Deen's Racism: More Than a Twitter Joke

She should have been slammed; instead she got a humorous hashtag. What gives?

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Paula Deen hosting a Christmas special for Fox in 2012 (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

(The Root) -- So it turns out that Paula Deen -- who, with her buttery Southern charm, cozied up to us by way of the tube -- was really just a bigot who could burn.

Deen went hard. After being slapped with a lawsuit charging racism, she acknowledged in a deposition that she "of course" dropped the n-bomb and that she contemplated using a slave motif for her 2004 wedding. After hearing the news, I hit Twitter, expecting the collective black fist of Twitter to be held high in anger, protest and rage.

I have seen the Twitterhood publicly flog famous figures into apologies. Like Ashton Kutcher, who tweeted his disgust at Joe Paterno's firing from Penn State without realizing that it came on the heels of a cover-up of child molestation. Twitter went HAM and Ashton caved.

As vicious as Deen's admission was, I was expecting black Twitter at the very least to return the favor. But something happened instead on Twitter, aka the real black CNN. The Twitterhood didn't go in on her the way they should have. Instead of righteous indignation, we got a weak version of playing the dozens via hashtags.

The lack of outrage makes me think two things simultaneously: that Deen is the physical manifestation of an old Southern ideology that none of us are surprised still exists, and this new generation is more tolerant of racial slights then those before it.

Stand against racism, Tweeters. Or at least stand as tall as Deen did in her indignant admissions. Bash Deen. She is easy and she started it. If this is a rap battle of Deen versus all you out there, then I'm the hype man saying, "Ohhh. She got you! She went in! Go back!" Quips like "Honey Bunches of Ropes" and "Porch Monkey Bread" aren't enough. Finish her. Sweep the knee! This wasn't Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair or Manti Te'o's invisible girlfriend; this was off-limits, raw and uncut use of the n-word.

Maybe I'm old school. I barely tweet and don't have a Facebook page or an Instagram account. Most of my interactions happen in person or over the phone, so I can't say that I completely get social media. But I do know this: All of those places are public forums, and when I hit the Internet looking for a Paula Deen protest, what I found was jokes. What I saw was blatant racist statements under the #paulasbestdishes hashtag, like "Cotton Pickin' Fried Chicken." So my question for the Twitterhood is this: Is a hashtag the racial absolver of all statements said before it?

 

Look, I'm funny -- arguably the funniest person I know -- but there is a place and time for the funny, and this wasn't it. But that's me. Maybe this is all a sign of progression and that the new generation isn't as preoccupied with race as the one before it. Maybe the words don't hold the sting that they used to. Hell, I don't even know what a "porch monkey" is or why I should be offended if called one, but I know that my father doesn't play that, and as his son I don't, either. It is a racial understanding that was passed down by generation, and this generational absence doesn't feel like apathy, just racial un-indoctrination.

Our history isn't a joke. So to me, coming back at Deen with phrases like "Lynchables" makes me cringe. Really? I had this argument some time ago with a friend of mine about the funniness of Tyler Perry's movies. He argued that they were absolutely caricatures but that they were absolutely funny, to which I agreed and asked, "Does any other race clown their own race as much as African Americans do?" It seems that we are always on the receiving end of historical ribbing of some sort, and I just wonder when the joke stops being funny.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM