June 27, 2013

In what is perhaps the ultimate case of the pot calling the kettle black, Walmart announced yesterday that they’re ending their partnership with Paula Deen. The company will no longer be selling Deen’s cookware, food, or other products because, well, they don’t want to besmirch the company name.

Deen’s been on the hot-seat since last week when she revealed in a deposition for a workplace discrimination lawsuit that she’d used the N-word in the past, maybe several times in the past. She also admitted that she’d used other racist language and enjoyed sharing and hearing racist jokes.

Since then, sponsors and retail outlets have been dropping Deen like a buttery hot potato loaded with sour cream. The Food Network canceled her show and won’t be renewing her contract. Smithfield foods whose hams Deen promotes on her show dropped out. Ceasars Entertainment which owns Paula Deen-themed restaurants in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Illinois has also parted with Deen.

“While we appreciate Paula’s sincere apologies for statements she made in her past that she recently disclosed during a deposition given in response to a lawsuit, after thoughtful consideration of their impact, we have mutually decided that it is in the best interests of both parties to part ways at this time,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president of communications and government affairs for Ceasars Entertainment.

So far, Target and Sears are still carrying Deen’s products, she still has a five-book contract with Random House, and Novo Nordisk is waiting to see how everything shakes out before they decide if they’re going to cancel her endorsement contract for Victoza.

Yesterday, Deen appeared on The Today Show with Matt Lauer to explain her position. Lauer asked, “Do you have any doubt in your mind that African-Americans are offended by ‘the N-word?”

Deen replied, “I go into my kitchens and I hear what the young people are calling each other, and it distresses me terribly.”

Only Deen will ever really know if she’s a racist or just a product of her generation. But the fact that Walmart stepped up, immediately following her Today Show interview, and severed all ties with Deen because they don’t want to be associated with someone of her ilk is laughable.

In February 2009, Walmart settled a $17.5 million class-action lawsuit in which plaintiffs claimed the retailer discriminated against African-Americans seeking jobs as truck drivers.

In April 2011, Walmart agreed to pay $440,000 to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by nine Hispanic employees.

In November 2011, a racial discrimination lawsuit was filed against Walmart. Pre-trial testimony showed that Walmart was using racial profiling to target African-Americans who visited the in-store clinic.

In April 2013, a Walmart store manager filed discrimination charges against the company, claiming that because he didn’t participate in an inventory fraud scheme along with his white counterparts, the company set it up to make it look like he did so they’d have grounds to fire him.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Female employees of Walmart, both past and present, have their own website listing at least six currently pending class-action lawsuits, and there are probably dozens of other similar suits pending for men, Hispanics, African Americans, and individual Walmart employees.

So the idea that by carrying the products of one woman who used the N-word in one conversation 27 years ago could possibly add more tarnish to the already crusty silver is ludicrous. But it does make for a good laugh over your morning coffee. “Hello, pot? This is kettle. You’re black!”

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