We shall never be free of Paula Deen, it seems. The latest is that yesterday, a federal judge in Georgia dismissed certain parts of a lawsuit filed by a former employee of Paula Deen’s restaurant empire. The former employee, Lisa Jackson, exposed the infamous comments Deen made about wanting a “true southern plantation-style wedding” in her complaint. She further claimed that even as a white person, she’d “suffered from the racially discriminatory humiliation of her African-American staff.” The judge quite rightly suggested that although this was certainly a less than ideal situation for Ms. Jackson as a manager of said staff, she was at best “an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination.”
It’s pretty much black-letter law that you can’t sue someone for discrimination against a class to which you don’t belong unless, say, you can show a really concrete injury beyond your emotional distress. The reason for that is obvious. The pain you experience from witnessing racism is not the same thing as actually suffering from its effects, and it’s probably not the kind of injury anti-discrimination laws were ever intended to remedy. If you have doubts on that, just consider that no African American whom Deen et al actually discriminated against would see a dime of any damages Jackson might be awarded on such a claim.
Naturally, Deen’s PR reps rushed to put the ruling in the most positive light possible: “We are pleased with the court’s ruling today that Lisa Jackson’s claims of race discrimination have been dismissed… As Ms. Deen has stated before, she is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know that she believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone.”
At this point no one expects anyone in the Deen entourage to have the slightest clue, but in a very real sense there is nothing in the court’s decision to suggest that she truly “believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone.” Some opportunistic lawyer made rather a stretch of a claim; the court said, “hey, this is a stretch, and I’m not going to allow it”; and scene. In the particular procedure by which this claim was dismissed — a motion to dismiss — the court doesn’t even get to the point of considering the evidence itself. So nothing in the decision can or should be construed to say that Deen never made those awful racist comments. Deen actually admitted to making them herself in the deposition that Jackson’s attorneys took in May. None of those facts are in any way affected by the ruling.
So in conclusion, the Food Network was still right to dump her; the entire affair is still a shenanigan of epically embarrassing proportions; and let’s not let Deen continue to tarnish the good name of butter for one second longer. Jackson’s claims that she was sexually harassed and otherwise injured by Deen’s brother’s apparent love of pornography still stand. People are still terrible. Onwards and upwards, Internet.