Sweet Potato Pie and Shut My Mouth

Song, song of the South, Sweet potato pie and shut my mouth, Gone, Gone with the wind, ain’t no body comin’ back again.

Oh Paula.

After reading all 62 pages of Ms. Deen’s official “Transcript of the Testimony of Paula Deen” and all 33 pages of the official “Lisa T. Jackson v Paula Deen” transcript, I have a bit to say.

The brouhaha over Ms. Deen’s saying the “n” word back in 1962 after being held at gun point seems to be the big wazoo. Sadly, that is just the tip of the butter cube. I think we can all agree that regressing to one’s base self during a time of heightened stress is forgivable, so Paula, bless your heart, I forgive you that one.

The fat of the issue melts down from February of 2005 through August of 2010, approximately 5 years, wherein Ms. Jackson documented repeated attempts to stop all manner of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, abuse, battery, and embezzlement.  Ms Deen, who admits to owning 51% of both restaurants involved, and the corporation, testifies she was never informed formally of any wrong doings. In essence, Ms. Deen’s defense is ignorance of wrong doing, and insisting, that if anything in the case actually happened, it can be forgiven because it was either a “joke”, “what men do”, or “gender on gender joking” all, according to Ms. Deen, completely acceptable acts within the workplace. Ms. Deen states that “Most- most jokes are about Jewish people, rednecks, black folks. Most jokes target – I don’t know. I can’t, I don’t know.” and that when she does tell a joke, “I usually poke fun at myself and other women.”

The Lady, it seems, even being 51% owner of the business, was completely unaware that Ms. Jackson had filed complaints that include the following:

Mr. Hier (Ms. Deen’s brother and co-owner of “Uncle Bubba’s Restaurant”, repeatedly demeaned Ms. Jackson stating among other things that he expected her to “go down in one month” (fail in one month’s time) in front of board members and restaurant employees.
Ms. Jackson was able to turn the failing business around in 6 months and showed a large profit, in reference to that success Mr. Hier referred to her as  “almost Jewish” and called her “My little Jew girl.”

She was qualified for, yet denied, a managerial position within the corporation because “…the Lady and Sons Restaurant General Manager Dustin Walls and Paula Deen’s sons, Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen, would never allow a woman to tell them what they needed to do.”

“The Lady and Sons Restaurant is known as ‘The Boys Club’.” as no woman was allowed to have leadership or managerial roles, and no voice in any decision making.

“Manager Dustin Walls”… in a angry moment, “threatened to fire ‘all the monkeys’ in his kitchen, in reference to all the African Americans working there.” To his credit he did apologize, however another General manager also apologized to a broader group of managers for his part in “exposing the (Dustin Walls’) racist comments and for being too compassionate towards his employees.”

There is a policy learned from Paula Deen which “Bubba” Hiers stated, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my sister, if it ever comes down to firing a guy or a girl, you let the girl go, because they’re a dime a dozen and you can always find a girl to come work for you, but it’s hard to find good guys.”

Ms. Jackson filed numerous complaints in regards to the fact that she was under paid for her job in comparison to her male counterparts. Each time she was told that “”Bubba” Hiers would not permit a woman to be paid more than she was already being paid.” In fact, “Bubba would have a heart attack if he knew you were being paid this much!” When this matter was brought up at a meeting where Ms. Deen was present, she stood up and directed her comments to the women in the room and stated “You all need to learn to work together and become one.”  When a male counterpart stood to defend Ms. Jackson and the other women regarding equal pay, Ms. Deen turned to him and said, “Shut up! I’m not talking to you about this. I pay you to handle that part of it.”

Male General Managers were paid substantially higher wages/salaries including bonuses, retirement, holidays, and were required to do less work/hours than Ms. Jackson, who received a lower salary only, no benefits, no bonuses. Originally Ms. Jackson did receive bonuses, but after 6 months, upon Mr. Karl Schumacher learning about her divorce, those bonuses were stopped permanently. The reason given were in regards to his “personal religious beliefs about marriage and the sin of divorce.” (um, forgive me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Ms. Deen divorced? Wasn’t it that divorce that got her thinking about how to start her own business?) He told Ms. Jackson “Women are stupid because they think they can work and have babies and get everything done.” (again, wouldn’t Ms. Deen be a perfect example of how that actually can happen?) Upon Ms. Jackson complaining about harassment and equal compensation she was met with “You know the family dynamics of the company… certain people aren’t going anywhere, and if you don’t like it, you can go find another job.”

She was “subjected daily to pornography within her own office (which she had to share with “Bubba Hier”), harassing and abusive comments, loud and without apparent concern for vendors or customers, staff, or anyone else near him.” Mr Hier also used the same pornographic web sites while he was in the staff kitchen, downloading and viewing the pornography without regard to whomever was in the room, often leaving the website up and running when he left the room. He also used a company email address, one he shared with Ms. Jackson to send and receive pornographic material, subjecting Ms. Jackson and her staff to unsolicited pornography.  She was also asked by Mr. Hier to “bring in photos of [herself] when she was young so he could view them, because [she] had nice legs.” He also mocked other female employees calling them “fat girls” commenting how he “couldn’t have them walking around that” and eventually changed their uniforms to cover their “fat arms”.

