Paula Deen and the N-Word: Mixed Reaction From Corporations, Citizens

By Manuel McDonnell Smith

Some chefs are fond of the maxim “If you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” After her confirmed use of racial slurs and mockery, one network has taken the motto to heart and shown celebrity chef Paula Deen the kitchen door. But will Deen’s other corporate backers, and the public, also shun the chef’s nasty casserole of hate The response so far has been mixed.

Last week, Food Network moved quickly to announce that it would “not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month,” after she acknowledged using the N-word and considering hiring an all-Black wait staff for her brother’s 2007 wedding. The shocking revelations came from testimony Deen delivered under oath in a lawsuit in which a female former employee alleges rampant gender and sexual harassment while employed at Deen’s Georgia restaurant.

The celebrity chef had a high-profile opportunity to explain her use of the offensive language on NBC’s Today show last Friday, but she decided to duck the appearance—causing visible frustration from hosts Matt Lauer and Al Roker, who said on air, “We consider her a friend … but she really needs to address this.” Shortly after, Deen posted two apologies on YouTube. “I want to apologize to everybody, uh, for the wrong that I’ve done,” Deen utters in one of the videos. “Uh, I want to learn and grow from this.”

While some applauded the network’s quick response to Deen’s offensive behavior, the response from some of her fans and corporate sponsors has been noticeably meeker. Over the weekend, long lines were reported outside of her restaurants, filled with fans ready to forgive her actions. One Black woman, Nicole T. Green, who was first in line to enter one of the locations, told the New York Times, “I get it, believe me, but what’s hard for people to understand is that she didn’t mean it as racist. It sounds bad, but that’s not what’s in her heart. She’s just from another time.”

While the public has been vocal in both support and distaste for Deen after her comments, there’s been little to no comment from other companies involved in major endorsement deals with the cook, including Smithfield Foods, Novo Nordisk and Walmart, which carries an array of foods and household items featuring her name. In a statement, Novo Nordisk spokesperson Ken Inchausti seemed to indicate the company’s ongoing support for Deen, confirming that she is still a spokesperson for the company’s Victoza line of diabetes drugs.

As the debate over Deen’s comments continue to range online, and in offices, DiversityInc offers specific guidelines on What NOT to Say to African-American co-workers about race, either inside or outside of the office.

Latest News

Biden Stands by His Commitment to LGBTQ rights; Cost of Racism in the U.S. Tops $16 Trillion; Black and Latinx Continue to Die from COVID-19 at Nearly Twice the Rate of Whites; and More

Biden reaffirms commitment to LGBTQ rights; promises to pass Equality Act. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden doubled down on his promises to the LGBTQ community while speaking at a presidential town hall for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on Sept. 24. “You deserve a partner in the White House to…

degeneres, work, show

Leadership Lessons to be Gleaned from Ellen DeGeneres’ Toxic Workplace Scandal

Ellen DeGeneres began her daytime talk show’s 18th season with an apology after a summer of allegations against her that claimed her show promoted a toxic work environment rife with racism, sexual misconduct and other mistreatment. In August 2020, three senior producers — executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman…

COVID entrepreneur

Explosive New Growth in Small Businesses Due to COVID-19; America’s Police Force is Not Becoming More Diverse Despite BLM Movement; the Best and Worst Performing States in the 2020 Census; and More

Even with incredible nationwide unemployment rates, the creation of new small and diverse businesses has exploded due to COVID-19. Finally some news coming out of our pandemic: The Philadelphia Tribune reports that as bars and restaurants closed and stay-at-home orders were put into place earlier in 2020 to help fight…

Justice for Breonna not served; The essential rule of politics; Teen serves two months in jail for not doing homework; and More

Justice for Breonna not served as grand jury indicted officer who shot her with wanton endangerment — but not murder. “Outrageous and offensive.” Those were  by attorney to the family, Ben Crump to describe the grand jury’s decision in the March 13 fatal police shooting of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. While…

IBM, EEOC, age

EEOC Unearths Years of Intentional Age Discrimination within IBM

After a long investigation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has revealed that IBM leaders had directed managers to replace older workers with younger ones. Between 2013 and 2018, nearly 86% of those considered for layoffs within the organization were older employees over the age of 40. The investigation showed…

Breathe March in Globe Park, New York, USA - 12 Sep 2020

Cities under attack from the Justice Department; Louisville bracing for the Breonna Taylor murder charge; Twitter reveals its racist side; and More

Justice department attacks three U.S. cities, declaring them anarchist zones — despite most of the protests that took place in each city being peaceful marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a move designed to pull federal funding from New York City, Seattle and Portland, OR, the…

ginsburg, supreme, court

The Lasting Legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Plus the Four Biggest Issues Currently at Stake Following Her Death

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served on the nation’s highest court for 27 years, passed away Friday, Sept. 18 at the age 87. “As the second woman ever to sit on the highest court in the land, she was a warrior for gender equality — someone who believed…