Just when you thought the Paula Deen story couldn’t get any worse, she is now being accused of asking female African American employees to dress as Aunt Jemima.
According to The New York Times:
Mrs. Charles’s family and friends got jobs with Ms. Deen, including Ineata Jones, whom everyone called Jellyroll. She ended up as close to Ms. Deen as Mrs. Charles was.
Ms. Deen used Ms. Jones for restaurant theater. At 11 a.m., when the doors opened at the Lady & Sons, she stood in front and rang an iron dinner bell, something she had asked Mrs. Charles to do as well. An image of Ms. Jones doing just that was turned into a postcard sold at Paula Deen stores.
Ms. Jones was also in charge of making hoecakes, the cornmeal pancakes served to every guest. Ms. Deen had designed a station so diners could watch them being made. At both jobs, Mrs. Charles and other employees said, Ms. Deen wanted Ms. Jones to dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit.
“Jellyroll didn’t want to hear that,” Mrs. Charles said. “She didn’t want to do that.”
In her statement, Ms. Deen said she had never asked anyone to dress like Aunt Jemima. Nor, she said, has she referred to Mrs. Charles and others using a racially offensive term for a black child, as Mrs. Charles claims.
Let’s hear Paula Deen’s defenders try to explain this one away. If Deen’s empire wasn’t already reduced to rubble, this story set what was left of her career on fire. The kind of racism that Paula Deen was practicing and financially benefiting from is what some refer to as “Southern culture.” Deen doesn’t think that she was being racist, and her attorneys will try to argue in the federal case that Paula Deen doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. However, what Paula Deen is engaging in is the glorification of slavery and Jim Crow.
The racism behind having an African American ring a dinner bell and yell, “come and get it,” while dressed as Aunt Jemima is striking. Paula Deen is finished as a brand. In fact, it will impossible for her to rebuild her business because her personality was the brand. Most people aren’t as overt as Paula Deen, but her attitudes are alive and well in many white Americans.
Republicans want to pretend like racism is not a problem anymore, but people like Paula Deen are a living example of why we need laws like the Voting Rights Act.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association