Paula Deen grew up in Georgia. In the ’50s. Her world was the one depicted in the book “The Help”, in which black people’s status as lesser beings was casually assumed. So, who is really surprised that she has used the N word in her life? It would be downright strange if she hadn’t, and we can assume the same of pretty much any white Southerner of a certain age (not to mention more than a few Americans of other regions), writes Time magazine guest columnist John McWhorter, an associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and the author of “What Language Is (and What It Isn’t and What It Could Be.”
People of Deen’s generation can neither change the past nor completely escape their roots in it, any more than the rest of us, writes McWhorter, who is black.
They can apologize and mean it, as Deen seems to. They also deserve credit for owning up to past sins, as Deen did candidly when she could easily have, shall we say, whitewashed the matter.