An Open Letter to Paula Deen

An Open Letter to Paula Deen:


Photo Courtesy of: Johnathan M. Lewis

Dear Paula Deen,

So it’s been a tough week for you… believe me you I know something about tough weeks being a beginning food writer and lowly culinary historian.  Of course honey, I’d kill for one of your worst days as I could rest myself on the lanai, the veranda, the portico (okay that was really tongue in cheek), the porch..whatever…as long as its breezy and mosquito-free.  First Food Network now Smithfield.  (Well not so mad about Smithfield—not the most ethical place to shill for, eh, Paula?)

I am currently engaged in a project I began in 2011 called The Cooking Gene Project—my goal to examine family and food history as the descendant of Africans, Europeans and Native Americans—enslaved people and enslavers—from Africa to America and from Slavery to Freedom.  You and I are both human, we are both Americans, we are both quite “healthily” built, and yet none of these labels is more profound for me than the fact we are both Southern.  Sweet tea runs in our blood, in fact is our blood…What I understand to be true, a lot of your critics don’t…which is, as Southerners our ancestors co-created the food and hospitality and manners which you were born to 66 years ago and I, thirty-six.  In the words of scholar Mechal Sobel, this was “a world they made together,” but beyond that, it is a world we make together.  So I speak to you as a fellow Southerner, a cousin if you will, not as a combatant.

To be part of the national surprise towards you saying the word “nigger” in the past (I am a cultural and culinary historian and so therefore I am using the word within context…) is at best naïve and at worst, an attempt to hide the pervasiveness of racism, specifically anti-Black racism in certain currents of American culture—not just Southern.  Take for example the completely un-Christian and inhuman rage at Cheerios for their simple and very American ad showing a beautiful biracial girl talking to her white mother and pouring cereal on the chest of her Black father.  That Cheerio’s had to shut down the comments section says that the idea of inter-human relationships outside of one’s color bracket is for many hiding behind a computer screen—a sign of the apocalypse.  So just like those old spaghetti sauce ads, yes, America, racism—“it’s in there” even when we were prefer it not be.

When you said, “of course,” I wasn’t flabbergasted, I was rather, relieved…In fact we Black Southerners have an underground saying, “better the Southern white man than the Northern one, because at least you know where he stands…” but Paula I knew what you meant, and I knew where you were coming from.  I’m not defending that or saying its right—because it’s that word—and the same racist venom that drove my grandparents into the Great Migration almost 70 years ago. I am not in agreement with esteemed journalist Bob Herbert who said “brothers shouldn’t use it either..” I think women have a right to the word “b….” gay men have a right to the word “queer” or “f…” and it’s up to people with oppressive histories to decide when and where the use of certain pejorative terms is appropriate.  Power in language is not a one way street.  Obviously I am not encouraging you to use the word further, but I am not going to hide behind ideals when the realities of our struggles with identity as a nation are clear.  No sound bite can begin to peel back the layers of this issue.

Some have said you are not a racist.  Sorry, I don’t believe that…I am more of the Avenue Q type—everybody’s—you guessed it—a little bit racist.  This is nothing to be proud of no more than we are proud of our other sins and foibles.  It’s something we should work against.  It takes a lifetime to unlearn taught prejudice or socially mandated racism or even get over strings of negative experiences we’ve had with groups outside of our own.  We have a really lousy language—and I don’t just mean because we took a Spanish and Portuguese word (negro) and turned into the most recognizable racial slur on earth…in any language…because we have a million and one ways to hate, disdain, prejudge, discriminate and yet we hide behind a few paltry words like racism, bigotry, prejudice when we damn well know that we have thousands of words for cars—because we LOVE cars….and food—because we LOVE food—and yet in this language you and I share, how we break down patterns of thought that lead to social discord like racism, are sorely lacking.  We are a cleaver people at hiding our obsessions with downgrading the other.

Problem two…I want you to understand that I am probably more angry about the cloud of smoke this fiasco has created for other issues surrounding race and Southern food.  To be real, you using the word “nigger” a few times in the past does nothing to destroy my world.  It may make me sigh for a few minutes in resentment and resignation, but I’m not shocked or wounded.  No victim here.  Systemic racism in the world of Southern food and public discourse not your past epithets are what really piss me off.  There is so much press and so much activity around Southern food and yet the diversity of people of color engaged in this art form and telling and teaching its history and giving it a future are often passed up or disregarded.  Gentrification in our cities, the lack of attention to Southern food deserts often inhabited by the non-elites that aren’t spoken about, the ignorance and ignoring of voices beyond a few token Black cooks/chefs or being called on to speak to our issues as an afterthought is what gets me mad. In the world of Southern food, we are lacking a diversity of voices and that does not just mean Black people—or Black perspectives!  We are surrounded by culinary injustice where some Southerners take credit for things that enslaved Africans and their descendants played key roles in innovating.  Barbecue, in my lifetime, may go the way of the Blues and the banjo….a relic of our culture that whisps away.  That tragedy rooted in the unwillingness to give African American barbecue masters and other cooks an equal chance at the platform is far more galling than you saying “nigger,” in childhood ignorance or emotional rage or social whimsy.

Culinary injustice is what you get where you go to plantation museums and enslaved Blacks are not even talked about, but called servants.  We are invisible.  Visitors come from all over to marvel at the architecture and wallpaper and windowpanes but forget the fact that many of those houses were built by enslaved African Americans or that the food that those plantations were renowned for came from Black men and Black women truly slaving away in the detached kitchens.  Imagine how I, a culinary historian and living history interpreter feel during some of these tours where my ancestors are literally annihilated and whisked away to the corners of those rooms, dying multiple deaths of anonymity and cultural amnesia.  I’m so tired of reading about how “okra” is an “African word.”(For land’s sake ya know “apple” isn’t a “European word…” its an English word that comes from German like okra comes from Igbo and Twi!) I am so tired of seeing people of African descent relegated to the tertiary status when even your pal Alton Brown has said, it was enslaved Black people cooking the food.  Culinary injustice is the annihilation of our food voices—past, present and foreseeable future—and nobody will talk about that like they are talking about you and the “n word.” For shame.

You see Paula, your grits may not be like mine, but one time I saw you make hoecakes on your show and I never heard tell of where them hoecakes really came from.  Now not to compare apples and oranges but when I was a boy it was a great pleasure to hear Nathalie Dupree talk about how beaten biscuits and country captain and gumbo started.    More often than not, she gave a nod to my ancestors.  Don’t forget that the Southern food you have been crowned the queen of was made into an art largely in the hands of enslaved cooks, some like the ones who prepared food on your ancestor’s Georgia plantation.  You, just like me cousin, stand squarely on what late playwright August Wilson called, “the self defining ground of the slave quarter.”  There and in the big house kitchen, Africa, Europe and Native America(s) melded and became a fluid genre of world cuisine known as Southern food.  Your barbecue is my West African babbake, your fried chicken, your red rice, your hoecake, your watermelon, your black eyed peas, your crowder peas, your muskmelon, your tomatoes, your peanuts, your hot peppers, your Brunswick stew and okra soup, benne, jambalaya, hoppin’ john, gumbo, stewed greens and fat meat—have inextricable ties to the plantation South and its often Black Majority coming from strong roots in West and Central Africa.

Don’t be fooled by the claims that Black people don’t watch you.  We’ve been watching you.  We all have opinions about you.  You were at one point sort of like our Bill Clinton. (You know the first Black president?)   When G. Garvin and the Neely’s and the elusive B Smith (who they LOVED to put on late on Saturday nights or early Sunday mornings!) were few and far between, you were our sorta soul mama, the white lady with the gadonkadonk and the sass and the signifying who gave us a taste of the Old Country-which is for us—the former Confederacy and just beyond.  Furthermore, as a male who practices an “alternative lifestyle” (and by the way I am using that phrase in bitter sarcastic irony), it goes without saying that many of my brothers have been you for Halloween, and you are right up there with Dolly Parton, Dixie Carter and Tallullah Bankhead of old as one of the muses of the Southern gay male imagination.  We don’t despise you, we don’t even think you made America fat.  We think you are a businesswoman who has made some mistakes, has character flaws like everybody else and in fact is now a scapegoat.  I find it hard to be significantly angry at you when during the last election the re-disenfranchisement of the Negro—like something from the time of W.E.B. Du Bois was a national cause celebre. Hell, today the voting rights act was gutted and I’m sure many think this is a serious win for “democracy.”  If  I want to be furious about something racial—well America—get real—we’ve had a good twelve years of really really rich material that the National media has set aside to talk about Paula Deen.  Yes Paula,  in light of all these things, you are the ultimate, consummate racist, and the one who made us fat, and the reason why American food sucks and ……you don’t believe that any more than I do. 

A fellow Georgian of yours once said that one day the “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners would sit down at the table of brotherhood.”  Well no better time than now.  Paula, I don’t have to tell you redemption is yours to choose, to have and to embrace.  As a Jew, I extend the invitation to do teshuvah—which means to repent—but better—to return to a better state, a state of shalem–wholeness and shalom–peace.  You used food to rescue your life, your family and your destiny.  I admire that.  I know that I have not always made good choices and to be honest none of us are perfect.  This is an opportunity to grow and renew.

If there is anything The Cooking Gene has taught me—its about the art of reconciliation.  We aren’t happy with you right now.  Then again some of the things you have said or have been accused of saying aren’t surprising.  In so many ways, that’s the more unfortunate aspect.  We are resigned to believe and understand that our neighbor is to be suspected before respected.  It doesn’t have to be this way, and it doesn’t have to go on forever.  As a species we cannot conduct ourselves in this manner.  As creations of the Living G-d, we are commanded to be better.  You and I are both the descendants of people who lived, fought, died, suffered so that we could be better in our own time.  I’m disappointed but I’m not heartless.  And better yet, praise G-d I ain’t hopeless.

If you aren’t busy on September 7, and I surely doubt that you are not busy—I would like to invite you to a gathering at a historic antebellum North Carolina plantation.  We are doing a fundraiser dinner for Historic Stagville, a North Carolina Historic Site.  One of the largest in fact, much larger than the one owned by your great-grandfather’s in Georgia.  30,000 acres once upon a time with 900 enslaved African Americans working the land over time. They grew tobacco, corn, wheat and cotton.  I want you to walk the grounds with me, go into the cabins, and most of all I want you to help me cook.  Everything is being prepared using locally sourced food, half of which we hope will come from North Carolina’s African American farmers who so desperately need our support.  Everything will be cooked according to 19th century methods.  So September 7, 2013, if you’re brave enough, let’s bake bread and break bread together at Historic Stagville. This isn’t publicity this is opportunity.  Leave the cameras at home.  Don’t worry, it’s cool, nobody will harm you if you’re willing to walk to the Mourner’s Bench.  Better yet, I’ll be there right with you.

G-d Bless,

Culinary Historian, Food Writer and Living History Interpreter

Michael W. Twitty

For a link to a video of the event Paula missed:  click here.

For a link to the MAD Symposium video where I talk about culinary justice and injustice: click here.


About michaelwtwitty

I am a Judaics teacher and Culinary Historian focusing on the foodways of Africa, enslaved African Americans, African America and the African and Jewish diasporas.
This entry was posted in Events and Appearances, Food and Slavery, Food Philosophy at Afroculinaria, Pop Culture and Pop Food, The Cooking Gene. Bookmark the permalink.

989 Responses to An Open Letter to Paula Deen

  1. R. S. Williams says:

    Michael, this is amazing. Thank you for so eloquently addressing what really lies beneath the outrage over the whole Paula Deen fiasco.

    • Carol Belles says:

      Thank you.

      • Michelle Leigh says:

        This is the most “brilliant” response I’ve seen in regard to the Paula Deen fiasco! Thank you Michael W. Twitty for putting it into words in a way I never could not nor even thought of! Sir, you are not only a brilliant chef and wordsmith but a gentleman with an even gentler soul! Thank you again for this beautifully written piece! I hope Paula accepts your invitation and joins you September 7, 2013 either cooking with you or just being in attendance at the gathering at a historic antebellum North Carolina plantation where you are doing a fundraiser dinner for Historic Stagville, a North Carolina Historic Site. Everything, you say, will be cooked according to 19th century methods and I for one so wish I could attend this historic event. Peace be with you!

      • Cherie L Cox says:

        What an eye-opener! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. I hope this letter goes viral and that your name becomes a household term for millions of Americans!

    • Charleen Collins says: are a beautiful man….thank you from a 70 year old WHITE woman…I used to call Brazil nuts “Niger toes”…never thot it was a bad thing…wouldn’t say it now…putting you on my “favorits list”

      • Lol….so did my grandmother. ..I was just talking to someone abt that

      • Laura says:

        I too grew up with “nigger toes” Never thought much about it.

      • Oh my goodness, my family used to use the same term for Brazil nuts too. I wouldn’t think of saying that now, but back then I didn’t know it was wrong. Proves that when we know better, we do better!

      • elmediat says:

        My late mother, a first generation Canadian of Polish &Ukrainian background, was born 1920, in St Boniface Manitoba, I remember as a child (1960’s) at Christmas having Brazil nuts. My mother in a half hushed voice mentioned how she and her sisters called them “Nigger toes”. She went on to say ” we never knew it was wrong, .. it was what people called them”. She also commented on the fact that growing up the only people of African descent she saw were in the movies/ radio shows. That was all they knew about them.

        I think this demonstrates how effectively Mass Media and a pervasive cultural attitude can be spread to multiple generations, shaping behaviour & expectations. It is particularly ironic, in the case of my mother and other first gen Canadians (North Americans), when one considers that they faced their own wall of prejudice Mom repeated grade 8 – at her school just about anyone one who was not of ” a Angleeski”(English) background repeated grade 8.

        BTW Michael heard the interview on CBC Q , excellent. Keep up the great work. 🙂

    • 1stluvwithin says:

      Unbelievable, heartfelt and full of truth. Would love to support your work by having you come to speak to students at a university I work in… interested? email me at

    • Martha Steward went to jail, came out even sterted a cooking class in jail yet she is a Hero, come on guys, Paula was just being a southerner, but am from Africa and belief me you, I can cook but will never be Martha Or Paula, but please let it go , or pull Martha:s staff off the counter, after all she also is not a good example of a good citizen, and by the way I can cook Ugali and sukuma week for the president, just ask him he knows what am talking about, can you cook Ugali?, and sukuma week, just ask a Kenyan, and they will smile.

      • Claire O'Connor says:

        I’m sorry. “just being a southerner” is no excuse for being racist. THIS is the problem, as I see it. Everyone in the country considers people in the south to be racist. What Paula is guilty of is carrying on that little fable. I was born and raised here – by racists. Lucky me, I am intelligent, well traveled, well read, well spoken, and thoughtful. I am free to make my own choices and I AM DEFINITELY NOT RACIST! Paula said it all when she said, “I is what I is and I’m not going to change” – I don’t care to have her represent the south.

      • N says:

        Claire, who knows when Paula said those things?? She may have said them twenty years ago. She was just being honest when she admitted to using the n-word. Many of us have probably used it or thought it at some point in our life. Also a lot of these claims were coming from someone who was fired from her company, meaning they were probably bitter and blowing things out of proportion. I don’t think it’s fair to deem her as racist when all she did was admit to using the word. Should she have said it in the first place? No. But I admire her for at least being honest about it instead of lying. She doesn’t deserve all of this criticism.
        We all are just as full of blame as Paula Deen, yet we are so quick to ostracize her because she is an easy target. Why don’t we focus on our own problems before casting her out.

      • Hogue Lewis says:

        As a white northerner it is possible I just don’t “get it” (though I married a southerner, so maybe that counts). But it seems to me that the revelation is neither surprising or in context. It seems the reaction is totally outdone, although any public figure such as Paula Deen simply has to expect that nowadays. I am fine with her paying a price, if you will. Goodness knows Martha did – jail. So I don’t agree, Elizabeth, that she has paid no price for her financial crime.

        But isn’t her reaction the shame and the sham? As Charlene, above, says, she USED to use the word nigger toes to describe Brazil Nuts. Whatever all that is. I suspect if Charlene had been caught in this imbroglio, she would have responded more along the lines of, “Yeah, I said it. I’m 70 years old. I am a product of my southern heritage, which has had issues with race in the not too distant future. Like our society, I may not be 100% reformed of the instincts of my upbringing, but I have certainly changed and not all that I have said or done regarding African Americans in the past reflects my feelings today.” The problem, as I see it, is that Paula has never “owned” it. Michael’s article is powerful because he owns the issue, from his perspective. Paula did not. She tried to run away from it, discount it, blame others, etc. And even if you believe that no one is completely free of the stain of racism even today, her behavior after the fact hints that she is far less reformed of the matter than most. Of course, none of that might matter – she is just some rich white woman that cooks. She is not setting policy or anything. But I do think that somewhere in all of this exaggerated hype is a promising truth: that Paula has not kept up with the times, and that is distasteful to many.

      • Sandra Kernen says:

        I am so p—–d about all this, Martha did a lot more to people that Paula ever would and she got to come to a jail in west Virginia, well I live in WV and I know her punishment was not nearly played up as Paula’s was. She lived like a queen, I think she should have to go through everything that Paula has had to do..Today show thinks they have got the people fooled about Martha, not true…

      • SandraLee says:

        Hogue Lewis starts with “As a white Northerner …” a phrase that gores me to the bone. I have lived in the North, South and Midwest, and I have to tell you, racism is not just a Southern thing. The Neo-Nazi groups were “born” in the Midwest, and go to any major NORTHERN city you will see copious evidence of racism, the least of which is not the segregation of neighborhoods by religion, race and social economic status. We are all racists, regardless of our ethnicity, to some degree or another – say otherwise and you are a fool or a liar. Racism starts in the home, and out of ignorance. But we can UNlearn, and thankfully, grow up and out of it. But please get off your high horse unless you have NEVER thought, uttered or let go uncontested any racial slur, be it the n-word, or a Chinese, Hispanic, German, Hebrew or other slur, including Honky. (This in no way excuses Paula or any of us, but only cast that stone if you are “clean.”)

        Thank you, Mr. MichaelWTwitty for calling it like it is. AMERICAN cooking comes from everywhere – African countries, Spain, France, Germany, China, Thailand, Ireland, etc. – it is what makes our country so — well, tasty! I hope Paula answers your invite, and if, no WHEN, you get that cooking show (sending out positive energy), I’m already a fan!

