Paula Deen’s costly mistake

Melvin B. Miller | 7/3/2013, 7:39 a.m.

Times are changing. Those who remember the Old South during the civil rights era might find the story of Paula Deen astounding. Back then blacks had to ride in the back of the bus, they drank from separate public water fountains, and they could not eat in restaurants reserved for white customers.

A major responsibility of the white male was to protect the reputation and virtue of the Southern belle. A black man would be in serious trouble if he was not appropriately obsequious to a white lady. That is why the public reaction to Paula Deen’s racial indiscretions indicates a major change in racial attitudes.

It is surprising to blacks of a certain age that Paula Deen paid a multi-million dollar penalty for using racist language. The Food Network, Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Target, Caesars Entertainment, QVC, Novo Nordisk and Random House severed ties with her. She lost her cookbook publishing deal because Sears, Kmart and J.C. Penney refused to sell her new books.

To be identified as a bigot is commercially costly. The magnitude of the response from her supporters will indicate the extent of the change in American attitudes on the racial issue.