Julie’s Jabber: My Family’s Paula Deen
So, did you watch Matt Lauer interview Paula Deen on the Today Show? I did not and still can’t bring myself to watch the clips. I’m just not comfortable watching someone’s life burn unchecked; even when that same person lit the match.
Let’s be honest though. Paula Deen was ripe for a backlash. The world was searching for a way to knock her off that Good-Old-Girl pedestal. Paula just went and made it easy for us.
I, like Paula Deen, am a product of the Deep South. I didn’t realize until I moved away that whole world thought Southerners were racists. I remember friends in New Mexico ribbing me about my home state’s Confederate past. One wide-eyed woman told me about the night she stayed in Atlanta and never left her hotel room, fearful she’d encounter some form of racism. She, for the record, was a redheaded white woman.
One ex-boyfriend took particular pleasure in reminding me of Georgia’s terrible past, as if I had been personally involved. I was dining with that same boyfriend when his own mother told me about her African-American friend. She said, “Don’t worry. He’s one of the good ones.” I shot at look at my boyfriend, who was oblivious to the comment.
His own mother was a racist and he didn’t even notice it. That brings me to the racist in my family.
My mother didn’t like Asians. She wasn’t region specific. Asians in general struck my mom as dangerous and untrustworthy. She told us this during dinner one night while my step-dad and I stared at her in shock.
“What on EARTH would make you think such a crazy thing?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I got it from the movies. And that woman at the dry-cleaners is REALLY mean to me.”
“Do you HEAR yourself? You’re smarter than that!”
“I KNOW! It’s terrible! But it’s how I feel!”
My mother is deceased, which is why I can even TELL this story about her. Not long after that particular conversation, Mom went into the hospital for an extended stay. It was the beginning of the end for her. Lo and behold, GUESS who was her Day Nurse.
Mom called me and said, “Oh, you’re gonna LOVE this.”
Her day nurse was a Chinese man. Well, I think he was Chinese because that’s what she told me but who knows? Anyhow, Mom said that a Chinese man was her Day Nurse and they had become fast friends. He was gentle and kind to her, but he also had a saucy sense of humor that Mom immediately related to. He helped my mom get through some difficult times and she said that on the nights he wasn’t there, she missed him terribly.
Mom said that she knew the SECOND he walked into her hospital room that she was being forced to face her bigotry.
She came out of it with a new hero.
If only all stories of racism could end the exact same way.