      • Hogue Lewis says:

        The “white northerner” comment had to do with the fact that much of Mr. Twitty’s excellent essay involved the experiences of being southern, and really a way of apologizing that if I missed the point it was because I did not share the same cultural background as the author. Nowhere did I say I was or was not racist, and in fact thing, or at least intended to express, that racism is hardly a slain beast anywhere. From my perspective Deen’s issue was not that she has used the word in her past. Totally out of context and all that. The problem was that she did not seem to understand what really upset people about. I apologize for your feeling gored to the bone. Not my intent. As I said, I married a southerner. I have lived in several southern cities. I hardly hold the south in disregard.

      • Jason Q. says:

        @SandraLee : An interesting point of fact: At the peak of their power in the 1920s, the Klan’s greatest membership strength was in…Indiana.

      • Richard Mathews says:

        I would just like to add to all those who do not understand the difference between Martha Stewart and Paula Deen is simply this: Martha Stewart’s crime was victimless (expect of course for Martha) and she did her time. Paula Deen’s managed to victimize an entire ethnic group. Furthermore, she lied under oath. She also lied about her type II diabetes while promoting a diet that could not have been worse for diabetics or anyone else for that matter. Then, when made a paid spokesperson for a diabetes drug, she ‘came out’ about her diabetes Finally she claims that the only people she hates are “thieves and liars”. She must be talking about herself.

    • Ronnie Podolefsky says:

      Thank you, Alabama Gal. I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. Catherine says:

    Thanks for this. It is well thought out, and I’m glad to hear it all addressed.

  3. dswidow says:

    I was hoping you’d weigh in on this – and am so glad you did. The most relevant, coherent and meaningful piece on this issue. Thank you so much.

  4. Beatrce Miler says:

    i admire you greatly Mr. Twitty.. this is the most thoughtful and kind essay on this subject. thank you so very much.
    your loving fan in NYC. Beatrice Miller

  5. jnewhart says:

    Beautifully written

  6. Hazel Singer says:

    Thanks for taking the time to be eloquent.

  7. lion2012 says:

    Thank you, Michael, for seeing and writing the big picture through the abysmal media smokescreen.

  8. l says:

    I am beyond inpired by your response. You articulate my frustration with this entire debacle.
    Thank you

  9. wsgood says:

    Thanks for this very interesting, informative, and superbly written piece. Assume you know of Marci Cohen Ferris’ book Matzoh Ball Gumbo?

  10. stephenwooten1964 says:

    profound and moving… forward. thanks, michael!

    • thank you Brother Stephen!

      • Rene P. Fore says:

        Hello Michael,
        I to am a now very part time historic food ways cook. I kind of started the cooking demonstrations using as inspiration “What Mrs. Fisher knows about Southern Cooking” the first published African American cookbook at Chippokkes Plantation with Leah Duncan. I applaud your thoughtful response to the Paula Dean “news”. Yours is the most reasonable from the heart response I have heard. I would love to join you on Sept 7. if not cooking at least attending. I can do a mean Hoppin John
        Renae P. Fore

  11. Carole King says:

    The Culinary Gene never entered my mind until I saw your post and I couldn’t stop reading it. It was a beautiful and awesome piece that captures so much of everything we call Southern. Thank you so much for putting your thoughts in writing and I hope that the event at Historic Stagville will be a day we all will remember…

  12. rsweetin1 says:

    I am a white southerner and I was moved by your words. Bravo!

  13. Linda Marshall says:

    This was wonderful on so many levels, thank you for it. When this white, Missouri girl went on my first plantation tour in LA, I was haunted by the slave quarters. I bought an authentic slave cook book as my only keepsake. Rich with ideas and history, it made my mind spin as I thought about the basic essential task of putting a meal on the table…and the symbolic ritual of bringing people together in horrible circumstances for a brief respite and restoration.

    Your words were so genuine/authentic, it was so helpful as I try to understand the emotions. I so hope she joins you. I wish I could join you. This was truly an excellent effort from the heart. And I wish you success as you follow your career dreams, I think you’ll be fantastic.

  14. Chelsea says:

    Thank you for this important post! It puts into words some of the ideas I’ve been struggling to express in my own mind for the past few days. History behind food is so important, whether we are acknowledging the inspiration for a recipe or recognizing the pattern of a cooking technique, and yet it’s so sadly eliminated when we cook, eat, or talk/write about food.

  15. Beautifully written !!!!!!

  16. Judith of Umbria says:

    She heard that word all the time and so it came into her mouth. We need not to do that, but I mean all of us, not just Southern white females. I have never used it. I grew up in Maine and never heard it until I went south to university. I have other words to unlearn. This was a good article and I thank you.

    • Joe Lusk says:

      I lived in Maine for many years and I can say the word is in use in the North. I grew up in the South and expected that going North I would not encounter racists. What I encountered were racists who never lived near to someone of color. Racism bourne out of ingnorance, and only because actual interactions between people of color were so infrequent it appeared to not exist. Segregation is alive and well in the North, since they never “needed” to integrate. Racism exists equally in the North and the South, and as was said above, the Southerner is just more open about it

      • Sean says:

        Unless the “ignorant party” commits, either mentally or physically, action against people of color, they are not racist. I grew up in New England, and had very limited interaction with African Americans…that fact alone doesn’t make me, or anyone, racist. You can’t decide someone is a racist because they aren’t given the opportunity to be culturally exposed to other ethnic groups. That kind of apologetic nonsense pushes race relations backward.

        Our actions and thoughts define us: not the circumstances of our birth.

      • Coral says:

        I think it was Dick Gregory in “The Back of the Bus” who said, “In the South they don’t care how close I get, just as long as I don’t get too big. In the North, they don’t are how big I get, as long as i don’t get too close” — this echoes my experience when I moved from Alabama to California in the late 50s…. Excellent article, by the way!……but, although the world is not perfect, things really have improved since I lived in Alabama in the 40s and 50s. But also, my mother taught me that I was supposed to be a “lady” (not a term denoting social standing, but one denoting deportment) and “ladies” did not use that word, although our only alternatives in those days were Negro (capitalized) or Colored. The terms “Black” or “African American” did not come into use until the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s.

  17. Doug Upchurch says:

    EXCELLENT response!! Thank you for writing it!

  18. Jim Auchmutey says:

    Thanks for sharing your take on this controversy, Michael. L’Affaire Paula hasn’t been easy to watch for someone who loves the South and despises racism. Some of the reaction (like yours) has been thought-provoking. Some has smacked of easy sanctimony and regional stereotyping.

    • Thank you Jim, so glad you checked this out and gave a good stamp! Means a lot! I wanted to make it clear the problem isn’t the South, its personal choices–lets hope people get the message!

      • Stacy says:

        That is exactly the point – this is not about the South. I cringe when I hear Southerners disparaged as all being racist or prejudiced or hateful. Simply not so. I grew up in the South and that word was just not tolerated in my family. This whole thing is about ignorance. Ignorance can be cured, if one will just ask for the enlightenment of knowledge.

      • Barbara says:

        Speaking of messages…..what message does the Food Network send by firing Paula Deen…yet they have had very few black chefs with shows…I’m not a regular viewer of the Food Network, however I don’t ever remember any special programming in the month of February (Black History Month)…they certainly have their share of white, hispanic and italian chefs….As for Ms. Deen, I think we need to look at the whole picture and wait for the outcome of the lawsuit against her and her brother, Bubba…maybe then the truth will come to light!

    • Cheryl Gaston says:

      I think what I always disliked about her has been her willingness to totally embrace the stereotype. … y’awll.

      • Cheryl Gaston says:

        Michael, You response is amazing…tolerant through understanding, articulate, and necessary. You are a wise man.

      • my kippa is off to ya, bc I’m still on my journey–and always will be

      • Sarah C. says:

        It’s spelled y’all, not y’awll….. Why should she change her accent? She was born and raised in the South. Her accent is real. She hasn’t tried to be someone she isn’t. She is who she is based on where she was when. She said something she regrets. She’s apologized and asked for forgiveness. Give her a break and accept her apology. It’s what God demands of us when someone confesses and asks for forgiveness. It’s what He does for us, so we should/must do the same for our fellow human beings.

      • Jack brasher says:

        Y’awll is not a stereo type of prejudice. It is a southern word for you all. You should not characterize people who use that term as being prejudice.

      • Dave Sanders says:

        I agree with Sarah C. Paula isn’t pretending nor has she embraced the “Stereotype”. She is who she is. I’m a Southerner, no I’m not proud of what Paula said years ago. Nor am I proud of what I did years ago or even yesterday. We all make mistakes and learn from them. We change.

        BTW I love “Southern or Soul or Country” cooking. The only original Amerian food is from the Native Americans. Everything else is a combination of cultures.

      • KayMar says:

        Paula Deen doesn’t ’embrace the stereotype’, she is simply who she is, the same as I am who I am. I am a southern woman born, raised, lived, and hope to die, in Georgia, just north of Atlanta. My accent is a different than Paula’s, and different from those who grew up in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, or any of the glorious Southern States.
        If you think we ’embrace the stereotype’ then you are not aware that you have offended me, but you have. We embrace our culture, we embrace our heritage, we embrace who we are, but we do not embrace that you stereotype us. As a group, we are intelligent and educated, not ignorant and illiterate. We are respectful to ourselves and others. Please realize that we are not a ‘stereotype’, we are simply people who are different from you and your friends. I could easily call you ‘racist’, but I don’t. And please, the word y’all is a simple contraction of you and all. It is used as a word of inclusion, all-embracing and said with love. We welcome visitors, so y’all come on and sit a spell. I’m fixin’ to cook supper, and there’s gonna be plenty

      • TracyAE says:

        Wow, Sarah C, you wrote ‘God’ and not ‘G-d’! Thats a whole ‘nuther discussion there!!

      • Its a Jewish custom of respect for the Creators name.

      • Ross Hill says:

        A priest and a rabbi had a friendly rivalary to see if one could catch the other in a sin. The priest suggested that the rabbi come to dinner and the rabbi suggested a date. they agreed and sat down to dinner and the priest in triumpth said “Ahah, I see you eating ham”! and the rabbi replied and “you are eating meat on friday”. 😉

  19. Awesome, thank you so much for giving her a right to be human. I think she is a victim of society and a generation. She probably knows better now. I have so many great memories of a (dare I say it) black woman in my youth feeding me things that I’d never eaten before. My Mom wasn’t a rich woman either, she just got the best help she could for her 4 kids while she worked 80 hour weeks for the health dept. We all have roots, and should be proud of them.

    • Pat Santana says:

      Susan, I lived in North Carolina , a northern transplant. I loved everything about it. The people, the food, the kindness of all… and white. TThe one thing I couldn’t take was the heat…and am now back in northern NY…..missing the south and all its traditions.

  20. Nathalie Dupree says:

    Thanks for understanding that I made and make a real effort to acknowledge the role of African Americans in Southern Food. I tend to agree that we are all prejudiced about something, Michael. Personally, I am self-righteous about self-righteousness. I do, however, know I have never used that word. When I was nine years old my courtly grandfather took a trip from Virginia to Louisianna on the bus because he wanted to understand what was happening to African Americans across the South. When he returned, we had many discussions. I most vividly remember a walk my sister and I took with him through the woods near our home and he told us that we must always treat everyone with respect, and that certain words and attitudes were not acceptable. My father was in the integrated army so he had already made it clear we were not to use the word and that everyone was to be treated properly, but the talk with my grandfather stands out. I often think I know how others feel, which has led to mistakes many times in thinking I understood husbands, friends, African Americans, students, asians, etc. etc. would react to what I said. I have also mimicked words and phrases used by others — my husband’s Lububicher relatives talk all the time about how they all run late and call it lububicher time. (Excuse my spelling. ) And some of my African American friends say they run on CP time. I’ve learned I can say neither, because it is not mine to say. Intimacy does not confer privilege in perceived slurs. Not every person of any religion, region, sexual persuasion, age, color, agrees or thinks alike. So Paula’s “Of course”, which honest, was out of my purview. If she had understood the depth of what she said, she would perhaps have said, “I’m embarrassed to say I did, but it is something I regret.” And that is the issue, really, isn’t it? Best, Nathalie Dupree

    • Rabbi Scott Sperling says:

      Ms. Dupree,

      I am a longtime fan and my admiration for you as a person has risen even higher with this posting. Thank you, ma’am!

    • Adri says:

      Like Rabbi Sperling, I have been a fan of yours for a long time. And as with the rabbi, my admiration for you has grown having read your comment.

      • Nathalie Dupree says:

        Michael, you can’t imagine how many people have sent me your profound message. Thank you for it and your kind words.

    • You are one of my all time heroes. Watching your show growing up was without a question one of the reasons why I got into historic cooking and culinary history. And to think, I thought beating biscuit dough a 100 times was an eternity! I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!

    • Terri Tubbs says:

      Mr. Twitty & Ms. Dupree,
      Thank you for you words today!
      Terri Tubbs

    • Ray Beal says:

      Thank You, He that is without sin shall cast the first stone. I forgive everyone for using that word. Those who can’t forgive will not be forgiven by our maker, Jesus Christ.

      • Lucie says:

        “Those who can’t forgive will not be forgiven by our maker, Jesus Christ.” “Our” maker? Give me a break! You are free to worship whomever or whatever but not everyone believes in your myth. This is the same cultural brainwashing which created and fostered the environment of slavery and white supremacy. People like you need to respect that not everyone in this country, or the world shares your belief system–which always seems to advance your people to the exclusion of others.

      • @Lucie – Although this is not the correct forum for that remark I completely agree Lucie. Do not assume I am Christian. As a matter of fact, I am a Pagan Priest and legal clergy in 49 states.

        As for the post by Michael, this was excellent! Bravo!

      • Room for EVERYBODY 🙂

    • Well stated Nathalie. You are a woman of true grace, wit and wisdom.

    • Farmer Ama says:

      I respect you EVEN MORE NOW for this writing, dear sisterwoman Dupree. LEDGENDARY. We love you.

    • David Urquhart says:

      I am also a long time fan and have enjoyed your tv shows and cookbooks. It’s nice to see the replies acknowledging your well written comment.

    • Jim Caruso says:

      “Intimacy does not confer privilege in perceived slurs.” This is a statement I will remember forever. Thank you, Ms. Dupree and Mr. Twitty, for crystallizing the issues of Paula-Gate with your very well-chosen words.

  21. Ok this post is AMAZING and I’ve only read half of it! ( suffering from a bad cold and have limited focus right now). I’m going to share this EVERYWHERE…and finish reading it when the headache goes away.

  22. A well written letter and thorough in grasping the whole picture. We are quite the fickle society and judging by many of our actions we (society) apparently don’t own mirrors because everyone is quick to condemn others while seeking forgiveness for themselves. Or by being completely oblivious to our own failings and shortcomings. I’m writing this not to defend anyone, wrong is wrong, but I don’t feel that her words or actions came from a place of hatred or bigotry. Still with malice or not she is now answering for that and it’ll work out like it works out regardless of individual opinions. But let’s all breath for a second and take a moment to be introspective and look into ourselves. There are a lot of rocks being thrown not just at Paula Deen but all over and all around. I guess the world forgot that we all live in glass houses.

  23. M Leggette says:

    Michael you are the best…… Well said!

  24. Laura McMullen Margeson says:

    interesting project you’re undertaking. would love to have you post on your observations on the sept. 7th gathering on stagville.

  25. Kay Heller says:

    Such a well thought-out response to the Paula Dean situation that we are all part of in one way or another. Thank you for your insight, Mr. Twitty, and for putting those thoughts on paper!

  26. CWills says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve been waiting for a response this intelligent, nuanced and eloquent. I should have known it would come from you.

  27. What are your thoughts on the non-renewal of her contract in the face of the unfavorable media attention?

    • Is it punishment or is it an excuse? That’s the question. Hey, Paula Deen is not the only one who should learn that the behavior she tolerated from her brother is not just bad for the brand, or business its bad for the soul. We need to hold all brands and corporations ethically accountable. A decent job, a fair wage and fair treatment are not too much to ask for. I am on the fence about the Food Network situation..but there will always be consequences. Perhaps they are worried all of her controversies will spoil the “brand.”

      • Kelly O says:

        I’m curious your thoughts on the larger issues of the complaint. Her use of “ninja” (since I am not a culinary historian, I’m uncomfortable using it personally) is minor compared to some of the sexual harassment charges laid on Bubba Hiers. For me, personally, it’s not about the use of that word, it’s about a pervasive encouraging of a discriminatory environment in the workplace. It’s her role as an employer and the face of the Paula Deen restaurant “empire” (for lack of a better word) that gives me the most pause after having read the complaint all the way through.

        It wasn’t just a case of using racially discriminatory language, it was also harassment based on gender and appearance. If a quarter of the complaint is accurate, the charges are much more serious and deeply disturbing than what the media has hooked on to. I don’t believe Paula Deen is a racist – no more than any of us are (and I appreciate your Avenue Q reference) – but I do believe she was not acting in a way that represents her company well.

        If you have not read the entire complaint, I encourage you to do so. The media seems to have hooked on to this one word, but it feels more important than just that. And again, I do applaud you for a well-written and clearly personal letter that addresses quite well some of the painful issues we still face as a country. Having grown up in Birmingham, Alabama, it’s something I’ve grown up with, and I’m glad to see people finally talking about it like adults.

      • You are very very right. One thing I didn’t address was sexual/racial harassment charges and for me that combination or just either one alone is loathsome. This is what I have to say–you are right..I just feel that in a case like this and the media attention its garnered that this is the kind of issue where we need to go piece by verifiable piece and really eat it a bite at a time. I can’t abide by unethical treatment of workers..but what better place to see how that leads to ruin like a plantation? Greetings back to you–in Birmingham–the city of my maternal grandparents birth!!!

      • The only problem is the Food Network is still selling her products. Paula is still making them money on the air or off, so obviously they don’t feel the brand is that “spoiled!” Great article!

  28. Jonscott Williams says:

    Nicely put and well said.

  29. This is a most moving and eloquent post and brought me to tears. I am from the Midwest but recall very clearly how easily the ‘N’ word was used when I was a young girl and I feel shame at just having heard it used as if it was in any way normal vernacular. I’ve felt strongly that persecuting Paula for something she may have said decades ago was quite the knee jerk reaction…she erred certainly with that prevailing attitude but she was most certainly not alone. I’m in agreement with Natalie though…her response was as telling as her actions of those many years ago; responding with some sense of remorse would have gone a long way in my book.