After frequenting strip clubs he would regale stories about his exploits there to Ms. Jackson and other staff, often mocking the women. In talking to her about a female worker who was married to a much younger man he asked Ms. Jackson “Can you imagine that man going to bed with her?” There were several more lurid accounts of his graphic and sexual comments about persons working at the restaurant. Disgusting comments and pornographic images to express his feelings about Gay Marriage.

All these documented statements, complaints, or otherwise all laughed off by the General Management, and by Ms. Deen in her statements, as “jokes”, and typical of “every man.”

All persons of colour were not permitted to be “in the front”, meaning when they needed to use a restroom they should use the one in the “back of the house” or in the rear of the restaurant.  They were also instructed that when they came to pick up their checks, they should use the back door, not go through the front of the restaurant.  This is not uncommon in most work places, except that when the white workers wanted, they were allowed to use the guest restrooms, they were also allowed to walk through the front to receive their paychecks without complaint, or reprimand from the managers.  Persons of colour were also only allowed to serve or work in the back of the house, only white girls were employed as hostesses. One African American Hostess was hired, but “Bubba” constantly complained about her, harassed her, and eventually called the police and had her searched for stealing a white woman’s purse.  She was searched and found innocent of any wrong doing. No charges were ever filed, but she was humiliated in front of the whole restaurant, customers and staff. Even so, after that, all African American workers were held to the back of the restaurant.

Racial slurs were common, so much so I could write another page describing them all; references to the colour of skin being “dirty”, calling the President the “n” word whenever Mr. Obama came up in conversation, referencing certain jobs as ” “n”-rigging”, and telling his complete African American staff that he was going to “put them on a boat and ship them back to Africa.”

There are documents of physical abuse towards certain staff members at the hands of Mr. Heir in a drunken state at work.

Also documents showing Mr. Hier would take upwards of $26,000 a month from the profits, essentially hiding that fact and cooking the books to hide it.

Ms. Jackson was denied promotions she was qualified for a number of times, and witnessed other women and people of colour also denied promotions they were qualified for.

All of the above statements are taken from the first 19 pages of Ms. Jackson’s testimony. 19 pages of 33. There is much more, and much graphic abuse I don’t care to rewrite on my blog. After reading Ms. Deen’s defense, her own words, in her testimony, what I come to understand is that she feels that Ms. Jackson went to a third party and “told stories”, “massaged the truth”, and managed to get two persons who had no stake in anything other than finding the truth in the situation, to “bend their ears to her stories”. Ms. Deen freely admits to using the “n” word in 1962, and to referring to both her restaurants and “f^#@ing restaurants”, she admits to calling an employee a “piece of p^$$y” in anger, but after that, everything should be forgiven because it’s just what men do. It’s what we all do according to Ms. Deen.

None of us have evolved at all. None of us have read a book, seen a movie, watch the news, voted policy into laws, or grown over the past 50 years. None of us. We all joke about Jews, rednecks, gays, and black people.  We all mock and target people, it’s funny! What else do people joke about? Ms. Deen, evidently, has no clue about bullying either, because according to her, if the person is the target of a joke, it’s o.k. If the person isn’t in the room when they are being mocked or demeaned, it’s o.k. If a vulgarity is used between two persons, it’s o.k. for a third party to engage in that vulgarity also. If someone is in a room where pornography is being viewed or where vulgar jokes and stories are being told, this should be ignored as male behaviours that cannot be controlled, but should be ignored by anyone who may or may not be “offended”.  She is the victim here, she is the one who is being targeted by a disgruntled employee who didn’t get what she wanted. Ms. Deen, who owns 51% of a now, pretty large corporation is being punished because she was somehow expected to know what was going on in her business while she was away doing t.v. spots and book deals. Somehow she was expected to know that her partners were creating a hostile work environment.  But she didn’t. And she feels she shouldn’t be held responsible for what was going on in her absence.

What’s really sad here is that she created her own hell. She created the environment where women, evidently even the owner, can be demeaned and belittled and it’s just what men do. She allowed the “Boys Club” to take such control of her business that now, she is the one who gets to clean up the mess, which according to her own policy is just what the women folk should do, clean up -and let the men think about the bigger things.  She really feels this way. She really feels that nothing was wrong with the way her brother and sons handle the business with her name on it. There is nothing wrong with calling persons of your own gender “p^$$y” or halting their careers and keeping their salaries and wages low just because they are female. There is nothing wrong with segregating your employees to the front or back of the house. There is nothing wrong with joking about people or groups that are different than Ms. Deen and her family. There is nothing wrong with pornography in the workplace.

Unfortunately the folks at the FoodNetwork also read the documents and they feel like Ms. Deen needs to be released of her contracts. Why? Well Ms. Deen, Because in Hollywood, if you goof up in such a way that may cause your customers or sponsors to get queasy, upset, angry, or otherwise feel uncomfortable in your presences, um, they’ll show you the door , close it, lock it, and wish you well.  Hollywood cares about money, so do a lot of companies that hung their brand on your brand. If you goof up bad enough they lose money.  And Ms. Deen, what you allowed to happen in your company wasn’t just wrong, it was illegal. They know it, we know it. Perhaps you can review all the complaints, pick up a history book, watch a few documentaries, and then you too will know it… the way your company runs is not just wrong, it’s illegal.

No joke.

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