A Chill on a Hot Day


It’s awfully hot in Rhode Island, and those of us planning to be present for the General Assembly’s budget debate, today, spending ten or more hours in a large stone room without air conditioning could probably use a trick to keep us cool.  My morning reading on the exercise bike, just now, may have led me to the perfect thing.

Sit very still.  Now, in your mind, gather up everything you’ve read about the Obama administration’s surveillance activities, with special attention to PRISM.  Consolidate that knowledge into Edward Snowden’s statement that the government “quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”

Now combine that image with the Paula Deen controversy. Deen has been promoted as the face of American racism for the past week and appears to have lost her Food Network contract and some sponsorships based on this portion of a transcript from a deposition that she gave in an ongoing trial:

Jackson lawyer: “Miss Deen, have you told racial jokes?”

Deen: “No, not racial.”

Jackson lawyer: “Have you ever used the ‘N word’ yourself?”

Deen: “Yes, of course.”

Deen testified that she probably used the racial slur when talking to her husband about “when a black man burst into the bank that I was working at and put a gun to my head” [in 1986].

“I didn’t feel real favorable towards him,” she said, referring to the robber.

Jackson lawyer: “Have you used it since then?”

Deen: “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”

Consider everything you’ve ever said on a cell phone or written on the Internet, including personal emails, and imagine it’s being stored and available for a keyword search in some massive database somewhere.  Twenty years from now, suppose, you’re at the height of your career and somebody finds it convenient to search the database for some word that was always inflammatory, but in the years since has become an unspeakable lightning rod.

Feel the chill?

  • MoniqueAR


  • Warrington Faust

    How conflicted we have become. the other night I watched a movie full of the "N-word", But the lawyer feels required to the nebulous "N-word". If asked “Have you ever used the ‘N word’ yourself?”, I would respond "Do you mean Negro"?

    I note Ms. Dean is from Savannah. A note from my Southern background. Except for an uncle (known as "Fuzzy", I have no idea of his real name. A mean spirited man at best.) the "N-word" was rarely used, almost never by women, except to describe someone whose behavior would be despicable regardless of color. The preferred term was "coloreds", which seemed politer at the time. Admittedly, there were a lot of racial jokes. But, no more than the number of jokes I heard in New England about Irish and Italians. My family was racist, but I recall little meanness about it. Think "the white man's burden".

  • Warrington Faust

    I recall a segment of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil where the New York reporter is cautioned that "We don't mix here". I think that encapsulates it.

  • I'm sorry, but could you please tell me which specific "N-word" you are asking me about?