    Still, you have so clearly illustrated a bigger issue and one for which she and many are to be held accountable and in truth, something I needed to be reminded of. I lived in the South for 10 years and now wish I had the foresight then to delve into the history of those many Southern dishes I came to love; certainly many were the results of your ancestors years of forced labor combined with their love of keeping traditions. I thank you for that and for this amazing, heartfelt and extremely gracious post. Fighting hatred with more hatred is never the answer; your offer is an olive branch and I sincerely hope that Paula reaches out and grabs it.

  30. cliffetters says:

    Michael, your letter is the kind of thing that redeems my faith in the internet and our new electronic interconnected society.

  31. Karen Hanks says:

    Thanks for sharing… and for widening and deepening a perspective that should and must be embraced by more…….

  32. anita772 says:

    This is a lovely piece. But I’m curious what you feel about Paula admitting that she knew her brother subjected staff to sexual and racial harassment in the restaurant that they co-own. As an owner, she did nothing to protect the staff and let this harassment continue. That is what the lawsuit is about. What is your opinion on this?

    • Clearly unethical behavior. Now the lawsuit is squarely on this issue but everybody has attached themselves to the N word controversy. Not good. I mean if you work with Smithfield, and they clearly have ethics issues, how much of a stretch is it to see such dealings in her backyard? You are right–we need to talk about sexual harassment, racial insensitivity and abusive language and the culpability. “Do Not Stand Idly By…” principle..

      • gingy55 says:

        I agree with everyone in that your post is well done.
        Also, I’ve been right there, on her side, my goodness she said she’s sorry, what else do you want, you can’t get blood from a turnip, give it a rest, …… THEN I read the entire legal suit against her, her brother, etc., etc. This has much less to do with the awful word so many use, however it does reek of racial slurs and being better than. It has more to do with sexual/gender harassment, physical violence against employees, pornography ~ come on now, and gross vocabulary and out of the way joking! He is a grown man for Pete’s sake.
        I am a forgiving person, yes, a Christian, and do agree that forgiveness should be extended. However, I know that there is also an element of what I’ve always heard my Mama say, ‘Be sure your sin will find you out.’ Bubba Hiers was extremely wrong in his dealings, if, as was previously stated, even 1/4 of what is written in the lawsuit is true. I do agree that there should be punishment levied on both of them. Not the judge, but my husband works with men incarcerated for multiple years for much less. Yes, I believe these accusations against him are crimes. He should very well NOT be allowed to work in any position of authority as he has, should pay restitution, should spend time locked up, should attend treatment for pornography addiction and they should both be required to attend some sort of classes on how not to treat people as well as how to treat people. The 1st and foremost thing that comes to mind for me is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
        This is just a sad case all the way around. Everyone has been hurt, some by their own hand coming back on them, (again, if what is in suit is true). So many have stood by her without even looking into the background of it all. I have really thought there has to be more than meets the eye as I can’t see so many reputable companies just dropping anyone simply for saying …. one word. They’re too smart for that, marketing departments too professional among other things. It is just sad.
        Thanks for your heart on the page. Oh, and btw, if any of us ever breathed anything even slightly akin to any type of racial slur we would have had our mouths washed out with soap, a spanking with a leather strap, sat in the corner, required to apologize and would have been grounded for a long time with no allowance for an extended period of time. My Mama is from Michigan, Daddy born in Arkansas, but most of our family’s existence has been in the great state of Mississippi where I continue to call home, being born in Michigan, too.
        Too many racist activity in the world. Love others like you love yourself. This would certainly solve a lot.

    • Pat Santana says:

      oh wow……I was not aware of the Bubba/sexual/racial harassment part. Oh Paula, that is more unforgivable than the alleged “n” word. Shame shame.

  33. Rabbi Scott Sperling says:

    A thoughtful, articulate and educative response. As a Jew and newcomer to the South (just 12 years) these issues have vexed me greatly and I am still struggling to work through them. I offer a heartfelt, “Yashar Ko’ach” and “Thank You!” for your work.

  34. Pingback: @Afroculinaria’s Open Letter to @Paula_Deen Virtual Go-To Girl | Virtual Go-To Girl

  35. Kim says:

    Wow. I’ve been pretty down lately about all this Raleigh nonsense, and now the VRA . . . but reading this made me feel hopeful that there are still good people in the world. Thank you.

    And I’d like to come to your Stagville dinner!

  36. Janis says:

    In all the media hoopla, your letter is proof we, as a nation, have grown. When I read this, I could hear MLK’s voice. This, my friend, is the healing that needs to happen. I am grateful you chose to make this public. I have two young children who cannot understand AT ALL why there is so much hostility. My husband and I have raised them to be inclusive of everyone, and I was proud to see my children confused why the whole world hasn’t been inclusive all along. (Keep in mind, America is the whole world.) Ah, the innocence of babes.
    I hope with every fiber of my being Paula Deen accepts your invitation. It will make several perfect lessons for Sunday School to Homeschool to Public School:
    ~You make a mistake, own up to it and make repairs. Someone offends you, offer a hand in forgiveness. Then let it be.
    ~We must always be mindful of our words, thus living by the sentiment Harm None.
    I hope with all my heart Americans, Northern and Southern, can refrain from muddying the waters further and show our children, our future, a unity through forgiveness more tangible and real to them than they will read in history books.

  37. justcooknyc says:

    Thank you so much for writing this.

  38. I wish I had your way with words, Michael! I will not claim to be a Southerner, although I have lived in the southern part of the US most of my life: Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Southern California. Your part of “the South” has always intrigued me, with it’s history, culture and charm. I will not speak as an authority on prejudice, having been the subject of it myself as woman, Persian, and Jew. One day, I do believe, we as a human race will evolve from prejudice. I pray that we will see it in our lifetime, but I suspect not.

  39. Rebekah Taylor says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful essay

  40. What an excellent way to handle and address Paula Deen and…. MOST of Southern Cultural Cooking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ^ 5 to ya Mr. Twitty!

  41. Susan says:

    GOD bless you.

  42. MC Love says:

    Excellent. I hope she reads letter and agrees to meet you in September. Your words brought me clarity on the issue. Thank you.

  43. sherry says:

    Yours is a relevant and important voice to hear. I will be sure to pay attention to your work! (Another reason to love Facebook! – where I first saw this posted) Well done and thank you!!

  44. You, my dear, have spoken with your heart – a rare sound but sweet to the ears.

  45. Thank you for putting this whole issue into the proper perspective.

  46. Cynthia A. Robinson says:

    I feel that as a Southern almost 60 female, I don’t , haven’t ever used the word, I didn’t even know what racism was all about until the late 60’s early 70’s. Do I have relatives that use such, yes! Do I do anything about it when they do, yes, I tell them that I do not use that word and for them not to use it around me. Who do I think our “Southern” cooking comes from, the slaves, and poor people of the south, because I don’t think that anyone who could afford it didn’t have people cooking for them. So I want to thank you for this AWESOME letter, I don’t think what she did, not doing anything about her brother’s situation, is what this is really all about, I do think that it is the media trying to get our attention off things that are more important that people should be paying attention to!!! I just wish I were able to be there on 7th of September because I would love to be able to see, hear and be apart of such an event, but since I live on disability, such a trip isn’t possible. God bless you and yours.

    • Cynthia, I was wondering if another person my age, from the South, would say the words you did! I’ve NEVER used the word, NEVER made a joke and when others made crass jokes, I ALWAYS raised unholy hell, such to the extent by the time I was 12 years old, people knew better than to speak racism around me. I was born and raised in the south… it was such a blessing to live in southern California for three years a while back, perhaps I lived in a bubble there, but I don’t remember experiencing ANY racism while there. Back in the South, of course, it’s a part of my day-today existence when I’m out and about….racism is horribly alive and well. Would’ve been nice if Paula Deen had branded herself as the Queen of Southern Cooking without proving that southerners are still racists.

  47. Erica Zamora says:


  48. Pam Secrest says:

    love this, can I have more details about Sept. 7th. I am a North Carolinian and would be interested in joining in

  49. Wayne says:

    Nice article. I just wanted to add something about her use of the word. A lot of people don’t realize that some white southerners don’t think of every African American as a n….. . Most of the whites who use the word are using it to describe a rather annoying or hateful person that is acting like a fool. I grew up in southern Georgia and have lived here all my life and I’ve met black people who do the same thing, they use the word to refer to unpleasant people who are black.

    I don’t condone it being used in any sense, but this southern use of the word is different than most who aren’t southern would understand without knowing the culture or experiencing it enough. Simply put, for some whites and blacks, it’s akin to calling someone a black a**hole. There are also those whites who use it to describe any person of color, but those people are actually pretty few and far between, and usually live out in the country and were just bred with heavy racial leanings.

    I hope this makes sense and I really enjoyed your article as I live a couple of miles away from Paula Deen and can speak to culture of Georgians. Keep up the good work!

  50. cathy says:

    beautiful article! I’ll quote Son of Baldwin who said:” When racism is presented with a Southern-belle, romantic, epic, aw-shucks, American-as-apple-pie kind of vaneer, a lot of white AND black people will both accept it and use all manner of excuses to defend it. Think Gone with the Wind, The Help, Django Unchained, and Paula Deen.
    If I learned anything in my time on social media, it’s that there are some black people JUST AS invested in white supremacy as some white people.” Nonetheless great perspective– if we didnt have people of color telling our stories and keeping our histories alive– you would think we just got here and are visiting.

  51. Hal Pochuck says:

    You are my hero.

  52. james A. Lonon says:

    I would love to eat your cooking if it’s half as fine as your wise words….and I bet it IS too! Thanks!

  53. Yes I agree That was beautiful Michael..

  54. I’m so glad I found this post and you Michael. It’s very nice to meet you.

  55. Lucy Rice says:

    Thank you,thank you ,Mr.Twitty!!!

  56. molliebryan1 says:

    Fabulous post. Bravo, Michael!

  57. Most articulate thing I’ve read about Deen and racism. I’d break a hoecake with you any day. And I love the shout out to Ms. Dupree.

    • Best phrase of the day, “I’d break a hoecake with you anyday!”

      • Lisa Alexander says:

        Careful now, or we will have someone getting all up in arms about “hos”. 🙂
        Your response was indeed eloquent and touched on may aspects of the issues at hand. However, one of the most salient points – I think – that all comments have missed is that we must admit and consider in all examinations of racism is that we can not expect that the legislation of desegregation is the answer to racism anymore than speeding laws stops speeding – and that saying something is a law, or a norm (i.e. not using a particular word) doesn’t make it happen. Thus, simply because we have said, via law, that we are all equal does not mean that we are all taught or live and observe that reality. And, if we are indeed specifically taught that certain speech is insulting, painful, racist,.. doesn’t mean that we learned those lessons or that we contextualized them to our own lives.
        I am a public school teacher and 99+% of my students are African American. I am saddened on a daily basis that they have been taught to be racists, based on a variety of subtle points, in both inter and intra manners – they sometimes attack one another with such bile that I am shocked beyond words of response or reprimand. As you, and many who commented, pointed out, although this current “discussion” began with the speech of a Southern women it is speech that falls off the tongues of many across America, and like so much of the thought in the melting pot of America, it is something born of the bastardization of all the tongues of all of our forefathers. While many have learned much, all of us still have so much more to learn and even relearn, because we are tested every day.
        Please continue to fight the good fight – educating us all.

  58. Michael,

    You just got another fan. I love the way you wrote this eloquent letter, closing with an invitation-a perfect solution for Paula to show the world she means what she said when she apologized. It’s cliche, but actions DO speak louder than words.

    You see, as much as I grapple with what is going on in the media (they tell us what they want us to know), this issue, the use of the N-word, infuriates me to no end. It is pure ignorance.

    I appreciate you taking the time to tell another version, from another perspective, from a fellow Southerner, food writer, and culinary historian.


  59. Michael,

    You just got a new fan. I applaud you and your eloquent letter, especially the close-an invitation to Paula to show the world-actions DO speak louder than words. I hope she reads this letter and attends your wonderful event.


  60. Emily Teel says:

    Yes. This is a brilliantly-written, thoughtful, honest, charitable response to Paula Deen’s [not without fault] scapegoating. Your empathy and your ability to talk about the issues of race/racism and the “ownership” of Southern food is both subtle and timely. I, too, appreciated her honesty, even though it came from a flawed place. I hope that ideas like the ones you’ve expressed here can help elevate the discussion that this incident has raised from the back-and-forth shaming/defending of Deen to a place of thoughtfulness and real conversation.

    While it has been encouraging to see the tremendous interest in Southern food and foodways in recent years, it’s problematic, shameful, and even dangerous to take these foods out of context. The structural violence of colonialism and slavery are ugly things in our collective history, and Deen (and others before her) have lost an opportunity to both observe and heal from that history by presenting a generalized “Southern” food without also bearing witness to the history behind it. Perhaps the only silver lining of that history is these recipes – the creolized foods of disparate cultures crammed (against their collective wills) against one another. Despite their complicated histories, these foods may well be the most authentically American things there are.

    We cannot squeeze our eyes shut and make a cobbler and pretend or hope or will that story away from us, even as we romanticize it. We must work to build a history for ourselves that doesn’t pretend or ignore racism away, but admits and dismantles it. I sincerely hope that Deen recognizes the chance you’ve offered her to do exactly that.

  61. Michael, you’ve written one of the best and most thoughtful responses to Paula Deen that I’ve read. The history of black and white in the South is complex and not easy to understand; you’ve managed to articulate that beautifully. Thank you!

  62. Kim Holloway says:

    Thank you, Michael, for your thoughtful, thought-provoking, and eloquent post. For me, the silver lining of this media circus tent is that it led me to your amazing blog. Can’t wait to dig in and learn more from you.

    • Julia says:

      I feel the same way as Kim Holloway. I don’t watch the news and don’t know what Paula said, but I am thankful that no one is counting my sins and exposing them to the world. Forgiveness and grace. Mercy triumphs! G-d bless you, Michael!

  63. I think I love you. But as I am already married and a woman ‘of a certain age,’ I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work. Stagville, huh? I am in NC. I can check it out.

  64. Jan says:

    Beautiful. Thoughtful well beyond the norm – and gives me a little hope in our collective humanity yet. What a truly valuable perspective on the broader issues and opportunities in all this — I do so hope like heck that this gets to Paula Deen’s attention (and broader!!!) and that she may indeed take you up on what you propose! Either which way, this letter and the event you describe, is SO deserving of wider attention. What a terrific opportunity all around. Many thanks for this work and your contribution to “the discussion” Michael! May we all grow to be the better for it. Will certainly be watching for further developments – Many thanks!

  65. Chris Muller says:

    That was amazing. So deeply considered, so widely generous. I am now a fan.

  66. Flinn says:

    At some point in time, I want to meet you, cook with you, and be your friend.

  67. You are a beautiful soul, my friend!

  68. A beautiful, elegant and educated response to a messy situation. Thank you for your voice of reason.

  69. Karin says:


  70. I had never visited your blog and will come back for more of your wise words. Thanks for putting it so beautifully. I want to come to the event in NC.

  71. Beth says:

    Beautifully said! Thank you. I hope your letter to Ms, Deen gets wide circulation and attention.

  72. Jon Darby says:

    LOVED the article but I didn’t quite understand why the African origins of the word okra are offensive. Did anybody?
    (And a gay Jewish black guy who re-enacts slavery: throw in linedancing Cherokee furry and that may well be the smallest minority in the nation. 😉

    • OH! Okay–so I’m tired of people saying that okra is an “African” word….should have made that clearer as opposed to–Igbo word or Twi word…Its like saying apple is a “European word” 🙂

  73. odumnobles says:

    Brilliant. I’ll be following your writing from now on.

  74. Pamela Dudley says:

    Micheal, Thank you so much I could not stop reading…I hope Paula Deen excepts your invitation.

  75. Dorothy Johnson says:

    Thank you for such a beautifully written piece, and I really hope that Paula Deen will accept your offer to meet with you in North Carolina.

  76. HVLomax says:

    Well stated.

  77. I freakin love this! It’s so eloquently put together! Sharing it EVERYWHERE I can: FB, twitter, G+…your voice NEEDS to be heard.

  78. Cat Beaty says:

    What a beautiful and meaningful letter! You have described so much of what I feel over this whole mess. It all starts with Education, NOT Litigation to get everyone to be good to one another no matter what color your skin is, who you choose to live with, etc. The true meaning of a person is what is in their heart. My mother taught me that while growing up on the Texas Mexico border. As a result I love a person for who they are inside–not their outer covering or beliefs. Too bad more mothers don’t teach their children the same thing.

  79. Claire from Georgia says:

    All I can say is wow…and thank you! What a thoughtful and uplifting commentary — so dead on! I hope she accepts your invitation! Wish I could.

  80. Joyce says:

    Thank you for so eloquently stating my opinion on this.

  81. Sarah says:

    Excellently written and excellent points! As a chef, and southerner I have a love for southern cuisine and great respect for the many cultures who have contributed to it over the years! I hope Paula seizes this awesome opportunity you have offered to her!

  82. Amy Pitman says:

    WOW! What a wonderful letter and invitation.

  83. Sonja Scott says:

    This is wonderful. I had just the other day commented on an article about this situation. I started it with “Are these people so foolish to think an OLD woman from the OLD south had not ever used that word?” This is a very well stated letter and I truly hope that Paula accepts.

  84. Tracy says:

    Wow! And wow! I am without words.

  85. merrildsmith says:

    Thanks so much for this. It was a wonderful response that really made me think–and what heartfelt and eloquent comments you’ve received, as well.

  86. Been left breathless. Beautiful. Thank you.

  87. Ann says:

    What a marvelous letter! I hope Ms Deen receives it and is there with you in September. I would like the world to take note. Coming together and learning the real truths is what it’s all about.

  88. mrswhitenight says:

    admittedly i thought this was going to be an annoying letter. but it shows a lot of class. good for you and for that my faith in humanity is restored.

