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To Paula Deen: It's the attitude, not just the words

June 21, 2013|By Karin Klein
  • Paula Deen, seen here in 2012, was dropped by the Food Network after she admitted to using racial slurs.
Paula Deen, seen here in 2012, was dropped by the Food Network after she admitted… (Associated Press )

The Food Network was almost as fast to dump Paula Deen as she was to apologize for her reprehensible use of the N-word and telling of racist jokes--though her first excuse, that this was from her old-time Southern background, then insulted all of the South and the many people who have freed themselves from racist attitudes or who never had them to start with.

Deen later delivered a teary apology for her words--but that was it, just the words. "Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable," she said in the brief video.

But so are the racist attitudes that foster those words. They don't just spring from nowhere, and they are unacceptable as well.

I raise this because the same sort of apology arose in the case of the Arizona senator's son who tweeted incredibly racist, anti-gay and anti-Semitic sentiments. His father, Sen. Jeff Flake, released a statement saying, "This language is unacceptable, anywhere. Needless to say, I’ve already spoken with him about this, he has apologized, and I apologize as well."

He was "disappointed" in his son's actions.

But in neither apology is there even a twinkling of recognition that hateful speech arises from hateful beliefs, or an attempt to apologize for the venom behind the words. Is the message to Tanner Flake that he just needs to watch his language? Or is his family concerned about the values this young man is bringing forth into the world?

The public should demand a little more from these apologies. If we don't discuss the hate underlying the words, we do nothing to change it.

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