By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
We’ve been following the discrimination suit brought by an employee of restaurants owned by food maven Paula Deen. Lisa Jackson, who is Caucasian, claimed that she was subjected to a racially hostile work environment at Deen’s Uncle Bubba’s and The Lady and Sons restaurants. Jackson alleged that Paula Deen’s brother, Bubba, routinely used derogatory racial epithets and sexually suggestive comments during her working hours as a manager at the restaurant. She also alleged that Deen acquiesced in the treatment and used racist comments herself. A firestorm of negative publicity formed after Deen’s deposition transcript was leaked to the media in which she admitted using the term “nigger” many years ago. Deem lost two national cable television shows and a host of endorsements following the story. Her two video apologies did little to assuage the sentiment that she was a racist.
Early this month, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. dismissed the key elements of Jackson’s racial discrimination claim ruling that, as a Caucasian, she could not claim that racial epithets directed against African-Americans resulted in discrimination against her — which does meet both the legal and common sense test. Jackson did not rule that Jackson’s claims were true merely that IF they were true they still would not meet the test for racial discrimination against her. Jackson’s other claims for sexual harassment and abusive treatment were still pending until the suit was settled yesterday.
According to the court filings, the parties agreed the dismissal would be “without any award of costs or fees to any party. ” Meaning Ms. Jackson did not get any reimbursement of attorney’s fees or litigation costs suggesting she may not have received much, if anything, by way of a financial settlement. Ms Deen released a statement saying that she believes “in kindness and fairness for everyone. While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me, now that the remaining claims have been resolved.”
Left unexplained are the claims by Jackson and her attorneys that scores of other African-American employees were subjected to the same discriminatory treatment and who wouldn’t be subjected to the prohibition to sue imposed by the law against Jackson who is white. Nor have any complaints been filed by the Rainbow/PUSH organization who say their investigation has “found evidence of systemic racial discrimination and harassment” by Deen and that “a family member consistently referred to a black cook as ‘my little monkey.’”
The net result is that a self-made celebrity chef has been brought low by unproven allegations of racial discrimination and subjected to vilification usually reserved for mass murderers simply based on comments she admitted she made decades ago. If there truly are people out there with bona fide claims of racial discrimination against Paula Deen they should bring them on and not hide in the shadows releasing dribbles and drabs of allegations through civil rights organization spokespersons. Anonymous statements, lurid narratives, and innuendo are not proof and guilt rendered by character assassination is not law.
Paula Deen may be an unjustified victim of a media fueled racial divisiveness and unwarranted rage or she may be a closet racist with much to hide. Despite all this turmoil and public fall from grace we simply do not know. What we do know is that she –as any accused citizen — deserves the benefit of the doubt until the allegations are proven. Sadly, this recent episode proves only that we have a long way to go in our national struggle with racism and that trial by newspaper and leaked court documents to leverage money settlements will not aid us one iota in ridding the country of the scourge of racism.
In fact, rush to judgment situations such as this only gives hate groups ammunition as they always contend that progressives and the news media are habitually harping on racism claims that, in their view, do not now exist, unless, of course, it’s reverse racism. The blame the left-wing media for hyping these claims for profit and fostering the reverse discrimination. Here’s one comment we can print from a white supremacist site:
They’re at it again, folks! Another successful White entrepreneur goes down in flames, over supposed “racist” jokes, and the use of “the n” word. The food network fired Paula today, over these supposed “racist” jokes. Apparently, quite a few years back, Paula was joking about hiring all black waiters or something. I’m really sick of seeing successful White people ruined/destroyed, because of these jealous/lazy/White hating savages. These are the same hypocrites eating her food, watching her shows, using her cookware, and buying her books. No, I’m not a Paula Deen fan, but, she’s older/White and from the South. So, it’s hardly a surprise that suddenly, she’s now labeled a “racist.” I suppose now, she’ll be making her rounds on all the liberal talk shows, getting grilled by the slew of “anti-racists’” on the daytime television circuit. It’s pretty scary/disgusting, seeing how much power blacks have over White America, now. How they can blatantly destroy someone’s life and career just like that, is absolutely frightening. How much longer are we gonna sit back, letting these thug creeps run wild on White America?
For a lot of our fellow citizens, downtrodden by life and resentful of America’s social programs, this sadly rings true– whether we like it or not. If we truly want to move past this sad chapter in our history we will have to adopt the seemingly unattainable virtue that Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied in his prescription for fixing the problem. That’s going to require “a nation where [one] will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” It will also require that we exercise some restraint when judging emotionally charged allegations at the time they are made. There is always time to see if the those complaining are motivated by principle or greed and this is doubly true when the allegations are against the most lucrative of targets, the rich and famous. Even “they” are entitled to the benefit of blind and equal justice.
It was the Greek philosopher and playwright Euripides who reminded us that a tree is best judged by its fruit and not its leaves. That was good advice two and a half millennia ago; it’s good advice today.
UPDATE *** UPDATE *** UPDATE:
From the Huffington Post:
Before the settlement, the magistrate judge found that Lisa Jackson’s lawyer, Matthew Billups, Esq. had engaged in conduct warranting disqualification. He was accused of using the media to pressure Deen into a settlement by leaking information and asking irrelevant, embarrassing, and personal questions at her deposition. Here’s the order requiring Billups to show cause why court-ordered sanctions shouldn’t be imposed. Read the order now.
Here’ a post-settlement statement from Lisa Jackson singing quite a different tune now that the case is settled to what she called her “satisfaction”:
“I assumed that all of my complaints about the workplace environment were getting to Paula Deen, but I learned during this matter that this was not the case.The Paula Deen I have known for more than eight years, is a woman of compassion and kindness and will never tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind toward anyone. I now know that the workplace environment issues that I raised are being reviewed and will in the future no longer be at issue. I wish Ms. Deen and her family all the best in all of their future endeavors and I am very pleased that this matter has been now been resolved and can now be put behind us.” [emphasis mine]
Principle or greed? Do tell there, princess. Do tell.
But a more important question: Where does Paula Deen go to get her reputation back?
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger