in the workplace is acceptable?
PD: Sugar, I’m from the South. That’s just how we talk.
BGD: I know people from the South who definitely don’t talk like that.
PD: I mean respectable whites, honey, not ni**er-lovers. Look, I didn’t mean anything by it. Everybody knew it was all just joking around. I believe in having a work environment that is lively and fun, where everyone, no matter what color they are, is free to make fun of black people. And really, I love black people, honey. Some of my best coathangers are black. Their names are Rolly and Mr. Jangles. I pay them to stand by the door of my houses during parties, with their arms out to their sides, and let visitors hang their coats on them. They are delightful people, really. Also, Oprah. I love Oprah! She is such a good ni — erm, she is one seriously upstanding black citizen. Look at how successful she has been, even with that ridiculous black name and big black field-negress behind.
BGD: Oprah has class-privilege. I mean, she’s one of the wealthiest people on the planet. What about black folks who aren’t rich? Who don’t have TV networks? You know, like, the ones who work for you. Do you respect them?
PD: Did you hear what I said about Rolly and Mr. Jangles?
BGD: Yeah, I don’t feel like it qualifies.
PD: Well, I don’t know what y’all want from me, sugar. I mean, I’m not perfect, but I try, you know? I thought we were supposed to be in a post-racial society anyhow! We did elect Hussein Obama, afterall!
BGD: You voted for Obama?
PD: Oh, hell no. Fuck I look like?
*This is a satirical piece. This interview didn’t actually happen.
*My references to butter, bacon and donuts in this piece is meant to poke fun at Paula Deen’s cooking and not her (or anyone else’s) weight. I do not automatically associate these or any other foods with the sizes of people’s bodies. If you do, that’s your problem and you should get on fixing it.
All work published on BGD is the intellectual property of its writers. Please do not republish anything from this site without express written permission from BGD. Yes, linking to this post on Facebook and Twitter or elsewhere is okay.
Get Mia McKenzie’s debut literary novel, The Summer We Got Free. It just won the Lambda Literary Award.
SUPPORT Black Girl Dangerous and help amplify the voices of queer and trans* people of color!
Follow us on Twitter: @blackgirldanger
LIKE us on Facebook