  89. Barbara Barrick says:

    Michael, wow! You nailed precisely what I’ve been attempting to formulate into words for the last couple of days. Rather than sweep this incident under the rug of lawsuits and political gotcha moments and take the easy way out by shrugging our collective shoulders and muttering a few sound bites about Paula Deen’s being just another old racist white women from the South, you’ve addressed this window of opportunity whereby two southerners, two culinary artists, and two people from vastly different cultures but yet two forever intimately interwoven cultures can come together on common ground and begin to build a real foundation for understanding, healing, and forward movement. You, my child, are damned near a genius! I mean that in a positive manner. By the way, I’m a 67 year old white female and a child of the South now living north of the Mason-Dixon Line where racism is alive and well in a more virulent form than in the South. As you noted, racism in the South is overt, you know what you’re dealing with; on the other hand, north of the Mason-Dixon Line, plastic smiles cannot be trusted. Again, thank you for your eloquent words, your deeper understanding of a complex issue, and especially for your courage to step up and speak up. Peace and stay strong.

  90. Alice Gower says:

    I don’t have anything eloquent or brilliant to say. Your post was masterfully crafted, very eloquent. I hope Ms. Deen accepts your invitation. Experiences, while sometimes painful, are a wonderful teacher. I wish we could all gain from this experience, but wishing won’t make it so.

  91. Beth says:

    Nicely done!

  92. Sabine says:

    A door opened, and you walked through. Bravo.

  93. Ron Haley says:

    I feel truly blessed to have stumbled on a gifted wordsmith such as yourself. Thank you for such an incredible post. It was an incredible read.

  94. LaTasha Renee Edwards says:

    I love how you have addressed this and the manner in which you have done so.

  95. Brona Cos says:

    Nathalie Dupree puts it perfectly “Intimacy does not confer privilege in perceived slurs.” We should all strive to be better people regardless of the handicaps our heritage inflicts upon us and oftentimes, all it takes is recognition of that handicap, regardless if it’s complications. There is no honor in ignorance. Judging by the posts here, many readers seem to be aware of this, Paula Deen alas does not.

  96. Lorin Helbling says:

    Michael, until today I was not aware of you or your work. But after reading your open letter to Paula Deen (and having been moved to tears) I am aware of you now and absolutely love what you have to say. Thank you for so eloquently articulating some of the things that have been rattling around in my head for the past few days.

    Your description of the plantation museum experience was dead on. I am a white woman who grew up in New York but lived in Charleston during the 1980’s. While visiting the historical sites there, I was always surprised by the guides tippy-toeing around history, being very careful with what they were saying and how they were saying it. It is what it is; like it or not, we have to own it.

    There are deep wounds that, with the best of intentions, we keep trying to heal by covering with band-aids. However, until the infected areas are exposed and treated, true healing will not occur.

  97. Echo Moon says:

    thank you so much sir for your thoughtful, insightful and deep felt words.

    I think you truly nailed it when you said, “I am not going to hide behind ideals when the realities of our struggles with identity as a nation are clear” and “It’s something we should work against. It takes a lifetime to unlearn taught prejudice or socially mandated racism”. i don’t think i’ve read truer words anywhere.

    i too was born in the 5o’s and what i thought and spoke, what i was then is not what i am now. i think it’s a work in progress for all of us. we all need to work very hard and just maybe we can hold our heads up with pride and say that we have done away with racism. do i think that ‘we’ are going to see that day? no, but i have high hopes that, that day will come.

    thank you again.

  98. Tom Childress says:

    I am proud of you for having put the whole sad thing in such shining perspective. But I agree that
    repentance is her only salvation. I will be glued to the Today Show tomorrow to see if there is any
    mention of repentance in her interview with Matt Lauer.

  99. Cheryl Gaston says:

    I lived in Columbus, GA for eight years, and I have to say this New Jersey girl saw raw racism all around me up north. I learned so much in Georgia, where everything was out in the open. I don’t think I can articulate this well, but my son visited from Oregon (where I am now as well). We were watching the local news, and he remarked that it seemed to him that every social problem that arose led to formation of a community group representing every walk of life that tried to solve it or keep it reasonable for all. What he said in a nutshell was: “Wow, Columbus really seems like a good place to live!” I agreed.

    Oh, and speaking of Southern cooking, I melded three recipes for Country Captain and served it to rave reviews to some friends last Saturday. It was good, but not like what I remember. Do you share recipes, she asked with great humility. And just what influenced this dish beyond the spice trade?
    Thanks for being!

  100. Crystal says:

    Well said! Does not matter where we come from, we are all human and we all breathe The air that God created for all of us! We all make mistakes and forgiveness is something that is required of us to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven! Is it actually possible that anyone on this earth can get up and say that they have never made a mistake? I don’t think so. We all have our own unique personality (some better than others) but this is what keeps things from being so boring! We have to see our mistakes as a lessons in life! We have to take what is negative and turn it to a positive! This is how we learn and grow! If, for some reason Paula is unable to redeem herself I think another network would be absolutely crazy not to attempt to get yourself and Paula going head to head in a kitchen sharing your southern recipes! (Something to think about). Good luck to you Michael!

  101. D Queen says:

    This is the best response to the media hoopla surrounding Paula Dean. My father’s family is from the South and I know first hand the race prejudice that exists. Yes it is in full force in the North too. It’s the hand outwards to the fellow person that brings change and not the smack down reaction. I believe we are all God’s children and deserve respect. Let’s talk about it together while breaking bread and not crucify each other. One brings peace and the other brings blood. Thank you so much for your olive branch to Paula. My prayer is for a positive twist in a negative situation.

  102. disgrazia4 says:

    Awesome post, just awesome. I am putting a link to my FB group. I just recently listened to an NPR show that discussed the origins of Southern cooking as I was driving from NY to my new home in SC. Thank you for such an edifying post and the sanest voice I have heard on this particular topic. Shalom. ❤

  103. William says:

    Dear Michael,
    Your letter is a feast for the heart and soul; a blessing table, truly, overflowing with honesty, generosity, and eloquence. I love your style; and the substance of your compassion is plain to see. You’ve done Ms Deene -and me- a mitzvuh; your letter is soul food, for anyone with an apetite for atonement.

    G-d bless you. You make me miss Carolina; smart, warm, big-hearted people who know how to talk .. and country ham, collard greens, and good grits! From faraway Vashon Is, WA, I send deep gratitude and best wishes for a healthy summer.

  104. Eric says:

    Just a feeling, but I don’t think she cares enough to even think about showing up. Why is the “o” in God replaced with the “-“?

    • Maybe you’re right–we will see–don’t hurt to ask? Umm in traditional Judaism even though G-d is an English word, we blot out the o and replace it with a dash as a sign of respect..

      • Casie says:

        really?? I loved what you wrote, but that was the only thing I couldn’t understand!!

      • Marilyn Bernauer says:

        Your letter was touching and it moved me, I am from North Carolina. What didn’t move me was you leaving out the O in GOD, I sure hope that if you are in trouble and you need GOD’S help that G_D shows up because you might be in trouble!

      • Its a Jewish custom done to respect the name of the Creator.

      • Cheryl Gaston says:

        It’s interesting to note the side issue surrounding another lack of understanding, this about Jewish customs. I think I’m correct that this is ancient law, which disallowed saying the creator’s name out loud, and the omission is the way it happens in writing. How quickly some readers condemn you for the use of G-d. Sad.

        Oh, and YAY for the Supreme Court…today of course, NOT yesterday. Was this the same Supreme Court?

      • Well –I love what you had to say Cheyrl–but ya know we are educating people. Baby steps 🙂 hugs!

        And yeah–SCOTUS–wow lol

    • vvalkyriVal says:

      To expand on that, re G-d, things with G-d written on them are special and must be treated specially, and not simply thrown out. So in order not to make your communication a holy item, you don’t write the whole word. This has carried on into electronic communication, though opinions differ on whether it is more or less important, given the ease of deletion vs whether it is actually written in the first place.

  105. Overwhelmed with joy at the perspective you brought to this issue. It pulled me deeper into the whole issue than I had even given thought to. Yes, by all means we know Southern cooking came for the well learned skills the black people brought to this country. Living my young years in the east and then my teen and adult years in the west, I have not had the opportunity to try all of the southern dishes I’ve hear spoken of over the years. I married a man from the southern area of FL and his love for southern food and his culinary passion has enriched my Palate and brought my taste buds to dancing. We are getting ready to retire and are currently looking for property in the south. One of the things I look forward to is trying all the foods I have not yet had the pleasure of tasting. I love Paula’s cooking and have always felt she deeply honored her roots and the roots of all of the south in general. I do so hope she will take you up on your invitation. Speaking selfishly, I hope it will be aired so that we can all enjoy it even if we are not right there with you. This has been the best thing to come from this whole mess and I so very much enjoyed reading it. I have every intention of sharing it as well. Thank you so very much for posting it.

  106. S. M. Glass says:

    Thank you. I will be thinking about and reflecting on your article for a long time. I can’t think of a better compliment to give a writer.

  107. Remarkably well written! Thank you for sharing, thank you for enlightening. I, too, am a Southern woman from NC and was raised with ‘old-timers’ who couldn’t get over the prejudism that used to be so prevelent. My dear old neighbor who recently passed was a black woman raised in the cotton picking days. She used to tell me stories about being called that “name” as a child by the white children. She said her Mama used to tell her people were just like a bouquet of flowers…. wouldn’t it be boring if they were all the same color?? Hope Paula accepts your most gracious (and Southern) hospitality!

  108. LA Gaston says:

    Michael: I loved this piece. It was beautifully written, and it touched at the heart of so many important issues about race, food and cultural similarities and differences, as it highlighted our joint Southern heritage and our need to accept and move on with both the ugly past and the sometimes not so beautiful present. Moreover, it gave me hope that the need for change, acceptance and forgiveness can begin with the creative good that comes from continued thoughtful dialogue about race, history and change. I am a high school teacher in Georgia, in a very integrated classroom (over the years I have had 17 different languages spoken at home). I often try to find ways to discuss race, cultural identity, and discrimination in my classroom, as well as, the deeper implications of the use of the language to reinforce stereotypes. Would you please allow me to use your essay as a teaching tool in my classes?

  109. Goodness this piece hit the empty spot in my soul. THANK YOU!

  110. PinkSparkleKitten says:

    Thank you for this enlightening piece. I think one reason that I, as a Southern white woman, have been so upset over this whole Paula Deen incident is that I worry that I will be judged by her behavior. I appreciate having another way to look at the issue.

  111. Rachel McGill says:

    Well written and Amen!!!

  112. M G says:

    The American South, its food and its way of life, is possibly the most idealized example of American culture. Mainstream country music songs twang of country livin’ and the idyllic simplicity of the southern lifestyle. But those same people who idealize and enjoy the cultural gems of the South jump to point fingers southward when the R word is mentioned. Perhaps in the hope that showing how racist someone else can be will wash their own prejudices away. Racism is a deeply rooted problem in this country, the entire country. The historical way of life in the South, slavery, outright segregation, and implicit segregation, has left open wounds that are not close to healing, but in many parts of our nation openness about racism has not even scratched the surface. Pointing fingers at the South and proclaiming how bad racism is today and has been over centuries will not dissipate the racism that is prevalent in American schools, neighborhoods and the individual minds of people everywhere.

  113. Gina says:

    You are a wonderful shining spirit, Michael. I am certainly a follower now! This is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, inspired, and admirable responses – if not THE most – that I’ve seen from Any form of media or personal social media since this story broke. I am most curious to see if Ms. Deen takes you up on your offer. I rightly wish she would, it would show both sides of this silliness that we are all above this, and the food carries us all! I have to go look for anything you’ve ever published now – you have a new fan for life! —- Another lil white southern girl

  114. Jill Warren says:

    Michael- you are brilliant and eloquent. Because of Paula Deen I have discovered you and your beautiful thoughts about the world. I look forward to learning more from you!

  115. Carolee says:

    I’m Jamaican so doesn’t quite get the whole ‘n’ word thing and the big deal about it but I was disappointed with Paula and the way she handled the whole thing. I could not stop reading your post, so eloquent. God Bless.

  116. Catherine Hodge Smith says:

    Brilliantly astute and several powerful messages to direct us towards higher ground. Thank you for your fabulous historical work and contribution. I so hope that your letter and invitation finds its way to Paula and that she will join you on September 7.

  117. Supershiral says:

    Kol Hachavod!

  118. My eyes have been opened to the source of our Southern Dishes from this blog site, and I thank you. Humbling perspective – thank you…..

  119. Kate Eakman says:

    Thank you for taking the time to offer a clear, level-headed reflection on this circus. (I often wonder how the rest of us would fare if we were 100% honest in a deposition that asked us about ugly things in our past.)

  120. ignatzz says:

    Sir, this is one of the finest things I’ve read in a long time. Thank you.

  121. Kenny Welch says:

    As a chef who loves the history of food can only hope that Miss Paula takes this opportunity that any great lover of food would love to get that same invite. Very well said!

  122. crosspeace says:

    A most pastoral and healing letter, not only for Paula Deen but maybe a nation and a people. God bless you man.

  123. Jody Weiss says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful insight, understanding and perspective. Your willingness to step back from the fray has provided a much needed “learning” opportunity.

  124. Very well written piece and great points. My first thought when I read of her testimony was admiration for admitting the use of such a horrible word. But as I read on, I read between the lines. She’s admitting to having used it in the past. The past can be anytime but the present and future. If she used the word an hour ago, it’s the past. She didn’t exactly clarify (or deny) if she’d used the word as the lawsuit states.

    How it appears to me is that she is one of many white people who justify using the word for many a reason. “It’s OK because they use it”… “It’s OK because I was just recalling what someone else said”… “It’s OK because the man had me at gunpoint”… “It’s OK because it was just a joke and not said in a cruel way.” No, It’s never OK. She knew better. Her answers are obvious she has a great legal team.

    I believe this should be one of those cases should be pretty easy to disprove if she truly didn’t have any racist tendencies.

  125. From one teacher to another – well-written, beautifully said, thought-provoking, and mind blowing! I am a 54 year old woman with very diverse cultural roots who has always felt blessed to have been raised as a Southerner in a culture that is steeped in rich language and amazing food. The public school system I attended was integrated the year I entered first grade – culture shock! Yet, today, my family’s portrait would rival any ever taken at a United Nations summit – of this, we are very proud. Food is a HUGE part of our own family culture. My personal culture includes words and language and literature as a the center of my life and my living. I have been a high school English teacher for 28 years; my specialty is Southern American literature. Every year, my Southern lit students write a poem about what it means to them to be Southern and/or to live in the South – the idea came from a spoken word contest once sponsored by the now defunct Turner South television network called “My South Speaks.” The last year the station was in operation, three of the ten high school finalists for this contest were my students – what a thrill for them and an honor for me to be at that competition that year! When I read the students’ poems each year, I am amazed and thrilled at the various ways each of them conveys what makes living in the South unique. The one common thread is the language and the food. I have hesitated to speak out on social media about the Paula Dean controversy because I can truly say that I understand both sides. Our very Southern phrase “Y’all come back now, ya hear!” resonated with me tonight as I bookmarked your blog because I can’t wait to read more! Your beautiful words here have spoken to my soul and to so many others as well as evidenced by the many comments that have been made. You so eloquently wrote from your own heart and experience what so many of us out here have been struggling to define in words. Kudos to you!

  126. says:

    As a chef and lover of food…I certainly hope Miss Paula will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to learn even more about the history of food….that any of us would give anything to be a part of…Very well said. Thank you so much for sharing.

  127. Kym Brophy says:

    Wow…just, wow!

  128. Amy Kalvig says:

    I’m so glad to have read this. You said many of the things I was unable to articulate, and for that I’m grateful.

  129. Have I told you lately that I love you? Never? Really?! Well, that is alarming…because each time I take the time to read your blog, I simply love you more. This was beautifully done. As a white chick in Cali, I am in a weird “mute zone” when something like this happens…it’s embarrassing and awkward, and I never know what to say about any of it. Maybe I need to dig a little deeper. As a matter of fact, I think you may have inspired me to do exactly that. Thank you.

  130. Suzie Mears says:


  131. Aaron Honeycutt says:

    So well said. I appreciate so much the comments about the plantation life for so many that were slaves. This spring I visited Pettigrew State Park (NC) and the old plantation home site there called Somerset Place. My heart ached for the hands that placed the bricks for the paths and gutters around the house and for the unimaginable daily labors of people enslaved at that place. Just one chapter in the sad history of this land.

  132. Ginger Balch says:

    Eloquently put. Thank you. Can’t wait to follow your work.

  133. Li Miller says:


    I am a New Englander, a Northern white woman, who has recently become interested in the history of the civil rights movement. I am really struggling to understand racial politics in The South, not having ever lived there. Thank you for providing a valuable perspective.

    I will say one thing that I hope will hearten you. I have toured a fair number of plantations in The South. Once, in Louisiana, a tour guide referred to the slaves as “servants”. My cousin and I both rolled our eyes. Servants – yeah, right. I didn’t think of it at the time – but next time I hear this, I will correct that person.

    Every time I have seen one of those slave kitchens, all I can think about are how those poor people suffered in the horrendous heat to bring amazing meals to their masters’ families. I don’t know how they did it. I care, Michael. And so do many others. People care about this. Yours is not a voice in the darkness.

  134. autigerdave says:

    If you cook like you write, I’m having seconds! I hope Paula Deen sees this and joins you Sept. 7!

  135. ira l meyer says:

    Thank you for your well put words and asking her to cook and break bread alongside so we can all learn/share/grow and evolve into the society we all dream of one forkfull at a time.

  136. Darcie says:

    Whoa. This is really good. So much of what you wrote never even occurred to me, and so I truly appreciate the new perspective. I hope Paula accepts your wonderful invitation but if she doesn’t. . .Nathalie Dupree commented on your blog!!!!

  137. Beautiful words. Beautiful thoughts. Beautiful spirit.

  138. mambeaux says:

    My best to you from a fellow tarheel on your Stagville adventure.

  139. Caroline Carrigan says:

    Bravo, sir!

  140. Cynthia Moldenhauer says:

    Michael, if you could see and hear me now, you would see me standing on my chair, clapping, screaming and cheering. Your writing style, your eloquence, your cut the crap say it like is attitude is definitly something to cheer about! And you got it 100% correct. I was raised in a VERY southern family and worked hard to teach my children to see things differently, unfortunately we ALL have a long way to go. Thank you so much for this wonderful piece, I will be following you from now on!

