According to Dictionary.com: under the World English Dictionary an old-fashioned offensive: “ni*ger in the woodpile is a hidden snag or hindrance. Apparently Ms. Deen has chosen to place herself thus with her recent verbal maladies. All manner of questions have arisen:
• Is she prejudiced
• Does she really feel this way towards darker persuasions?
• How long has she felt this way?
• Did she make a mistake? Are there actually innocent mistakes like this?
• How would she talk if no one were around to hear her?
• Why was it something she felt she could say in the presence of someone that might feel offended?
• Would she accept men in her near vicinity describing all women as “B*tches or C*nts freely or even mistakenly as if she were not in the room?
• How about people describing her color, shape, beliefs, hairstyle, or skills as less than or degrading as if she were supposed to accept it and laugh it off?
• How does one properly apologize for such a faux pas, or in some cases wound to people who had such faith and belief in her seemingly sweet smile?
• Does she have a right to a second chance or forgiveness?
I remember a radio host in Seattle about 30 years ago, who was quite popular and admittedly I listened to the show for my morning commute. He said something that many people consider quite harmless based on it’s over-stereotypical use. He chided his co-host by calling him an “Indian-giver.” This is a horrible term used to inaccurately describe Native American behavior. Interestingly, the very people who made promises to Native Americans, yet conveniently failed to honor those agreements, have perpetuated this. I remember feeling sick when I heard it and thinking how shallow the radio host was, when a call came through (surprisingly the producer put the call through) and a crying woman expressed her pain at hearing this term and its denigrating usage by someone she had previously respected. She could barely express herself, while trying to catch her breath from the tears. I was bawling with her by then as she explained the harm this kind of stereotypical term continued to heap on her and all Native Americans. As the fallout came with many people expressing their disdain for the event about an hour later the host made some comment like “Hey I’ve said I’m sorry, I don’t know what more I can do!” Unfortunately he sounded more like he was bothered that he was being chastised for his behavior instead of having deep remorse. That was the last time I listened to that station. Having a family with Native American Heritage was one thing, but the actions by the host afterwards were even worse. So the Paula Deen in the woodpile exists. I imagine she would not care for this description, although it applies according to the dictionary. She is a snag and a hindrance that probably has even her “good” pals the Neelys reeling on some of the terms they may have used. I saw one show with Ms. Deen and her Neely pals and the discomfort at the “shucks y’all” lobbying back and forth pretty much turned me off for life. I had tried to figure out what all the hubbub was for watching cooking shows, but always ended up asleep. Hey listen, there’s a channel for everything these days, just like there’s a reality show for everything under the sun and for every state (YIKES)! Whatever works for people. Thankfully I am not in charge of people’s TV viewing or else they’d be unable to sleep at night (Horror movie aficionado and watcher of psychology/crime/forensic/history/investigative shows). Personally I believe the world could use more well rounded programming, again thankfully not my job.
A few people asked me what my thoughts were on the snag in the woodpile. I believe she’ll land on her feet. She was a single mother who managed to raise her children and create a successful following and career; I believe her die-hard fans will continue to support her and let’s face it no one should go through life friendless. Of course how Ms. Deen navigates her hidden, now unmasked racial verbiage (or possible tendencies) will determine how many followers she retains or can reacquire. Maybe the best way to look at all this is to learn from someone else’s mistakes. Times are-a-changing and differences no longer can serve as standby entertainment in a hopefully much wiser world.