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COMMENTARY: Issue is so much bigger than Paula Deen

Why, you may wonder, am I writing about Paula Deen in a paper that is mainly about LGBT issues.

Let me just ask this: If instead of the N-word Paula Deen had used the word “faggot” or “dyke” or “fairy” or the C-word, how would you feel about her then?

I’m not one of those who believe the whole “culture of the South” thing is an OK excuse for anything, and I don’t buy into her “I can’t, myself, determine what offends another person.”

The woman is 66 years old – and she can’t determine what sort of language or treatment may offend another person? Seriously? We all know when we are about to offend someone, and sometimes we stop ourselves, and sometimes we say something or do something for the sole purpose of offending and hurting someone.

I face my own demons when it comes to lumping an entire race of people into one little pile of cultural crap. I’m not proud of my thoughts on some things and some people. I would never say them to anyone’s face, but still … The thoughts linger on my brain a little too long sometimes.

As I write often about equal rights for the LGBT community, I have to admit that this whole Paula Deen mess has forced me to take a look at the person I see in the mirror. I mean, how can I insist on equal rights for myself when there are times when I wonder why people don’t have to speak English to get a job, or why women wear those burkas or why we allow Asian-Americans to drive anywhere in the State of California, or why our voting ballots are printed in eight languages, or why – well, you fill in your own little bit of prejudice here. Don’t judge me! Be honest and shake your head up and down, and admit that from time to time you think these things too.

Freedom and equality have to be for all people – everywhere. Human dignity is a right we all deserve. No one deserves to go to work and be called a derogatory name for any reason. No one deserves to be placed in a certain job because of the color of their skin, and no one deserves to be the butt of a joke – any joke - when it refers to their ethnicity or their gender or their education or their sexual preference.

This is so much bigger than Paula Deen. This is about each and every one of us and how we think, how we act, and what we say, in private and in public. This is about equality and respect and human dignity, for each and every one of us. If, as a lesbian, I’m standing up and telling my government I want to be treated as an equal with respect and dignity – well – then I must treat everyone with the same respect and dignity I want to be treated with, or I don’t deserve to have either.

We can’t excuse anyone’s culture for bigotry or racism or discrimination. All of these things are taught and passed from generation to generation. At some point along the way, someone needs to step up to the plate and say: No, we don’t say these words! No, we don’t believe the way grandfather believed! No, we do not judge anyone by the color of their skin or who they choose to love. No! No! No!

We are all Americans, and that alone should – on some level – bond us together – not tear us apart.

SDGLN Contributor Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.