    • Kelly says:

      This [writing]
      somehow has the effect of giving us back our heritage, doesn’t it? I too am very Southern. Although ‘that word’ was never ever acceptable. Still…until we can own the whole of it honestly and without lies or overcompensation every one of us is shortchanged…

  141. Michelle Breazeale says:

    Wow……. wish i could come up with words which are as eloquent as yours, Michael, but “Wow”
    is the best i can do. Much to read again and to process. Thank you.

  142. Lisa says:

    I hope she will accept your invitation and come cook with you!

  143. SC says:

    Yes, I agree with the statement above. You have been discovered by many because of your response to this thing with Paula. You are a wonderful writer. May I ask, why is God written “G-d”?

  144. Caroly says:

    Linda what is the name of the Slave cookbook??//

  145. K. Jennings says:

    When you grow up in Charleston eating Red Rice and celebrating The New Year by eating Hoppin John and Greens, you reflect on the shared culture that brings us together with gratefulness. It’s been an opportunity to share with my children part of our history, both good and bad, and respect for those generations that came before me. A simple dish, passed down through the generations can bring nourishment in so many ways. My best to you and thanks for this amazing article.

  146. Kathi Mac says:

    Lovely; thank-you.

  147. Great letter. The best part (most important) is that we are all racist a little. The sooner we can all look at each other and speak that truth the sooner we can all laugh at each other and then with each other.

  148. pattie says:

    Awesome, do it Paula. You need it more than you know.

  149. Leslie says:

    Dear Michael – my admiration for you (I suspect) is only beginning based on this wonderful, elevated response to some of our collective illnesses – racism, fascination w/the the underbelly of the rich and famous, etc. – but I would like to bring a different perspective to this discussion. As a practitioner of medicine, minority health advocate, heart disease and stroke orphan, and social justice mediator, I would add one request to your brilliant invitation to Ms. Deen. I would LOVE for both of you to work together to make those fabulous dishes that our ancestors could metabolically afford due to their forced labor more appropriate for us in THIS day and age. We as a people are suffering an epidemic of obesity and heart disease that take much greater toll on our Black communities, robbing us of our wisest elders and family leaders. And yes, Ms. Deen, diabetes IS heart disease! Raised on weekend BBQd ribs as a child, I now battle the cholesterol and heart disease risk that took my dad too soon from a world that sorely needs his brilliance even decades after he passed (and his 10 sisters, all from the same early cardiovascular disease) in the middle of his PhD program. I urge you both to join me in reducing those risks and obesity rates (where the South HAS risen again as leader) that cost us all so much more in precious national healthcare dollars, cultural decline and the much-needed leadership so often decried as missing in our communities of color. What if you worked TOGETHER to keep the rich flavors, the savory textures, the complex traditions in the foods, but help to reduce the risks they convey? What if you worked together (and I’m volunteering) to help mentor us all into a more holistic and sustainable food tradition – one that protects the heart you have so eloquently shown in your letter and helps reverse the diabetes from which Ms. Deen suffers. I have a terrific library and lots of suggestions on how to deal with our racist culture, will continue to fight for HUMAN rights till my last breath, but I can’t cook like you two! Teach us, Mr. Whitty, (and Ms. Deen) and yourself to be more healthy – we need your voices of reconciliation and leadership at such a tumultuous time in our nation’s history. As a nation, we need to stop trying to police and compel the rest of the world and start leading by example. Thanks, Michael – Leslie

  150. Susan Breslin says:

    What isn’t addressed here is that she didn’t use her choice vocabulary “sometime in the past.” That’s buying into her cop-out. She used it recently, in the workplace, in front of someone of color. (If she’d used it in front of me, who’s unfortunately without a whole lot of color, I would have found it equally offensive, but that’s another story.)
    Until you address the issue of a hostile workplace, the rest of the discussion is interesting, but irrelevant.

    • Sharon you raise a good point. I believe for many of us the legal issues are one part but so are cultural issues around food which for many are critically important.

      • Ronnie Podolefsky, Esq. says:

        Susan refreshingly points out the elephant many of us see in the room. A hostile workplace is not a legal issue. It is an issue of misery and tragic human suffering for which the legal system offers remedies, albeit mediocre ones.

  151. Sheila McMillan says:

    This is an absolutely beautiful piece! Just so thoughtful and wonderfully constructed. Your essay should precede any story involving this incident. And thank you for mentioning Natalie DuPree – I so enjoyed her.

  152. Tracy says:

    Hi Michael,
    I respect your insight on the matter, I’m a white woman a few years older than you who’s never lived in the South. While I can appreciate the perspective that the enslaved blacks do not get the credit they deserve in crafting the culinary heritage of the South, and that Ms. Deen is perhaps a big proponent of denying black chefs their due, I think this is only a very small part of her issues that are her undoing.
    I’m in the food industry here in Arizona and have heard a lot of chefs say they’ve lost total respect for her because of, well-her absolute stupidity and not the admission of using the N word. The plantation wedding, the expletive-laced ‘blooper reel’, the chocolate éclair?? You do that kind of stuff and there’s going to be consequences.

  153. Ramses says:

    I have a question for you, and please forgive my ignorance, but what did you mean by

    “better the Southern white man than the Northern one, because at least you know where he stands…”

    I live in the North, but was born in the South (Beaufort, S.C.) and am curious what you mean by this. It is not my intention to start a flame war, or be a troll, or anything of that nature; it is an honest question.

  154. Carroll Knabe says:

    I like you. And when I get to hear you speak I am certain it will turn to love.

  155. Angela Mann says:

    You brought up so many sides of this issue that I had never even thought of. Having grown up in the south, I’ve always felt a constant tension between loving my roots, but knowing the dirty history that comes with them. You have so clearly articulated that tension better than I think I’ve ever been able to even think through. If only mainstream media stretched people’s thinking in the way you have here, think of how far along our country could be. I am so grateful you took the time to write this piece and I agree with Cat Beatty about the meaning of a person being what is in their heart. Let’s hope Paula’s heart brings her to your event. What better time for her to come to the table to break some bread.

  156. Edward Washington says:

    Thank you for this lively and well spoken briefing regarding Paula Deen and the heritage of real Southern cooking. In the age of Jiffy cornbread, microwave dinners, and imitation gumbo mix, I found your historical references refreshing and astounding. As far as the racial comments, Paula Deen is a white woman from the South; how did Americans, Smithfield and the Food Network overlook that fact. She didn’t insult or offend me. She irritated the hell out of me when she recanted. Just keep it real huntee!

  157. L. Washngton says:

    This is wonderful thank you! I hope you have seen the African American heritage cookbook by Tilley referencing the food of early Tuskegee. L. Washington

  158. Michael, your words and heart are exquisite.

  159. Teri Adams says:

    the most informed, intelligent, well written article I have read yet on the whole Paula Deen storm.. I hope Ms. Deen takes you up on your offer.

  160. Ellen says:

    Excellent and thought provoking perspective. Thank you!

  161. Kim Beaulieu says:

    I am so moved by this. You are a shining light amongst us.

  162. Roger Potter says:

    Michael – You are not only brilliant but seemingly sympathatic to Paula – I am exceedingly upset at the food netork for being soo narrow minded. After reading this all one has to do is use commonsense to realize that Most of the foods in American had their start in other countries. I heard on radio the actual text between Paula and the attornies and if my understanding of American is accurate it’s the attornies that made Paula out to be a racist – she was taling about one thing and they tried to and did twist her words into another realm, Please publicly read out to Paula.,

  163. Reblogged this on The Food Pervert and commented:
    Good Read.

  164. Deb Vozniak says:

    Michael, I was very impressed with the even-handedness of your comments. You addressed an unpleasant issue with grace and courage, and you have my sincere thanks for breathing some reason and understanding into this charged situation. Coming as I do from one of the most viciously segregated cities in the US, Detroit, Michigan, I have seen racism all my life. What I see in the Paula Deen “scandal” is a bunch of people punishing her for admitting that she is a product of her generation – a Southern woman raised in the 1950s. Too many closet racists are the first to attack those who admit to such a background – to paraphrase Shakespeare, the ladies and gentlemen “doth protest too much”. Possibly because if they yell loud enough about someone else, no one will notice their actions do not reflect their words.

    As for “the n-word” personally, I don’t use it. I’ve had Black friends who thought nothing of using it, and others who were horribly offended by it, no matter who used it. I have seen the word used to excuse violence and to provoke violence. I once dated a white man who insisted that the word was not offensive and was never intended to be offensive and anyone who thought it offensive was being oversensitive. (I did not agree, but then he also thought Ayn Rand was right so his worldview was obviously skewed badly.) I’ve also had Black and white acquaintances who thought nothing of using “Redskin” to slur Native Americans (which I personally find offensive as a person with Native American roots) and various slurs for Latinos, Jews and Muslims, but were offended if “the n-word” was used. So sometimes, it depends on “whose ox is being gored”.

  165. Jeremiah Johnson says:

    Thank you Michael for this wonderful piece. I just finished a great book by Eric Deggans titled “Race Baiter” earlier today, which points out the subtle racism–which seems to be the most dangerous type–that exist in our media-driven culture. His book coupled with your post has taught me quite a bit about the faults that exist in our society–faults that I once thought we had already overcome. Please keep writing and educate as many people as possible. We are too fearful in today’s politically correct environment to discuss issues of race, when, in fact, it is the very conversation we need to be having with one another

  166. lisa says:

    This was so well written that. We grew up in a household where the n word was the norm. I grew up and became a mom to two biracial children which tore my family up and made me the literal black sheep of the family. To this day I mail my “family” movies books and literature on biracial families. Oh then wrote a book and “came out” and made sure the book was placed in the small town library from which my family came. The only bad thing about this piece …you made me hungry…Lisa flint church point la

  167. Zulema says:

    Michael….such wise, beautiful, eloquent words….thank you…….

  168. Sheryl Warren says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful and context-laden (& I mean that in a GOOD way) open letter. I was disappointed by Deen’s racial epithets, and I would have welcomed a heartfelt apology from her. What has troubled me most, however, is the apparent lack of her insight into the effect of using racial slurs as she continued to say she thinks it’s OK to use them in jokes that are “not mean.” Sorry, Paula–can’t continue to support you.

    You, however, Mr. Twitty, are my new hero.

    Sheryl Warren

  169. heather says:

    This was beautifully written.
    and something Nathalie Dupree wrote – about thinking she understands how people feel and thus making mistakes about people – reminds me of this brilliant section of a commencement speech given by John Green – because whenever I find myself automatically smugly (or self righteously) believing I know a people or a person – I flash on this and I have to take a step back. I don’t try to rethink that belief, i just let it go and be open to their possibilities of experience/feeling. because the awareness of my mistake, doesn’t mean i can then think “if i just adjust this thinking and rework it, I’ll understand them/him/her correctly and THEN i’ll be right and ‘get it’ ” –
    his retelling of this story just causes bright starbursts of truth, as vague as that is, in me.

    i’m sorry this is a long quote:
    “And lastly, be vigilant in the struggle toward empathy. A couple years after I graduated from college, I was living in an apartment in Chicago with four friends, one of whom was this Kuwaiti guy named Hassan, and when the U.S. invaded Iraq, Hassan lost touch with his family, who lived on the border, for six weeks. He responded to this stress by watching cable news coverage of the war 24 hours a day. So the only way to hang out with Hassan was to sit on the couch with him, and so one day we were watching the news and the anchor was like, “We’re getting new footage from the city of Baghdad,” and a camera panned across a house that had a huge hole in one wall covered by a piece of plywood. On the plywood was Arabic graffiti scrawled in black spraypaint, and as the news anchor talked about the anger on the Arab street or whatever, Hassan started laughing for the first time in several weeks.

    “What’s so funny?” I asked him.

    “The graffiti,” he said.

    “What’s funny about it?”

    “It says, Happy Birthday, Sir, Despite the Circumstances.”

    For the rest of your life, you are going to have a choice about how to read graffiti in a language you do not know, and you will have a choice about how to read the actions and intonations of the people you meet. I would encourage you as often as possible to consider the Happy Birthday Sir Despite the Circumstances possibility, the possibility that the lives and experiences of others are as complex and unpredictable as your own, that other people—be they family or strangers, near or far—are not simply one thing or the other—not simply good or evil or wise or ignorant—but that they like you contain multitudes, to borrow a phrase from the great Walt Whitman.

    This is difficult to do—it is difficult to remember that people with lives different and distant from your own even celebrate birthdays, let alone with gifts of graffitied plywood. You will always be stuck inside of your body, with your consciousness, seeing through the world through your own eyes, but the gift and challenge of your education is to see others as they see themselves, to grapple with this mean and crazy and beautiful world in all its baffling complexity. We haven’t left you with the easiest path, I know, but I have every confidence in you, and I wish you a very happy graduation, despite the circumstances..”

  170. Gina says:

    Why is the “O” left out of God?

  171. Anna says:

    Well-written and thought provoking. You have brought a different perspective on the issue. Thank you.

  172. Beautiful! Can I come on Sept 7th, too? I probably can’t cook as well as you but it still sounds amazing!

  173. Hershel Franklin says:

    I loved this. Thank you.

  174. angelamroberts says:

    Provocative and so eloquent. Everyone deserves a chance to repent. I think some of the shock has happened because PD didn’t handle this well. Of course, it’s a difficult situation. She needs a way to come out of this. You have given us all much to think about on so many levels. Bravo.

  175. denise says:

    Hey Michael, do me a favor and consider using produce from a native farmer or a white farmer or a Hispanic farmer at your shindig too. Many of these farmers have tough times, too.

  176. Jan Terry says:

    I am a Northerner and I have never experienced bitterness and hatred so severe as I did the many many times I was in the south. It made me sick to my stomach. My husband and I were treated poorly every where we went except for North Carolina. If we went to a restaurant, they never returned to wait on us once they picked up on our northern accent. We could not even get a cup of coffee in a fine restaurant. I will never believe northerners are not good people and are not friends of our black neighbors. Why then are southerners intolerable of white northerners when they visit them down south? I believe it is because they still do not realize the Civil War is over and that they lost. They are the losers because they cannot let go of hatred and bitterness. The word (one I don’t think should be in any language) nigger is not about blacks, but about peoples intolerance of each other on any level. I love this country and it’s people and pray every day everyone will come together as one as God wants us to. THAT is the only way. I wish you all the success and happiness life has to offer. You sound like a beautiful person and I wish I could write as eloquently as you. God Bless

    • Liz says:

      This is actually a great example of what he is saying in this beautifully written piece, everyone is a little prejudice. I admit, being from south Mississippi I was a little upset when I originally read your comment. Then I realized that what you said is probably true. Personally, there is only one northerner that I have ever been rude to. That is the one that approached me and said “Oh my! I did not realize there were indoor restrooms in Mississippi! I thought this state was still using outhouses!” No lie. This guy really said that to my face. I do realize that not all northerners are like this. It goes to show you that everyone place and every race has their stereotype. I know someone that recently moved to Mississippi from NC, and they are the absolute most racist person that I know. I refuse to have anything to do with him anymore.

      I think the problem with the world is that we are all too focused on “me.” We do not care if we step on other people’s toes or not. If we focused a little more on “you” the world would be a better place.

      And I am very proud to say that I am from south Mississippi and quite a few of my good friend are black, as well as the woman I refer to as “my second momma.” People: black, white, north, south, none of that matters! Good is good and bad is bad. Your color or demographics has nothing to do with it, it is what is inside.

  177. Ross Hill says:

    Michael, It is so fine to find a voice of reason in this storm. I have visited a few historic plantations and heard the docents tell of the grand things the plantation owners did. I always Raise my voice and say the the plantation owner directed that these things be done but that it was always accomplished by enslaved people who remain nameless and faceless. So many gourmet foods today started out as slave food made from throwaway portions of the food for the owner’s table.
    You are doing a fine work. Tank you.
    Ross Hill

  178. Bobbie Fromberg says:

    Michael, I must say you are a mensch.
    When ever I hear about anti semitism or hatred of others because of race, religion sexual preference and any other reason, I think of the song from South Pacific…..

    “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” (Lyrics from South Pacific.)
    You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!

  179. Jo Athey says:

    Bravo Zulu! Well done! Well written and a great read as well. Martha Stewart went PRISON for insider trading with a degree in finance (like she didn’t know!). She ends up back on top! Hopefully Paula can weather the tumultuous roar of the press and networks.While I am not saying it’s right or acceptable, I would challenge ANYONE from our generation to not have some jiggling bones dancing in THEIR closets! After all, we survived the 60’s & 70’s

  180. Arlene Amitirigala says:

    Eloquent, relevant and wise. You offered what the media could not – thoughtful discourse on the wider issue instead of mere sensationalism.

  181. You make some excellent points Michael! While I’m sad that the Paula Deen controversy is what it is, you highlight very succinctly some key issues that need be addressed and people need to better understand, hell — need to accept the problem to begin with — rather than look the other way. I too am so happy to have discovered you and your path, I will be following. Best of luck to you. The Historic Stagville event on Sept 7 sounds fantastic! What an awesome project!

  182. Ohiogirl says:


    Your words are the most thoughtful I have read since this whole storm began.

    I do hope she takes you up on your offer, what a healing blessing it would be.

    And I had no idea that the book on Southern jewish cooking existed – I can’t wait to read it! My mom was raised in a small southern Ohio town where they attended temple – but also made and canned pickled peaches and ate fried mush. It does happen : )

  183. You know those amazing and almost unbelievable stories about a parent who forgives and then develops a heart-felt bond and relationship with the killer of one of her children? This is like that. Outstanding.

  184. Corky Stewart says:

    I loved your article. I was raised in a comfortable white family with a black housekeeper named Anna Mary Bosby. I spent many, many hours in the kitchen quietly learning to cook by just watching and listening to her. I’ve passed on as much of her knowledge as possible to my kids, they never knew her or even of her but her cooking will live on forever through me and my children.

  185. Betty Webb says:

    Very, very moving. This ol’ Southern gal thanks you for writing it.

  186. addison2 says:

    This is a beautiful piece, Michael. Thanks for sharing your talents so generously. Very compelling, I shared it with my husband and he loved it too.

  187. ChezNiki says:

    This was a beautiful heartfelt response. Thank you for writing it. Being an African American, first generation Northerner, my kneejerk reaction was, “Good. More for us!” or like Ludacris said, “Move, B*tch get out the way!” Because for every Paula Deen show, there are a hundred excellent African American cooks who were pushed out of the cooking prime time arena. Im glad you were able to explain this incident from a Southerners perspective. All the Best to you. Thank you for sharing this piece.

