Late yesterday afternoon, a federal judge threw out the racism case against Paula Deen because Deen’s comments weren’t directed at claimant Lisa Jackson, who is white.
The dismissal exacerbates a prevalent issue associated with hate speech and bigotry – namely, the idea that the only people adversely affected by such behavior are the ones at whom it is directly aimed, and that it’s their responsibility alone to speak out about it.
Victims may choose not to stand up to their abusers for fear of financial or other repercussions, and observers may feel the effects regardless of their race. But does Jackson have the right to claim victimhood in this situation? That’s a tricky question, to be sure. If it were an issue other than race—if, for instance, she witnessed colleagues being sexually harassed or called profane names—would the case be any different?
Regardless, this latest news seems to bring Deen even closer to total absolution. Which would be a shame—not because people shouldn’t be forgiven for their transgressions, but because it would be a missed opportunity for Deen—and folks who think and were raised like her—to be required to do the sort of serious self-examination that Dustin Rowles wrote of in his own personal piece about what it’s like to grow up Southern and become aware of just how casually that hate speech is integrated into normal, everyday life.
Deen, someone who has been lauded for her ability to transform herself in the past, hasn’t embarked on the sort of introspection that might spur a systematic dismantling of a belief system that’s been handed down from generation to generation—and isn’t likely to, it seems. As Rowles points out, when racism isn’t even identified as racism—and when speaking out is harder than staying silent—change is slow to come.
It’s a desire for change, one assumes, that led Jackson to file her claim. Time will tell how much of a difference she helped to inspire.
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Original article from TakePart