Paula Deen is in the news. And this time, it isn’t about butter or diabetes. Apparently, she admitted in some sort of legal deposition that she is a true “southern belle” at heart. Complete with racial slurs, a dream wedding with African Americans dressed as slaves serving the food, and a brother named Bubba, who is somehow tied up in all of this.
I have to say that I am not surprised. After all, Paula is kind of old, and she is from the south. And we all know that in the south, there were segregated buses, restaurants, and water fountains. It wasn’t that long ago, either.
So why are people surprised at this? I wasn’t. After all, Paula has a brother named Bubba. But wait, isn’t it a stereotype that someone named Bubba would say the “N” word? I guess so. But then again, haven’t stereotypes served us in good stead in the past? We put a lot of faith in them. We use them every day to help us navigate the world. Let’s be honest.
For instance, if your eighteen year old daughter called you from the dorm during her freshman year in college to tell you that her new boyfriend’s name was “Asteroid Flanagan,” what would you think? Would you panic just a little bit? Would you picture his mother wearing a hemp bracelet and his father smoking weed down in the basement? Be honest, remember!
And what if you met a woman at a cocktail party who sported a huge diamond, had large breasts and blonde hair, and looked about fifteen or thirty years younger than her husband (wearing a shirt with french cuffs)? What conclusion would you immediately draw?
And think about it. How many men named Maurice, Percy, and Childress have you met that you didn’t suspect were gay (not that there is anything wrong with that?) And what about women with big shoulders and very short hair? Do you have a bias against women who don’t shave under their arms or who have nose rings?
Stereotypes are useful. They are often true. People are predictable, let’s face it. Just think how confusing it would be if George Clooney suddenly began to wear eye makeup. Or how many people would be up at arms if Barack Obama got his ears pierced and started wearing silver hoops?
Stereotypes have gotten a bad rap.
What do they say about who gets to “cast the first stone?” I rest my case.