  188. kpatterson says:

    I can’t show any sympathy toward Paula. At the deposition, she revealed a pattern of behavior that shows her “private” attitudes have spilled over into her professional life and manifested themselves as having a destructive impact on the people working for her – namely the waitstaff and other restaurant workers who have had to endure ongoing abusive language and treatment by her and her brother because Paula is so arrogant as to think that kind of behavior is funny and harmless and cute.

    Paula is no sheltered little southern lady, she’s worldly and well-traveled enough to know better but chooses not to. That takes malice and meanness. Again, she gets no sympathy from me and she deserves to be hoisted on her own ugly petard.

  189. kate floyd says:

    Mr . Twitty , I feel somewhat guilty in telling you that until I read your letter this evening, I had never heard of you. Needless to say after reading this you have gained a fan for life. Inspiring and informative an amazing piece of writing. Your remarkable and I so hope that Paula joins you in Sept. So eloquent , what a beautiful soul you have!
    Thank you so much,
    Kate Floyd, Gerald,MO.

  190. Lauri Hansberger says:

    Very well written. A very small point on ” bad” words, there is the “N” word, and in this post you have written G_d bless. Is it so hard to write God Bless and not have to worry about offending someone? I am not condoning using derogatory words to describe people individually or as a whole.

    By the way I have just bookmarked your blog.

    • Hi there, its just Jewish custom to not profane the Lord’s name. Thank you 🙂

      • Lynn Burgess says:

        And yes, it is my understanding that writing G_d or saying “the name” is a way to honor what (who?) cannot be described in one name. Michael your piece is wonderful and very important for all to hear. I believe there is racism in all of us, or at least I know there is some in me. I don’t like it, but it’s there and I hope that if I’m aware, then I’ll be a better person. Peace to you. Lynn

  191. Connie says:

    What a wonderful post. Thank you!

    My parents would be in their 80’s if they were still with us. With their generation, there was/is a lot of bias ‘just because’ that’s how it was. My dad was from Chicago though. He lived and worked (Navy too) in multi-racial, mutli-cultural places. My mom though, was as Southern as they come. From old families in Mississippi and Tennessee. They raised me in Florida though, a real melting pot. I used to joke that my schools were half white, half black and half Cuban, simply because it was difficult to see a majority or minority. I didn’t inherit their prejudice. Meaning, I see the racism and prejudice when it is around me, and I did not inherit their cultural blindness to it… not all kids are fortunate this way.

    Neither of my folks were haters. They were really nice folks, but they were raised segregated and that’s hard to overcome. The difference? My ‘yankee’ dad saw the need to try more. You could tell that he was uncomfortable with being uncomfortable because of where he was from, and because of his life and work experience. It showed him the effects of his segregated upbringing. He saw the problem. My mom… like Ms. Deen… I don’t think she ever really ‘got it’. She would swear up and down she wasn’t prejudiced, but she simply didn’t see the separation as the biased segregation that it is. She honestly didn’t understand. She wasn’t stupid. I don’t think Ms. Deen is either. She was just a product of her cultural upbringing, and ‘being separate’ was just the way it’s always been done.

    I’m not excusing it, it’s still very shameful and ignorance is NO excuse, but I can see where it comes from and I can see why Ms Deen looks so very hurt and genuinely confused. What has she done that others, of both races, haven’t? At home, school? Church? Work? I feel sorry for her. It seems that somebody shoved a mirror in her face and showed her something nobody else has ever done before. The anger I feel about this issue is directed at the culture that allows this sort of thing to happen. It continues to steep itself, and current generations, in the same ignorance. And ignorance is not bliss…

    Keep pushing towards the future Mr Twitty, as you work to save our past!

  192. Janet says:

    As a southerner from TN, I am awed by your words, your wisdom, your soulfulness and your generosity. “May we all teshuvah—repent—but even better, return to a better state, a state of shalem–wholeness and shalom–peace.” You have just cast a healing ripple through our world.

  193. Dee tyner says:

    It will interesting to see if she accepts this opportunity to make a statement. This is an interesting take on things. Hum………

  194. Sheila says:

    While I respect and enjoyed your writings, I can’t for the life of me understand why you won’t completely spell out God.

    • Ty! It’s Jewish.custom

      • Terri Tubbs says:

        Thank you, thank you, thank you! For what you have written and how you have answered peoples question in your blog! Looks like you didn’t sleep and kept people thinking all night long. Thank you for your honest, thoughtful, words.

      • Donna guiffrida says:

        I wanted to ask that as well, glad you already answered. This is a beautiful article and I would like to thank the person who ‘linked’ to it!.

  195. Susan Virta says:

    You have the soul of Ghandi. Truly privileged to know you thru this letter.

  196. dianabuja says:

    Reblogged this on DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, the Middle East, Agriculture, History & Culture and commented:
    Chef and food historian Michael Twitty’s penetrating letter to a southern racist:
    “…Your barbecue is my West African babbake, your fried chicken, your red rice, your hoecake, your watermelon, your black eyed peas, your crowder peas, your muskmelon, your tomatoes, your peanuts, your hot peppers, your Brunswick stew and okra soup, benne, jambalaya, hoppin’ john, gumbo, stewed greens and fat meat—have inextricable ties to the plantation South and its often Black Majority coming from strong roots in West and Central Africa…

  197. dianabuja says:

    Great going Michael! I’ve reblogged to mine, and do congratulate you on such a thoughtful and penetrating letter!

  198. Jim says:

    Good essay! I expressed a similar view on

    The book talks about our French, Spanish and Italian ancestors. No mention is made of our African ancestors and their food traditions. A modern reader would note that the book was written in Alabama just before the struggle for civil rights for black Americans exploded onto our black and white television screens.

    That reader would be wrong. I believe that the mighty contributions black Southerners have made to our southern food culture are such a huge part of that culture that we did not see those contributions distinct from who we are, how we cooked and what we ate. She wrote that the dishes of other cultures were “made individual by the American skill of using imaginatively whatever was at hand.” I suspect a lot of that skill was at the hands of black men and women. Unfortunately those professional cooks who developed many of these dishes two or three hundred years ago were slaves. Fortunately we have the benefit of their work and can be thankful for that.

    Our sensibilities are more heightened now. It is easier to understand and appreciate the distinctive contributions my fellow Southerners who are descended from black Africans made to my culture.

    In food, language and attitude, I am much closer to my fellow black Southerners than I am to most of the rest of the nation. It is a fact of which I am proud.

  199. Pingback: FOOD FOR THOUGHT | storymama01

  200. Hilda B Riggsbee says:

    As usual, brilliant!

  201. Margaret says:

    As a Native of Savannah, I am so pleased to read this. Please share with the Savannah Morning Newspaper.

  202. Deborah says:

    Thanks, Michael, for your eloquent and nuanced thoughts that match the complexity of racism and being Southern, rather than skimming over them — as you point out — in naive or deceptive ways. I love your description of the “national surprise.” I, too, was relieved when I heard her say “of course,” since I wouldn’t have believed a white Southern woman her age otherwise. There are many people in my (white, Southern) family who could say the same of their past language, though they would be ashamed of it now. But I especially want to thank you for helping us to step back far enough from these specific events to consider how they fit into the historical and ongoing conversation. Your insights into culinary traditions are fascinating and took this reflection in directions I could not have imagined. Your faithful embrace of the real, gritty, uncomfortable, intentional work of forgiveness and reconciliation is inspiring and I hope she takes you up on your offer to join you in September. Blessings on your creative work of tikkun olam!

  203. Jean Buffum says:

    Thank you so much for your comments. I would like to come to Stagville Plantation to meet you and contribute to your fundraiser.

  204. Judy Treby says:

    Michael – I have known you a long time- the very first day I met you and decided our school would benefit by having you as a teacher was the beginning of MY learning so much – our trip from CAJE in N.C. to Rockville was such fun- I have followed your journey from near( the Smithsonian Folklife Festival) and enjoy all I read and hear about you. Your post just adds more nourishment to my soul and joy in my heart- carry on, friend!

  205. Mike Mason says:

    As a man in his 50;s who was raised in the South, I thank you for your insightful explanation of our racial relationships and struggles. I was raised on and cook in the Southern foods tradition, and would love to talk with you about it sometime. I was chastised in my occupation as a teacher for stating the very observation you made that everyone is a little racist. It is our job to recognize this and try to overcome it. Now, off to cook up some green beans and cornbread from my garden, and can the rest.

  206. gale passo says:

    And to that I say, amen. Beautifully expressed. K’doshim aleicha. Shalom.

  207. Great letter. Thank you for an insightful and rational perspective on an emotionally charged and distorted issue.

  208. Dave says:

    While I Iin noway defend slavery what I would like to see from historians is the fact that it was blacks that sold blacks into slavery. If you had to be a slave then America was by far the luckiest place to be. And finally let it be known that blacks her owned slaves. The largest slave owner in Virginia was a black man. The “N” word si just one of a long line of “words” that were used then discarded over time. And being 66 years old I’ve heard it used constantly to this day in the black community. Its used a term of endearment as well as derogatory by the “old” folk

    I’m looking forward to following your site for good history and good food

    • Hi Dave!
      Africans from different ethnic groups sold Africans from other ethnic groups. White and Black are really creations of the sidelines of the Old and New Worlds. Yes some African Americans did own others. Many times esp during the antebellum period–it was usually because of laws regarding Free Blacks and family life. Other times there were Black slaveholders. Most of them very very very mixed and what we call passing–but not all. I don’t besmirch you because of your views, but from my view of history its important to look at it as you put it–a changing set of rules, words, ideas and liberties.

      • Dave says:

        Sorry for the lousy spelling. Spell checker took vacation. My only point as the grandfather of both black and Mexican mixed race grand kids I love as much as any o f the 26 others I have is that they know that all guilt is not on one “color” of people. That it is a mind set of people not the color of the skin. They are taught to judge people on who they are. And as you say its the changing set of rules and politics that cause the problems. I m sure the Chinese, Japanese and Irish (of which I am one) could howl just as loud, as we treated them no better. All of us have transgressed in the past. Proper people accept the responsibility of their errors and go on. Its not given for those who come afterwards to also pay the price continually.
        As i read history all colors have died in defense of others. Those are the people we should look up to. Today we have those like Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, Col. West and Recently the good doctor from Boston and many more past and present. Those that could really be a real guiding light have their voices suppressed to keep a political agenda on track rather than lift a people up.

    • connie says:

      And a sad note to this is that slavery based on race and social class continues to this day. I worked with a wonderful man who had personal stories of his slave trading uncles in Sudan – not exploited workers, but grabbed and sold humans. I live and work overseas, and have witnesses first hand how certain wealthier nations import labor from poorer nations… which should be a good thing for both, actually… but often the poor and uneducated laborers are terribly abused and exploited. We still have a lot of societal evolution to do.

  209. Angela says:

    Beautifully written.
    As a North Carolinian, would love to see her attend this event. However, it would require true contrition and a level of humbleness I do not believe Paula Deen possesses.
    She believes she’s right, that’s the true shame. I am not mad she said it, I am hurt because she felt it was her right to continue to say it, and defended her abhorrent behavior/language.

  210. I hope you will find it in your heart to extend the same tolerance to non-human animals. They are sentient beings who want to live, they are smart, they have a point of view, they love their children and friends, if they are allowed to. Please watch the film Earthlings and open your heart and mind. In love and peace.

  211. Gale Torregrossa says:

    Mazel Tov to Michael! I am Jewish and you are such a wonderful man, compassionate , confident and embracing the teaching of Torah and loving G_d. Thank you, Michael for being so clear and distinct about the proudness of one’s culture and ethnicity. I want an invitation, too! 🙂

  212. thejourneyisthelife says:

    I enjoyed your article and understand what you are communicating. Thanks for offering understand and not just sounding off.

    If there was/ is one thing I don’t agree with it is the following “I am not in agreement with esteemed journalist Bob Herbert who said “brothers shouldn’t use it either..” I think women have a right to the word “b….” gay men have a right to the word “queer” or “f…” and it’s up to people with oppressive histories to decide when and where the use of certain pejorative terms is appropriate.”

    I have just never understood the reasoning why some get a pass on using derogatory words and other don’t. I guess I’m live by the assumption that what is good for the goose is good for gander.

    However, I won’t dwell on this point because I believe it would then detract from the rest of your well written article.

    • Excellent point. The next ethical question is, What is good language? Can there be a standard/

      • Peter Fulmer says:

        There is no such thing as “good” language. All language is simply a collection of sounds used to convey a meaning or feeling. The issue becomes when one of those sounds creates a negative feeling, or conveys a negative sentiment. In our house they are “Rude” words, because saying “Fuck” or calling “Nigger” generates a bad feeling in those that hear them, and to my way of thinking, thats just like any other action we avoid in consideration of others. The ideas one may attempt to convey using rude words, may in fact be shameful, but don’t blame the messenger. Its just a sound, in our house we do not give them any more power than we choose to. We also teach our kids that consideration for others must always come before action/speech, and that poor behavior, spoken or otherwise, has consequences.

        Mr. Twitty, this is my first exposure to your wisdom, and I do enjoy it, as well as its beautiful expression. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and perspective.

    • Jim says:

      I agree! if no one says them, wont they eventually fade out of our language?

      • connie says:

        Words will probably last. They just do. But as we stomp out ignorance and hate, the bad attitudes will fade. It might take a couple of generations, but we’ll get there if we keep working at it.

        My grandparents, on both sides, north and south, were a product of the 1900-1950’s-ish. I think they would have been surprised to see the game my daughter was playing yesterday. It was one of the Sims PC games, where you create families and design your own characters. She designed a mom and dad. A baby. Two kids. A teen. And a grandma, and not a one in her simulated game family had the same color skin. To her, this was a totally natural thing to do (and we are a white family, not mixed race)… but just imagine how this ‘play’ would have been seen several decades ago? I can remember working in a department store in the 80’s and even then I saw white parents who refused to allow their kids to buy black dolls, and black parents who refused to allow their kids to buy white dolls. Kids were discouraged to even integrate their TOYS!

        This may seem like a very minor, very tiny, example… child’s play… but our children are our future and today’s kids are gradually learning to see multi-race, mutli-cuture, multi-religion as the ‘norm’. It’s slow, but I have faith that we’ll get there.

    • amy says:

      I agree with you totally – going so far as to say “self-loathing” terms instead of derogatory. However, there are many opinions on that and Mrs. Deen, and they are all valid, because they are each persons truth.
      Also, just to point out, as perfectly as this piece addresses one aspect of what was in the deposition, she obviously knowingly allowed a harassment filled workplace – where the leaders were watching demeaning pornography in front of staff, using derogatory words, and otherwise using words, attitude and actions instead of whips and chains to let people know what status they were regarded as, and she was and is fine with that…”I can’t determine what offends another person.”
      I don’t hold it against Mrs. Deen for doing/saying things in the past she regrets (haven’t we all?) but she has not evolved and won’t – it is obvious she still feels she did nothing wrong.

  213. You ARE awesome in every sense of the word, Michael! You’ve nailed the real issue. Southern food is firmly rooted in the rich culture of “Afroculinaria.” KUDOS to you for this eloquently rational response! You have a new biggest fan!

  214. Deb says:

    Lovely and thoughtful… a breath of fresh air in a room full of smoke…

  215. Kris G says:

    Bravo! Thank you for taking the time to write such an elegant and thoughtful response to the media circus surrounding Paula. I live in NC and will have to visit Stagville.

  216. joemf says:

    wow….a cooler head prevails ! thanks.

  217. Well done, Michael! Well freakin’ done!

  218. Anna says:

    Mr Twitty, I really enjoyed reading your article about Mrs. Deen. I too am southern…from the Deep South in fact, Mississippi, and agree with many of the points you made. I do support the statement that all of us are “a little bit” racist. Black, White, Jew, Methodist, etc…we are looking to belong and be a part of a community that has similar values, looks, and cultures. In the quest for this we are constantly judging others to see how they measure up to our visions of community members. So we have to in fact rate others as to how they measure up.

    I was fortunate enough to have wonderful southern parents who, although they were from “that generation” had the foresight to teach me that what defines a person is what is in their heart. I can remember my Daddy telling me from an early age, “get to know each person and then decide if you want them to be your friend”.

    But like many of the other people from the comments above we all knew those who used the n-word … some directed it at blacks; some used it as a means of joking between each other.

    I hope I am not alone when I make the next statement…. I do feel that when I look at comparison between 1975, when I was a child, and now I hear much less racists words of all kinds. I see much more acceptance of everyone…blacks, whites, Jews, and yes even Northerners! I think we are moving in the right direction. Either that or my head is very buried in the sand! I don’t believe racism will every completely go away.

    Although I’m not proud of what Paula said, I am proud that she stood up and admitted it instead of hiding behind lies that some image consultant could’ve concocted for her. I believe that if you’re over 25 and live in the south, you’ve probably said. yes..I’ve said it. i’m not sure if I would have the guts to own up to that except on an anonymous post on the internet.

    Bravo to Paula Deen for telling the truth, even if she hides behind her southern pride to do it. And Bravo to you Mr. Twitty for having the ability to see the entire history of the situation and so eloquently detailing it for the rest of us. Everyone can learn from this.

  219. I just wanted to say that I didn’t know that barbeque was African American. And I’m really sorry I didn’t know that, and that I didn’t know a lot about the culinary history of African slaves in the south. I should have, and I am sincerely bothered that I didn’t know. Thanks for writing this, it’s good to have some ignorance lifted.

    • MissyK says:

      It’s not. The Spanish, upon landing in the Caribbean, used the word barbacoa to refer to the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform.

      • That’s one reading and I am well aware of it. But here is the question…what meat? Agouti, caiman, manatee or large fish? Barbacoa and Babbake can best be understood as two pre industrial cooking methods that merged in areas where Natives and Africans exchanged culture.

      • Valerie says:

        I thought Barbecue was a Taino word-Taino by way of the Arawaks?

      • It def could be..and you cannot give the etymology without them. But nobody looks to West and Central Africa where there is a very similar sounding word and very similar cooking methods. Besides Columbus and friends with their colds and smallpox didn’t exactly do a lot of recipe sharing when they were looking for cities of gold.

      • Valerie says:

        Michael, I have another question for you, as a food historian: do you know when farmers were stolen away from their homes in Sierra Leone to be rice farmers off SC/Georgia? (Gullah?) Someone recently told me it wasn’t until the 18th century. Do you know if that’s so? It seemed to me it might have been much earlier?

