The facts that I’m aware of (disclaimer, I haven’t followed the case very closely; I’m not big on food shows on TV and celebrity bashing):
During a legal deposition Paula Deen admitted to having used racial slurs (aka known as the n-word, or, more accurately, “nigger”) in the past.
She also said she wanted a “plantation-style” wedding with black waiting staff dressed as slaves.
Was it in poor taste? Yes. Should she have known better? Yes.
Do I think Ms. Deen is a bonafide racist with a white supremacy bent, blacks being an inferior race? I strongly doubt it.
Will I give someone who was brought up in the South in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s some leeway? Yes. Meaning I understand how she got to be that way, but still demand that she self-corrects.
Have I myself on occasion used racial slurs (not for quite some time now), either because I didn’t know better or was in a pissy mood and wanted to poke somebody where it hurt the most (and regretted it later)? Yes.
Do I consider myself a racist due to the previous point? Not really, but we all have a seed of something in us. The object is to suppress that seed and see people for what they are, i.e. judge them by the content of their character, not their appearance. I could throw in a little anecdote here:
Some years back I went on a business trip to Philadelphia, PA. I needed a room for the night and picked a hotel at random that was close to the place I had dealings the next day. After entering the hotel I noticed right away that I was the only white person there. Different shades of black and brown every where, except for me. All black staff, all black guests. Not a single one raised a curious eyebrow at my appearance, but I must admit that it was a totally alien experience for me and I felt a tad bit uncomfortable. Not because the place was seedy or I felt unsafe, but because it was different from anything I had felt before. Now I have some semblance of understanding of what it must feel like for a black person to exist in a mostly white world.
Does the above make me a racist? To some small extent, perhaps, yes, but certainly not in the KKK/Aryan Brotherhood league. It was a wake up call for me and I have since strengthened an already acute sense for racism and civil rights issues of all varieties in our society and around the world.
Do I have any black friends? No. Hardly even acquaintances, it’s just the way things worked out, but I do have a casual association with a couple of Jews. They seem like nice people, though, despite having murdered Jesus.
Do I think black people, especially young ones, use the words nigger/nigga loosely and without repercussion, partly as a term of endearment, partly in pop culture/music (if you can call that hip-hop shit music!) and partly to take ownage of the words and declare every white person who uses it a racist? Yes.
Do I believe that some blacks were insulted by Paula Deen’s remarks? Yes, and justifiably so, but being angry and vindictive doesn’t do anything to fix the problem.
And YES, I do understand that in the vast majority of cases there’s a big difference between a white person saying “nigger” and a black person doing the same. However, understanding isn’t necessarily agreeing.
Do I think everybody should stop using the word and any other racial epithets? Yes.
Do I think anybody over the age of 10 who claims to never have let a racial slur of any kind pass through their lips is a liar? Yes.
Was it right of the Food Network to fire Ms Deen over the “incident”? It was a business decision, I have no opinion. She’ll land on her feet.
Do I think the media is overreacting on this case, willing and eager to throw Paula Deen under the bus for the single purpose of increasing ratings? Yes. I have a strong feeling many reporters over the past few weeks have acted very hypercritical.
Should there be some kind of repercussions for Ms Deen? I don’t know, but in my not so humble opinion I think she has learned her lesson and we should give her a break.
What would a suitable punishment be in case you’re hellbent on her having to suffer some consequence for her ill thought-out behavior? Give her a slight rap on the knuckles with a ruler and get on with your life.
Do I think Paula Deen is at heart a decent person? Yes!
Finally, America suffered though 250+ years of slavery, followed by a century of Jim Crow and organized discrimination. We can’t wipe the slate clean within a few generations. If we all don’t step up to fix the problems, men and women of all races, we’re looking at hard times ahead.