The harassment lawsuit against TV celebrity chef Paula Deen has been making headlines for weeks, but two details may have slipped by you.
As retailers lined up to end their affiliation with Paula Deen over her admission that she’d used the “N-word” in the past, the attention focused on the potential impact on Deen’s empire and sidebar discussions about the word itself.
But a TV Guide article pointed out two big facts I didn’t remember noticing before: that doesn’t mean they weren’t reported, but in the focus of the accusations and Deen’s dramatic apologies, they were easy to fall into the shadows.
1. Deen’s accuser says the lawsuit has never been about the “N-word”.
The $1.2 million dollar lawsuit was initiated “to address Ms. Deen’s patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior,” the plaintiff said in a statement obtained by CNN.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff, a former manager at one of Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, claims Deen and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Heirs, who is also named in the suit, “committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism.”
Deen, in her deposition, acknowledged using the racial slur more than once “a very long time ago,” CNN reports. Because the “N-word” itself is so divisive, it is this fact that has drawn the most attention. Most of Deen’s defenders, from what I’ve seen, have tried to downplay the use of the word itself, and a good many of them seem to believe that Deen only acknowledged a single use of the word, which doesn’t seem to match what is being reported about the contents of the deposition that fueled the firestorm.
Deen’s attorney, it must be noted, calls the allegations false. In numerous statements, Deen maintains she does not tolerate prejudice.
2. Deen’s accuser is white.
This one was the biggest shock for me. Hoping I don’t sound racist for the assumption, but I think it’s only natural to assume that when someone brings a racial discrimination lawsuit against someone who is white, the plaintiff is likely black.
This is a false assumption:
“I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier’s despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis. I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about all races, and that is why I feel it is important to be the voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs.”
It’s admirable to take a stand when the rights of others are being violated. I can’t fault someone for exposing mistreatment where they believe genuine mistreatment exists.
But knowing that it’s possible that the person bringing the suit may not be a member of the group targeted by the Deens, my mind jumps to an interesting question: if the plaintiff prevails, where does that $1.2 million go?
If her intent is to be a “voice” for those who are afraid to lose theirs, I hope that means any reward would go to the same people. Or, to fund programs designed to prevent discrimination.
I’ve not seen the answer to that question answered anywhere: if you know the answer, please let me know.