Next week we mark the 150th anniversary of the start of a terrible riot in New York City. On July 13, 1863, an event related to the Civil War...well, you'll have to come back to read more about it.
But something that is happening now, in our United States, has echoes of the event now called the New York Draft Riots. It won't be commemorated next week in the same way that famous battles, such as Gettysburg, were, which is why I need to blog about it.
But first, back to the present.
By now, if you are an American, you have heard of a woman by the name of Paula Dean. Many of us are probably sick of hearing about her, and I don't intend to add any fuel (to to speak) to the fires that are already burning. But the fact that this fire is burning at all is proof, as I have said too many times, that we are still fighting the Civil War (just less physically) here in the United States.
Just go on any of the thousands of web sites carrying coverage (of any sort) of the Paula Dean controversy and read the comments. The articles themselves may be of some interest but it's the comments that will really interest you.
I have a number of fans abroad (thank you!), so let me briefly explain who Paula Dean is. She is a celebrity chef, restaurant owner, creator of various lines of cooking equipment that, until recently, were sold in major department stores, and is basically a one woman industry. Paula has (or, actually, had) several cooking shows on a cable network called The Food Network.
She has an awful lot of fans in this country who love her decadent, butter-heavy recipes. I may not eat in that style, but I also believe in personal responsibility, so if you want to check out her recipes, "go for it".
She and her family are responsible for a lot of tourism to Savannah, Georgia, a city I last visited in March of this year, and a city that I love.
Paula being in the news started with a former restaurant manager suing Paula and her brother for racial harassment and another kind of harassment I can not mention in a "G" rated blogging competition. In a deposition for the lawsuit, Ms. Deen admitted to using a word I would have been severely punished for using in my childhood, but also a word that is still way too commonly used in this nation. As a result, Paula Deen has lost her contract with the Food Network and is quickly losing endorsements and other contracts.
She has kept a lot of her fan base, and I can say that she has a lot of fans in upstate New York, where I live. A lot of people feel for her plight. But, by now, you are asking "what does Paula Dean have to do with the Civil War?"
Paula Dean had ancestral relatives who were slave owners. Don't be shocked by this; most people who lived between the founding of our country (and prior!) and the Civil War era (1861-1865) benefited either directly or indirectly by slavery. And then there were the slaves - let's not forget about them.
With that in mind, listen to portions of the interview.
Paula Deen's great grandfather committed suicide after the Civil War. He was despondent. His life was ruined. And, his "30 workers" ran away.
Those 30 workers weren't workers except in the loosest definition of the word. They were SLAVES, human chattel, to use and abuse however the owner wished. Perhaps Paula Deen's great grandfather didn't abuse his slaves (if you ignore the fact that enslaving people is abuse), but the truth is, they weren't "workers". So, Paula seriously can not utter that word that describes what those workers were.
No, I don't mean the N word.
Instead, she can't utter the S word. You know, Slave. As in "yes, my family owned other human beings at one time". 30 were a lot? How about one? Many descendents of slave owners have faced that part of their geneology. Many others haven't. I can't speak for the descendents of said slaves but they can speak just fine for themselves.
Don't tell me those workers were like family, Paula. Yes, humans thrown into circumstances shared with other humans form bonds. But, what does that tell you, that those 30 workers ran away after the war. You're surprised? They were slaves and now they were free. Free like you and me, to make something of the rest of their lives. And they obviously (to use another cliche) voted with their feet.
Our country has a long way to go. Race relations are a delicate topic. It remains delicate. Will the Paula Deen episode allow us to finally lance that boil upon the skin of our nation? I doubt it.
Next week: the New York Draft riots.