        And P.S. what a wonderful service you’ve done here. Good on you. And you’re Jewish? Fabulous (I’m half & half Cuban-Catholic. Oy).

      • So yes and no 🙂 Africans from the Dande region of Angola and rice growers from Senegambia came first. There may have been some from a small rice growing corner of Ghana too….In 1739 the Stono Rebellion occurs, Angolans started it so nobody wanted them. Then from Sierra Leone and Liberia come the hardcore rice growers in the mid 18th century. The name Gullah may be from the word Angola or from the Gola people of the Rice Coast. I love your heritage! !!!!

  220. Thank you for this commentary (can I call it a d’var?). If you feel like heading even further South for the high holidays, you’ve got an open invitation at our table in Tallahassee and at our small, lay-led synagogue.

  221. says:

    Well said Michael,

    I respect your invitation to Paula, I hope she accepts.

    I’m a middle aged, Christian, white guy from the Midwest, married with 2 kids, but I bet spending a day together cooking we’d find out how similar we actually are.

    The world would be a better place if everyone confronted issues like this like you do.

    If you need an extra cook on Sept 7, I’m free.

  222. Patricia says:

    “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.
    I am white and was born in MS, and still live here. We are all human and equal in God’s eyes. Racism and hate is a learned behavior. I know from experience that it crosses all ethnic and racial lines. But with education and open discussion of these behaviors, maybe one day people will learn to respect each other for what is inside them and how they treat you. But we have to stop perpetuating the hate.
    “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” Long Walk to Freedom.

  223. Excellent! Simply perfect.

  224. Roz says:

    Thank you for taking the time to craft a well thought out and well written piece. I cringe when certain words are used in rap music and otherwise. However, since I’m not a rapper, I don’t use rap terminology. Also, I note there are many acceptable terms of “endearment” people choose to use between and among themselves. I would be deeply offended if another woman chose to address my man with some pet word or term we use. In fact, I believe often people use many terms privately that would not and should not be used by others.

  225. Well done my intelligent, thoughtful and humorous friend. I welled up reading your piece.

    It is not easy being human, but the leveler is we all are. We all have our “good” and our “bad” thoughts and utterances. We can categorize them as our light and dark sides, but we can’t deny them or pretend that they don’t exist or they are not part of who we are no matter wherever we come from. We CAN choose how to react and act out of them. We get to choose to perpetuate love or not love with every thing we say and do. I think that’s what we are up to as humans — that’s our opportunity. Don’t deny it, don’t hide in shame, but choose love and widening your view with compassion and conversation and understanding.

    Your beautifully written piece sparked a conversation that begins with not pretending that we are not who we are and leads to making a choice about how do we want to show up in the world?

    I loved reading the comments and how you inspired a lot of thinking. I’m thrilled to call you my friend.

    BIG HUGS!!!


  226. Alisa Boyd says:

    Beautiful piece! Yesterday I tried explaining to my mom what Paula Deen’s comments represented, but you have done it so much better than I ever could. Beyond that, I am quite interested in your Cooking Gene project. I will be following your posts and activities and thoughtful writings from now on. I’m so glad I got to know you a little bit today!

  227. AJ Henry says:

    Amazing job. I don’t know if Paula will be there but I am definitely making the trip…and I’m bringing my nephew. I loved your writing. It was thoughtful and explained the nuances of being Black in the South. I found myself “Amen-ing” throughout the entire piece. I’m not a cook, nor do I watch the cooking shows. But I know who Paula Dean is and I knew it would be a big deal to the media because its easy to point out the obvious. Of course she used the word. If we had a news station that only catered to southerners, that would not have been news. But what you did took time and patience, research and dedication. I appreciate your thoughtful discussion and explanation and wish you the best and more opportunities to share your words, thoughts and ideas with the world.
    Thank you for taking the time to educate all of us. Much success! You just got a new fan.
    -born and raised in Atlanta, GA

  228. Monique says:

    Mr. Sir. That was spoken with such sincerity and heart. I felt like I was on a porch sipping Tea out of a mason jar being schooled and encouraged amongst the Greats. Well done my brother and I want to join you in Carolina in September to be filled even more.

    Thank you, I am sharing this with as many as I can.


  229. Vicki Kerns says:

    Michael, so glad I found this wonderfully written and succinct article from you. One word describes it: BRAVO! Thank you

  230. I am an almost 70-year-old retired teacher – white – Southern – Christian – woman (in no particular order), but early on learned from my dad (born in 1898 in a small southwestern Virginia town) that you just don’t use the word “nigger” because “it’s a bad word”. I never heard him use racial (or any other) slurs. I grew up in a segregated world. The only Negros, colored people, Blacks, African-Americans I knew were Henrietta (who came to clean our house), and Emily (who came to iron … and who, by the way, gave me a gentle and lasting lesson on saying “thank you”). I remember “colored” on water fountains in the two department stores in downtown Richmond, “Caucasian / Negroid” on school documents, those who sat at the back of the bus, and the 1955 closing of the only public swimming area because of integration.

    One of your commenters mentioned the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” (from South Pacific) … how appropriate. My aunt was a great example. When I was about 10, I was telling her something about a “… colored lady …”, and she said “no honey, you mean colored woman”. A seemingly insignificant correction, but such a huge implication. My mom explained it later when I questioned it (we’re all women, but how you conduct yourself makes you a lady).

    Collards, creasy greens (field cress), turnip salad, kale, mustard greens, fat back, souse (head cheese), scrapple, grits, pigs’ feet, ham steaks & red-eye gravy … umm. My dad grew greens in our back yard, my mom (a Baltimore native) even made souse meat (once)! I didn’t care about the history or origins of the bounty on our table then, now I can appreciate the sources. As an aside, and as a teacher of French and Spanish (I do hope I’m right in this) I believe tomatoes, peanuts and barbecue originated in the Americas – along with potatoes, cocoa, pineapple, chili peppers, vanilla, corn, squash, lima beans.

    Speaking of food (I always do), I cannot find information on the September 7 fundraiser dinner for Historic Stagville, Durham NC. Is it invitation only, or open to the public? At least I’ve found your blogs, and see so many cultural / historical events that unfortunately I’ve already missed.

    Terminology has changed (Negro, colored, Black, African-American) … maybe some day we can talk about people without race references, items like that Cheerios ad won’t create a stir, and people who call someone the “N word” – or the “A word”, “F word(s)”, “B word”, “H word”, “Q word”, “M word”, “P word”, “S word”, “any alphabet word” – will be considered ignorant, crude, or vulgar.

    Gentle lessons … family upbringing – as I said on my Facebook page about Leroy Butler “… his mom taught him to love everybody … what a lady. He was the one who tweeted “Congrats to Jason Collins” then was uninvited to speak about bullying to a church group. Too bad they didn’t have moms like his.”

    Thank you for your blog, I’ll be following.

  231. Well said Michael. I am a white southern male and I cook a great deal. It is my happy place, my stress relief. Although I am not formerly trained at some institute or culinary school. I was trained like so many in the south at the side of my Mother, Grandmother, Miss Mattie a very old and wonderful black lady who watched us while mom and dad worked. From them I “earned” everything I can cook by watching, doing, and helping them in the kitchen. Just like my teachers nothing is written down, and I don’t really measure anything its all by sight, smell, and taste. I learned to cook BBQ the same way. Starting as a young boy stacking wood, then tending the fire, turning the racks and so on.. My grandson is now 6yrs old and on the next whole hog I cook he will begin his education. While I have used the same word Miss Paula did and I would be a liar if I said I haven’t. All I can do is try to do better. I just hope that as I pass down the old southern cooking recipes I learned at the side of all the wonderful cooks in my life. That my grandsons and granddaughters learn that good food reaches beyond race and that No matter the color of the hands that prepare it good eats are good eats.

  232. tuckahoems says:

    How could I have missed that huge tab “Dinner at Historic Stagville (Durham NC): Don’t Miss This: September 7, 2013”? Have it now – hope to see you there!

  233. This has, by far, been the most well written piece I have read thus far on this subject. You kept your cool, eloquently shared your thoughts and I finished reading with a sense of peace on the matter. I want everyone to read this.
    I would love to have you on my show some time Around the Kitchen Sink 🙂
    Heather Tallman

  234. Steven Clark says:

    What a beautiful unraveling of a media-beaten, oversimplified situation, and woven into the complex tapestry it really is. And I don’t mean a pretty tapestry, just one that hangs well on the very diverse walls of Americana.

  235. Kirk Gothier says:

    The level and quality of comments are almost as amazing as your open letter. Congrats, on the recognition. You’re a treasure!

  236. It is only when we respond, rather than react, that anything has a chance to change. I was moved to tears and profoundly grateful that you refused to be part of the knee-jerk reaction and put time, thought and heart into this piece. I am not going to get into the minutiae about should-or-should-not-use-That-Word, culinary history, or any of the other pieces for dialogue that you discuss. I am simply responding to your generosity of heart, fearlessness of going against the media tide, and your clear belief that people can learn, grow and shift their thinking, if we will only talk TO each other instead of AT each other. A bow of respect and an ocean of thanks to you, Michael.

  237. Jj Jackman says:

    Dude, you are welcome at my table any day…thank you.

  238. Carol Hotzert's says:

    I love everything you said I only wish I could share it could send it to my face book and I will it made more sence then any one else thank you for being yourself

  239. Well said. I wish she would accept that invitation (sans cameras ….. just the invitation and opportunity to learn/break bread). Here’s what I wrote about her/the “issues”:

  240. Cheryl says:

    Grateful for you, your wisdom, and your vert good work, Cousin.

  241. Dawn Strawder says:

    Thank you! So much of what you said in this essay has been floating in my brain for awhile. Just brilliant!

  242. Kristine says:

    Love it! A jewish, black, gay man cooking, talking and writing about southern food! G-d love America, flaws and all!!

  243. Pingback: Paula Deen, Chris Rock, and The “N-word” | michaelwwoods

  244. Sue says:

    Timely given my recent trip, a first, to Charleston SC and then Greensboro NC. While I was struck by the architecture as you said, I couldn’t get past the fact that the guides didn’t ever acknowledge the slave backs this was built on or apologize for the wrong doing. It all just seemed so matter of fact.
    I grew up in Oregon and have come to begin to realize through Glenn Singleton’s Courageous Conversations about race how little I know about racism. In other words, I don’t know what I don’t know. Michael, I’d heard the quote, “better the Southern white man than the Northern one, because at least you know where he stands…” from an administrator who had moved to Portland from the South in one session i was in, and it gave me pause. Who me? I’m not racist. But what I learned is in Oregon racism is not overt like it is in the South, but it’s here. Oh yes. I am not proud of the history of racism in Oregon as I have learned about it; things I didn’t realize, or wasn’t taught, or saw as a child. However, one thing I knew and was taught by my parents and grandparents was to never, ever use “that word” no matter what.
    What I can do at this point is keep learning and doing my part to question racist comments and actions in the way you have done, and to make sure the whole story is told. I loved visiting the Carolina’s but came back with very mixed feelings about what to love. Michael, I truly appreciated your timely and even handed response to Ms Deen and the learning in it for all. I hope to return again in the fall.

  245. jaylynnphoenix says:

    I have to applaud, this posting, it is Eloquent, Educational, Enlightening, and Heartrending, But Also Heartwarming, I truly hope that Paula Deen takes you up on the invitation to this Challenge! I live in Middle Tennessee and am marking my calender now for Sept 7th and hope I can attend! I would love to see what life was REALLY like and support family farmers!
    Many Blessings and Thank You for the Education!

  246. teezeetoo says:

    Humane, intelligent, and beautifully written. Thank you for giving us a nuanced and important perspective to “chew on” so to speak. I’m hoping to see at least as much outrage at the Voting Rights Act decision but I’m betting there’s more blowback on Ms. Deen than on SCOTUS.

  247. This is brilliant: both compassionate and erudite. Thank you for teaching me new things so early of a morning!

  248. Lauren says:

    Beautifully written. Your point was clear and reasonable. As a white, young, southern woman who has lived around the world I can agree that racism is everywhere. This is not just a product of the south, but we are often given credit for it. It is sickening that at times I have to raise my children around the racist mentality that persists. I only hope we can end it with this generation. Bravo to you, Mr. Twitty. You have a new follower in me.

  249. Pingback: AN OPEN LETTER TO PAULA DEEN | Nearly Normalized

  250. Eddy says:

    I’m old. I have grown up and lived both sides of this story. I have used words in my youth, I should have never uttered. It was a way of life and we didn’t know any better. (not an excuse, just the truth). I was taunted for having a “N*&*r friend”, remember the first black that went to my high school, remember a swimming pool owner pouring bleach in a pool because a black person swam in it.

    Yes, I’ve grown up with a lot of mixed emotions. I have lived it! But the good news is, I was ‘trainable’. I’ve learned the errors of my ways, I’ve changed, I treat people different. I look for people like you, Michael. Not people, of all races and colors who use their past as an excuse, for you owe me something.

    As a genealogy person, I love my history and past. Those who do not know their past are truly going to repeat it. I’m glad I found you web site as I’m a “healthy” person and didn’t get that way without the help of lard and fatback. Try to wash Momma’s iron skillet and you’ll see.

  251. rance says:

    Thank You for the AMAZING words!! Made my day!!

  252. Joy O. Davis says:

    This is my first time reading your work. As a native Albanian (native of Albany, Ga., Paula Deen’s home town), I wish to thank you for an insightful article that touches all of the bases on this subject. You are the hammer that hit the nail on the head.As with most things in the world today, the subjects being delt with here in Ms. Deen’s case have little to do with the real topics but with $$$$$$$. The Food Channel has shown that there is no loyalty or kindness available if there is no $$$ to be made. Thanks for your insights, I am a new fan.

  253. katepavelle says:

    Micheal, that was well said, and I thank you for sharing your perspective as well as the “voice of reason” part. Yes, we are all racist, sort of. I find that for me, as a naturalized American from behind the Iron Curtain, the path both toward and out of racism has been sort of convoluted. First. I came to this country with a belief that “everyone is equal” and “you can be whatever you want.” Naturally, I decided that as soon as I finish high school, I will become an Apache Indian and join a tribe on Rio Pecos. My family talked me out of my romantic, noble-savage fantasy while I attended a prestigious high school. Not speaking any English, I was surprised when I was put into “black classes.” Most of our school’s 10% black population was herded into the “slow” classes – this was in the early 80’s and MKL day wasn’t an official holiday yet. I asked about it, but the teacher looked a bit embarrassed. Then there was the gang of black boys who liked to toss my locker and shove me around because I was different and didn’t talk much, and some trouble ensued when I started a bringing a knife to school… (a real frontiersman would have, you see, and in America we all need to be self-sufficient in these things). A year after the knife incident, there was a dance and Nicole, who was from Haiti and as black as I can imagine a person to be, introduced me to her cute cousin. We danced at a school dance together, even slow dances, and somehow managed to communicate in our heavily accented English. On my way out of the gym, the black boy gang barred my way. They wanted to know why I danced with the guy. Why not? But he was black. So what? Aren’t we in America, where everyone is equal? And then, one after another, they shook my hand. I thought they were acting a bit weird. It took me years, decades, of perspective to understand what that handshake was about. Oh… and we nodded hello at one another in the hallway from there on, and my locker was never tossed again.
    So it’s about people talking, and knowing one another on an individual level. I know some people with a bit of African ancestry, but I don’t think of them as “black,” I think of them as a “friend” or “teacher” or “colleague.” The category of “black” has been relegated to those whose name I don’t know yet, I guess. It’s imperfect, but I take solace in the knowledge that I use the same rule for other ethnic groups. All I can do is try.

  254. I’m so happy to have found your website and this post, so very well written.

  255. Leigh says:

    Dear Michale,
    Thank you for this amazing essay. You should put down incredible writer next to the description of yourself. 🙂 I am a biracial woman who is half African American and half Jewish of Eastern European decent living in Berlin Germany. My maternal grandmother was the daughter of an escaped slave and I loved hearing the stories of his escape with his mother as my grandmother made Poor Man’s Puddin’ or Floating Island, or her honey fried chicken or any of the countless delicacies that she made during my childhood. I also used to love to listen to how my paternal grandmother told the stories of how her mother escaped Poland as Jew and how my paternal grandfather came to America as a 9 year old boy from a Russian Jewish ghetto with not teeth in his head from such poor nutrition. For me, family family history has always been connected with food. They go hand in hand. And growing up in the Mid West we all knew the Klan were as strong or maybe even stronger then in the south. When I was a kid, which was in the 70’s there were still cross burnings 20 miles down the road from where we lived. Anyway, I don’t mean to go on and on. I just wanted to say that I loved what you wrote, it really spoke to me on so many levels and wish you only the best in future success and good health. Please come to Berlin to visit, I think you would find it very interesting on a culinary level as well as a historical one.
    All the best!

  256. Love and gratitude to you for this well written response to, Paula Deen. We could all take the thoughts that you shared and not only apply them to issues of racism, but bigotry of all kinds. Thank you. Thank you so very much. Your post seems to have come from a place of love and compassion for your fellow human, while never once beating around the bush about the matter. I respect and appreciate that so much. Thank you, again.

  257. K. Tapscott says:

    Masterpiece. Someone just pointed this out to me on fb, and I have to say this blog is interesting, well written, and important work. Thanks. I’m gonna repost, and keep watching.

  258. Jennifer says:

    Wonderful!! Truly!

    An aside: my husband is a park ranger at Appomattox Court House NHP and a banjo player who is working hard to put the banjo back into rightful context. I urge you to seek him out. I will certainly forward your blog to him. I have no doubt you two would have amazing conversations and would likely be good friends.


      • Pat Wojechowski says:

        Many of my black relatives (I am a white Southerner) were either never slaves or emancipated when they arrived in French Louisiana and Spanish Florida. They were allowed to marry into any race until the British and the Americans battled for the right to make such laws.

      • Jennifer says:

        That is really exciting! My husband’s 4-greats-grandmother’s house is preserved as part of the park (a face he discovered after having worked there for years!) so he feels a very keen connection to the place. And because he works for the NPS, he is constantly trying to find new and very real ways to interpret what happened there. He would love to hear your story! I know he’s read this post and I’m sure he will be in touch soon. His name is David Wooldridge and he is the museum technician for Appomattox Court House NHP.

