In a Word

There’s been much ado about a word lately with no shortage of headlines and reaction. First Paula Deen’s empire was set on its ear then turned upside down when she admitted during a deposition to using “the N-word” over two decades ago. Food Network dropped her like the proverbial hot potato, and Smithfield Foods followed suit. The likes of Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, J.C. Penny and QVC will no longer carry her merchandise. Over reaction? That is a decision each of us must make for ourselves.

More recently, Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver, was excused from training camp for four days for counseling and fined by the team after making a racially insensitive comment captured on video at a Kenny Chesney concert. Teammate LeSean McCoy told NFL.com’s Albert Breer that he “can’t respect” a teammate like Cooper anymore. Over reaction? Again, personal decision.

Coincidentally, Lee Daniels’ film, The Butler, is slated for release on August 16th. It features Oprah Winfrey as the wife of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler who served for decades through five different administrations.  A discussion of the “N-word” came up in an interview conducted by Katherine Heintzelman for Parade Magazine. Winfrey’s reply: “You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it.”

As the interview progressed, Heintzelman notes: “You’ve come out against its use in rap lyrics, Oprah.” To which she answers: “Yes. With people like Jay Z – and I’ve had him on the show – we agree to disagree about it.”

Agree to disagree? That’s it? As one who wields a great deal of social influence, if the word is so awful in her estimation, I’m wondering why Winfrey didn’t look right into the lens and call for a boycott of Jay Z’s music, or at the very least, those songs in which he uses it. It smacks of an under reaction compared to the fate of Paula Deen and Riley Cooper. I wonder if LeSean McCoy listens to Jay Z? If so, does he respect him?

There seems to be an obvious double standard at play here. Bring down Paula Deen, but give Jay Z a pass with an “agree to disagree” stance. If the word is despicable, it’s despicable across the board. If Paula Deen and Riley Cooper can’t say it, nobody can.

In an ironic coincidence regarding release of The Butler, the movie also features Jane Fonda portraying (of all people) Nancy Reagan. This is the same Jane Fonda who betrayed her country with a visit to the Hanoi Hilton and turned her back on doing anything to rescue American servicemen who were prisoners in that horrible place. Her despicable actions are said to have caused many of them to be beaten and tortured after her visit. Many of them did not survive their stays in the Hanoi Hilton. This wasn’t a case of people being offended… heroes died. Except for a Facebook page run by Larry Reyes, I’m not hearing for boycotts of this movie or anything related to Jane Fonda. (To learn more, check out: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Hanoi-Jane-Playing-Nancy-Reagan.)

So Paula Deen says something that’s offensive and apparently loses her enterprise. Jane Fonda does something that may have led to the deaths of some American POWs serving their country and it barely creates a blip on the radar. I hate the particular word Deen used, but I certainly hate Fonda’s actions even more.

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