Oh, Boy! Where do I start? This week two ladies that I admire greatly, for different reasons, seriously disappointed me. Serena Williams and Paula Deen are currently at the top of their game yet, each of them, personally, got it wrong this week and I feel so let down.
Serena Williams is arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time (sorry Martina and Billie Jean but, it’s true). She works hard and is a great example of what persistence and discipline can do for you. However, her recent comments regarding the rape of a 16 – year – old girl and subsequent conviction of two young boys in Steubenville, Ohio, really rattled me. During an interview with Stephen Rodrick of Rolling Stone magazine, Serena made the following statements:
“We watch the news for a while, and the infamous Steubenville rape case flashes on the TV – two high school football players raped a drunk 16-year-old, while other students watched and texted details of the crime. Serena just shakes her head. “Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.” “
(If you would like to read more of the interview: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/serena-williams-the-great-one-20130618#ixzz2WolrAp8T)
I’m sure that she is not the only person that thinks this way about victims of rape but, let me be very clear that under no circumstances is it ever, ever, ever the victim’s fault. No, this girl should not have been drinking and, no, she should not have put herself in such a vulnerable position, but, guess what? She is not alone because many of our daughters, nieces, sisters and friends make the same bad decisions every day. That doesn’t mean that they deserve to be violated. No is No! It really is that simple. The real danger in blaming the victim is that many women who have been raped don’t tell for this very reason. The victim is the one who ends up on trial. There’s a whole account of what she was wearing. Was she flirting? Was there other questionable behavior? Was she drinking or using drugs? However, none of this means that this girl deserves to be violated. Yet, she must endure this scrutiny in front of the her family, her friends and her peers to see if she was “asking for it.” No, Serena, she wasn’t “asking for it”.
Being the mother of 2 boys, both now in their 20’s, there have many opportunities for my husband and I to remind them that they alone are responsible for their actions when it comes to interacting with girls. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times, “There will be occasions when you will have to show a young lady more respect than she shows for herself.” That is our expectation of our sons and it really should be every parent’s expectation. Anything else would be believing that our young men can’t control themselves. I’d like to think that I raised them better than that. What Serena, and others like her, did is remove all responsibility from the perpetrators and place it solely on the victim: a 16 – year – old girl. No, Serena, you got this completely wrong and YES! their convictions were completely fair.
Paula Deen is the epitome of life’s second acts. Ms. Deen was well into her 50’s when she became a household name. Divorced, with 2 sons and $200 to her name she parlayed her catering business into a multi-million dollar media empire consisting of television shows, books, cookware, and home furnishings. However, it was her recent comments on matters related to race that really struck a nerve with me. Currently, Ms. Deen and her brother, Earl, “Bubba” Hiers are being sued by a former employee citing sexual and racial discrimination.
Side note here: I know that the National Enquirer was the first to break this story however, I have read the actual transcript from the deposition. I would never rely on the accuracy of the National Enquirer as my source of information.
Having said that, the testimony does include confirmation that Paula has used the N-word and told racist jokes although, she insists that it was too long ago to remember her last use of this sort of language. Aside from the fact that I found it somewhat amusing that she honestly thinks that there are ways that one can use the N-word without it being mean or derogatory (hint: there are none), I found nothing shocking in her admission at all. Let’s be real here, this is a 66 – year – old white woman from Georgia. I’d say that it is more likely that she has used the N-word than not. In fact, during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I carried mail for the U. S. Postal Service as a summer intern. The route that I was originally assigned to and trained on was in a more established neighborhood and consisted of a lot of older residents. Upon seeing me they complained loud and long to the local post office that they did not want me as their letter carrier because I couldn’t be trusted. The reason? I am black. The carrier who was training me was stunned and disgusted (she was white). I told my parents, who were not surprised at all. They simply told me not to feel bad and do my job. My route was soon changed to a newer neighborhood with younger families. Sad story…sad because it’s true. So, the fact that Paula Deen would use this kind of language, considering the facts surrounding who she is and where she comes from, doesn’t surprise me at all. But, what did get me was her account of the wedding that she would like to throw for her brother:
On planning a Southern plantation-style wedding:
Lawyer: Do you recall using the words “really southern plantation wedding”?Deen: Yes, I did say I would love for Bubba to experience a very southern style wedding, and we did that. We did that.Lawyer: Okay. You would love for him to experience a southern style plantation wedding?
Lawyer: That’s what you said?
Deen: Well, something like that, yes. And -–
Lawyer: Okay. And is that when you went on to describe the experience you had at the restaurant in question?
Deen: Well, I don’t know. We were probably talking about the food or –- we would have been talking about something to do with service at the wedding, and –-
Lawyer: Is there any possibility, in your mind, that you slipped and used the word “n—-r”?
Deen: No, because that’s not what these men were. They were professional black men doing a fabulous job.
Lawyer: Why did that make it a -– if you would have had servers like that, why would that have made it a really southern plantation wedding?
Deen: Well, it –- to me, of course I’m old but I ain’t that old, I didn’t live back in those days but I’ve seen the pictures, and the pictures that I’ve seen, that restaurant represented a certain era in America.
Deen: And I was in the south when I went to this restaurant. It was located in the south.
Lawyer: Okay. What era in America are you referring to?
Deen: Well, I don’t know. After the Civil War, during the Civil War, before the Civil War.
Lawyer: Right. Back in an era where there were middle-aged black men waiting on white people.
Deen: Well, it was not only black men, it was black women.
Lawyer: Sure. And before the Civil War –- before the Civil War, those black men and women who were waiting on white people were slaves, right?
Deen: Yes, I would say that they were slaves.
Deen: But I did not mean anything derogatory by saying that I loved their look and their professionalism.
(excerpts from the Huffington Post)
As an African-American, and a human being, I can honestly say that there is absolutely nothing about the Civil War Era as it pertains to African-Americans, that makes us feel wistful of days gone by. So, while it may have seemed like a lovely thought of a southern style plantation wedding to her, the servers in those pictures were not doing it of their own free will. They were house slaves. They were the property of the owner of the plantation. They had no choice. This alone is a good reason why you really wouldn’t want to go there for something as trite as a wedding theme. Obviously, this was all lost on Paula. This is a pity because it really does point out how simple-minded and short-sighted she is. Paula, you got this all wrong!
I am not going to crucify these women. I have had my say and quite honestly, since neither one of these people have any idea who I am, it’s not going to make a bit of difference to them. However, there is a lesson to be learned here. The lesson is to THINK before you speak. I’m sure that Serena never thought that her views on rape could cause such a stir. Had she thought about it she would have realized that she is a role model for a lot of young women. Maybe she should try to be more of an advocate for them, too. And, Paula probably never thought that the person that she made some of these comments to would turn around and sue her since the plaintiff is white. These days, you never know who you are talking to. You don’t know who they’re married to, who their sister or brother is married to, who their adopted child is or if they are just sensitive to the plight of others. I’m sure that they both will bounce back but, hopefully they will be a bit more considerate and a lot wiser.