I have to say that I am fascinated by the fate of Paula Dean, mostly because the media seems obsessed with what boils down to a kind of corporate myth, a public relations narrative. I have no evidence beyond videos and interviews and the like– the same stuff everyone else has seen– but Dean seems like a pretty ordinary American white supremacist. I suspect she is smart enough to avoid racial slurs in her professional life–most of the time, anyway– and she surely knows how careful she has to be if she is going to continue to make millions being Paula Dean. Still, I suspect she is also confident in her own racial superiority.
My generation– the Baby Boom– believes that it has overcome racism and that, as Justice Roberts might say, times have changed. Our parents and grandparents, well, that’s a different story. It’s a myth, of course, because at bottom, despite the many changes in the U.S., we still live in a society in which wealth and power are unevenly distributed along racial lines. We haven’t undone the historical legacy of slavery yet, and we won’t until we begin to seriously address some of the persistent inequalities in wealth endemic to U.S. capitalism. At the very least, we need a national health care system that makes medical care a human right and not a commodity.
I think this myth of the end of racism lies at the heart of Dean’s troubles. It’s not the public that is driving Paula Dean out of the spotlight and into an early– perhaps temporary– retirement. In fact, if restaurant and book sales are any indication, the pubic seems to be supporting Dean. The idea that the pubic is outraged is a part of the corporate myth; it’s the corporations, in the end, run by the Boom Babies, that are so outraged by Deans’ dream of a slavery themed wedding and her apparent former use of racial slurs. This is the real story. If racism is over, why does corporate America believe that it has to be so racially squeaky clean?