  259. K. Tapscott says:

    Man, the New York Times really ought to publish this. (And the Atlanta Journal, Macon Telegraph, etc.)

  260. Regi says:

    Beautifully put. Thank you! I hope she does accept your invitation.

  261. K. Tapscott says:

    I sent this to the Editorial Board at the NYTImes, just so you know.

  262. Great Piece, Very well laid out and balanced. Simply great read and insightful

  263. Farmer Ama says:

    oooh, WE LOVE YOU Mr Twitty!!!!! wow.
    You are Brother number one in my book today. Im loving it, all of it, and the responces…
    well children, LET THE HEALING BEGIN! Let the church or temple say Amen Ameen Peace Shalom Salaam and One Love to you, our awesomly intelligent and thought-filled fellow Human Being. I hope that she does join you and cook with you, its a redemption opportunity for this nation. Keep Up Your Work. The Ancestors are well pleased with you, and God is the witness to your love.

  264. Lemarr Treadwell says:

    .@Michael W. Twitty.
    Thank you for taking “Higher Ground.” Hope Paula Deen does the same.

    I’m pressing on the upward way,
    New heights I’m gaining every day;
    Still praying as I’m onward bound,
    “Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

  265. AB says:

    “Deen’s cookbook “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” has gone from a ranking in the 1,500s on Monday to #18 on Wednesday on the online bookseller
    That is #18 among all books, not just cookbooks.
    ‘New Testament’ is also the No. 1 selling cookbook on the site’s “Diet” and “Regional” cookbook lists.
    And its not even out until October.”

  266. I really enjoyed this piece, particularly your observations about language and how that plays a role in all this. Great job. Thank you!

  267. Bonnie Steffey says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. I feel like we are all as one, but we can not erase our past history. We can not change what we grew up feeling and hearing, but we like Paula can express the are ashamed of what we heard and felt in our past years ago. It was just what life in the south was for “coloreds” as we were taught to saw, but we also heard the “n” word though were taught never to use it. We can not change the past but can go forward, though being ashamed of our past, make sure to never repeat it.

  268. "The Chuck Wagon" - a chef on wheels says:

    Mr. Twitty,
    As a Christian I have been taught forgiveness, compassion and that we should tell “those who trespass against us” to go and sin no more. Your letter truly encompasses that, while also giving the opportunity for redemption. I pray that there were more people who could practice the act of “hating the sin but loving the sinner”. I am moved and inspired.

  269. Jane Baldus says:

    Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece.

  270. Michael W. Twitty, you are a warrior! Clearly at minority in quite a number of areas, your desire to embrace Paula Deen’s plight and choose to clarify your feelings as well as the clear misalignment of many of our American population is a credit to you and your family. Good for you! Your erudite capture of your feelings, the issues, and the desire to educate is refreshing. Continue to cook, to comment, but more importantly, to teach those that will listen that your heritage makes you what you are, your environment affects how you are, and your mind makes you who you are. You are a true child of the Universe! I hope Paula Deen takes advantage of your invitation; I’d like to be there.

  271. Kim Paumer says:

    Dear Michael, Thank you so much for your eloquent letter, you cut thru the BS and captured the true meaning behind PD’s situation. While the media is turning this into a circus, the “real” racism is still in evidence, both at the SCOTUS, in our prison system and inner-city schools. As a bi-racial woman, growing up “Too White,Too be Black and Too Black Too be White, I know exactly what you are talking about. I often would watch PD’s cooking shows and say, Hey that’s not how my Grandmom made that. African-Americans never got, nor get credit, only the occasional shout-out to the “African slaves who brought “that/this” over. REALLY! Think thoses slaves were smuggling in a little Okra or sweet taters (sorta like Sam Wise-Gamchee, carrying a little salt, just in case they found a chicken on the way to Mount Doom) LOL. I also know that COL Sanders did not invent that receipe for fried chicken, no he stole it from a black man or women, whose chicken he happened to taste. I truly hope the sun shines on that “lie” someday! LOL Anyway thanks again for your beautiful posting, and I will be following your work from here on out. Kim Paumer

  272. Wendy says:

    Thank you for writing such an elegant piece. My family is from South Carolina and your writing brought me home to the kitchen of my grandmother. When grace was said at each meal, it was to thank all who gave.

    Your response has given back what we need to remember. It is with love, we sit at the table of brotherhood.


  273. I’ve been horrified by the “hang Paula” crowd who delights in watching a fellow human being be embarrassed and humbled on a world stage and equally horrified at the evil words of the “Everybody says the “n” word, it’s okay, what’s the big deal?” crowd who have uncovered the fact that racism is alive and well in a way I did not believe possible in 2013…Thank you for offering a perspective so rich in history, so kind, so forgiving, and so ultimately rational. Thank you for putting what I’ve been feeling into such beautiful words. My next personal goal? Learn more about the history of Southern cooking. Write a book. I’ll buy it.

  274. Bobette Brooks says:

    As a university educator and as a Mid-Western female, I have always yearned to be somewhere else that has a “culture” which adds a more definitive interest and identification to yourself and those around you. Historically speaking, I think the MidWest is filled with people who were moving on from something they didn’t like, but had no clue where to go. I grew up in a county without a single black family, or any family that had anything other than visibly white European roots (and there were only 6,000 people in the entire county). Although I knew people who used the “n” word, I was embarrassed when I heard it (as if someone had said the “f” word). It isn’t necessary for a parent to verbalize “we don’t say that in this house”– a child learns that what is not said is every bit as important as what is said. With a little age, I have also learned that context and intention are very important…I was appalled when my grandmother would say “colored people,” but I now know that she didn’t know what else to say. She was limited by the language she knew, and she knew the “n” word was bad. (Maybe she figured if it was good enough for the NAACP, it was the good word). I now feel a little bad for judging her, because I realize that her intentions were actually good.
    I applaud you for extending an invitation to have a sit down (as we would say in my neck of the woods). I think understanding a person’s intention goes a long way toward understanding. Sometimes we do stupid things out of ignorance. And sometimes, we just do stupid things. I don’t know Deen’s intention, but I do know she did something stupid. You have extended the hand of forgiveness for something stupid. Whether or not she chooses to accept will say a lot about her intention.
    So wish I could take time off and join your fundraiser–regardless of whether or not Paula shows up Irrelevant. Sounds like a good time for education and good food. Good luck!

    • I love that Midwestern people–esp my Minnesotans and such–have a very very different experience with all this–its a corrective to some of the long standing views we have in the South and east coast! thank you

    • Coral says:

      Before the Civil Rights movement of the 60s — the polite words to use were Negro and Colored….. there were no others! In the 60s civil rights leaders agonized over what they wanted to be called — and finally settled on Black (as opposed to White) and African-American (although ties to Africa were long forgotten.)

      • Ross Hill says:

        In this corner of Maryland we mostly just refer to everybody by name, clothes are often used to define individuals. Sometimes we have to explain the gender involved. But the color of a person’s skin is among the last of the identifiers that we use.

      • katepavelle says:

        I first learned English out of a British textbook, where a person of obvious African ancestry was referred to as “Negro.” My teacher in the US quickly corrected me that the polite word is “black.” The whole “African-American” etymology seems to be fraught with controversy. After a member of a Native American tribe told me that his black friends hate being called African Americans, just like my kids would not be correctly described as European Americans (although that would apply to me since I was born in Europe), I went back to just saying “black,” or if unsure of someone’s heritage and the topic is relevant for whatever reason, “a person of color.” Or, “a person of a diverse ethnic background.” Sometimes, it’s just a “person.” Most of the time, we don’t care. It’s just curiosity about where people come from. I get it with my accent – I’ve lived in this country for most of my life, and I still get asked where I came from because my English is accented. It’s okay. I used to mind, but I don’t anymore.

  275. William C Watkins says:

    lots more to worry about than Paula and the “n” word there’s a lot of people that have Bad Days I thought I understood this gentleman to say basicly you can’t be a racist if you are a minority sounds like Spike Lee to me if I don’t care for some Blacks this makes me a racist what a joke don’t think for a moment Blacks have much use for White people it’s called human nature coming from a true Catholic gentleman that hates nothing (that’s a word to worry about) but dislike some things Remember you are your brothers keeper focus on how to get through this world without hurting others Wm C.Watkins

    • Cheryl Gaston says:

      I think you should read the piece again, slowly and thoughtfully. You thoroughly misunderstood it.

  276. William Propsner says:

    Amazing how with just a few eloquent words, you are keeping the ‘race card’ alive and well in the United States.
    You CAN spell the entire word you know.
    God Bless

    • Sorry, it’s Jewish custom not to spell out the name of the Lord. I was taught G-d and I will continue to write it. Hashem is how we say G-d and spell the name out.
      Sir there is a human race with many colors, phenotypes, ethnicities and peoplehoods. When I call Paula cousin, I call her family. Yes I played the race card–the human race card.
      G-d Bless
      Baruch Hashem Yom Yom

  277. Pat Wojechowski says:

    Michael Twitty – Your response is clearly one where you know what it is to have ice tea and fried chicken in your blood. I appreciate your letter to Paula and I hope she takes you up on your invitation to be with you in NC the first week in September. I wish I could be there but already have an obligation. Much of your letter about how your anger is at the lack of media representation of the “African” influences of the culinary South is not represented fairly on television. May i offer one to look at where the predominance of those producers of said programs and sponsorship live and operate their businesses. Many of my (once called mulatto) family members felt there was a better life for them to head North where there was supposedly no prejudice, no bigotry or discrimination. Many returned with sad stories of deep betrayals from white people who were supposed to be their “friends” and such good bosses to help them get better jobs. Wrong, they came home where they knew who their friends are, be they black or white, and that if you are my friend I can count on you because it is who we are to each other that makes us friends, not that we are trying to placate society with false impressions. And for all those who want to make comments that those who are my relatives from the 1700’s to today were raped – you are more than stupid – there was true love and desire to be together, some are recorded as married, before the British and Americans made it illegal.

  278. Ken says:

    This was a very thought provoking and educational article. Thank you for your straightforward words and logical thoughts and arguments. Again, thank you.

  279. Susan says:

    Michael, well spoken!! Looking to history for answers on how to react and respond to today is brilliant! And not unprecedented! In 1940’s and 50’s, that word was used frequently, part of a norm. It would be foolish not to acknowledge that even then the word was derogatory, but the truth is it was widely used. To think that someone who was raised during that time could have never uttered that word is ridiculous, and so like you, I was not surprised when I read Ms.Deen’s comment “of course”. I instead thought, at last, someone has the guts to be honest. I also realized that the media was blowing things grossly out of context by not looking at the age/historical factors. Thank you for your gracious understanding and intelligent explanation to those who quickly jumped on the media bandwagon. I am a Northern girl who CHOSE to settle in the South because I saw it as a progressively non-racial place. In my almost 30 years here, I have seen less segregation in my city than when I travel to my birth city. More bi-racial couples, Multi-racial groups of children playing together with no one STARING. Where I grew up, I never saw diversity until I went into the city! This blending of skin colors and cultures seems more like my God intended for us to live and so I encourage people to move here and welcome them when I find they are new to the South. I’m proud to now be a part of THIS history, but acknowledge that I came from a different world. Ms. Deen would be blessed to cook with you and to be a part of what sounds like an amazing experience. If I can rearrange my schedule, I may join the two of you! Thank you again for showing that media hype can be more damaging than the speakers original intent. God bless you!

  280. Pam says:

    Some awesome truths here! Thanks for writing this, all of what you say hits me right in my heart. I am a Virginian and after spending time up North, I often remarked that I preferred the South with its signs and declarations as to ones position. Here in the North, one gives the outward impression that it’s okay for me to be a Black Woman, but that is just a cover for how I should expect to be shafted in the back…really fast! When President Obama was first elected, one White lady congratulated me on having my own president! Really, I replied to her…what country are you living in? Are we not in the same country? He is your president!

  281. Michael, this is one of the most thoughtful, beautifully articulated and honest dissections of the Paula Deen “scandal” I’ve come across. Thank you for that, and for taking the time to go beyond the veneer toward the heart of issue. Huge respect. Maybe if Paula takes you up on your invite for September 7th, you could also ask her to do Tashlich on the 6th – a timely opportunity for teshuvah, to cast away her transgressions and move forward, without accompanying guilt.

  282. Wonderful, eloquent, true. I’ll be following your blog from now on!

    At the same time, we would all do well to read the whole deposition, her actions and those of her brother go well beyond using the “n” word a few times. If that were all there was to it, the word, – but, no, they took actions behind those words in the way they spoke to, mistreated and even agressed on African Americans and women. And it’s not just one woman’s word against another’s. It’s corroborated by witnesses who will be speaking at trial. I feel like Paula Deen conned us all.

  283. This was beautifully written and thoughtfully articulated, and I’m so glad you took the time to write it. It nails down all of my swirling thoughts about this episode.

  284. Dana says:

    This is a great article. Your tone is one of complete ‘matter of factness’ and the opinion is well stated. I went to amazon 1/2 way through the post to buy your book.

  285. sfordbmore says:

    Thank you for your beautiful spirit and your beautiful writing. I am glad to know your blog exists so that I can keep reading you!

  286. Judy says:

    Wow! This is an amazing, intelligent and very thought-provoking letter. Yes, when using racially charged language, age is indeed a factor — as a southerner I have seen that much in my own family. However, you also made me think about a few more issues — like the under-representation of African Americans in the community of historians and the culinary community. That really wouldn’t have dawned on me, except that i began to think of local living history museums here in Illinois, and how none of the presenters ever even talks about the African or Native American origins of the foods that are grown on their farms and prepped in their kitchens, much less tell anyone about the slavers who operated here ‘retrieving’ runaway slaves (or more often than not, selling free black people into slavery.)
    I am, as you may have guessed, a history nut. I’m also a southerner, and that means, also part Native American. I have recently started to become interested in the foods my ancestors would have eaten, and have tried a few recipes, but I’d love to learn more about the origins of the foods, as well as how to prepare them. Do you have a any recommendations?

  287. “Well said” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Brilliant.

  288. Michelle says:

    That was so touching and beautifully written I actually teared up. I’m a California Girl, but what you describe on the other side of our diverse country sure does sound wonderful! Being of Italian heritage myself, food is considered 1/3 of the sacred trinity of ‘good food, good friends, good wine’. Food is the universal peace pipe, the keeper of friends, the making of new ones. Food is the ultimate creative process which not only is sustenance for oneself, but that you get to share with everyone at the table. Nothing tells you more about a people or a culture than their food, and nothing else makes getting to know those people or finding common ground easier than breaking bread together. Wish I could be there to celebrate your wonderful event, but I’ll be there in spirit. Cook on!

  289. Quite a letter there, Michael Twitty; the definition of ‘Gracious’. I admire anyone who points out common ground, and it’s quite visionary of you to invite her to reestablish her foundations there. We’ll see, but I gotta say, I’m not holding my breath. Now I got a hankerin’ for some spoonbread!

    • Ross Hill says:

      Something to be considered in this discussion involving celebrity food show host is the very competative nature of the business. Working your way to the top requires much hard work and no small amount of personal and business toughness. The old adage that nice guys finish last is probably more true in the entertainment industry than in many other ventures.

  290. David Urquhart says:

    I have seen the word eloquent several times here and it definitely describes your writing. What a well thought response to this issue. (and how good to see all these intelligent, competent replies!) I do have a problem regarding Deen using so much fat and calories in her menus (I know that pales to her present situation) but as they say (regarding her food) if you don’t like it, don’t watch… now as to her use of words…

  291. auntwheezie says:

    absolutely wonder and I hope she shows up. fingers crossed.

  292. Marcy says:

    Now that was a good read… Thank you!

    I hope Paula takes you up on the invite in September…

  293. Peggy Carlan says:

    Michael, Until today I must admit I had never heard of you. After today all I can say is, “where have you been all my life”?

  294. Emily Lees says:

    Thank you. This brought me to tears. As a white southern woman of a certain age, I have always known and appreciated the ways in which African American and white cultures intertwined in the South. Perhaps I will see you at Stagville.

  295. KentuckyKate says:

    I live in the South, and where I live, blacks and whites have a pretty darn good relationship because they all came up together. The good with the bad.

    Please don’t throw all Southerners under the bus, because racism isn’t limited to white people, and it’s not limited by territory either. Just as there are bad apples in every basket, there are good apples on every tree. For anyone not from the South, please come down and visit, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to find we aren’t at all like we are portrayed on the all-knowing TV. .

  296. christopher says:

    Thank you, Michael. Elegantly and eloquently said.

    I would point out, though, that peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes are foods native to the Americas, not Africa.

  297. Tracey K says:

    Well written!

  298. Red Dog Mom says:

    Well said. I sincerely hope Ms. Deen takes you up on your offer.

  299. I love this response. I hope Paula takes you up I the invitation. And I wish I could be there too. Sounds as tho it will be an amazing gathering of historic proportions–

  300. Kelly Bartels says:

    I was under the impression that the “N word” came from the slaves having come from Nigeria, western slaves ports of Nigeria… thus Niger was like the “nationality”, and it’s transformation into the “N word” just a result of the mass population and its flow of language. I learned this from an African American friend that was an artist and traveled extensively in Western Africa.

  301. Michael, I am a judge in Oregon of Mexican and European heritage and advocate a lot for outsider voices. I want to thank you so much for this absolutely brilliant response to recent events. I learned a few things and was also deeply moved by your heartfelt wisdom. I sure wished I lived closer to you–I’d be thrilled to attend your September 7 event. You’ve given me (and those who will read your post once it goes on my Facebook wall) a lot to think about and are my hero of the day.

  302. Jim Epley says:

    Michael, from a 65-year old, white, Episcopalian, straight male (is that enough demographics to make the point?) living in South Carolina, Thank You! Well said. Shalom.

  303. Bob Smith says:

    I’m looking forward to the fruits of The Cooking Gene Project, but hope the proofreaders pick up on “you using” for “your using.” Picky, I know.

  304. AGBates says:

    Love it! A voice of reason among the vigilantes.

  305. Pam d says:

    Nice piece overall but 2 puzzling thoughts…why do you capitalize “Black” but not “white” and, more importantly, why do you type “G-d” and not God? 😦

  306. Donna Turner says:

    I loved the letter and hope Paula reads and accepts it, but there are two things that I would like to say. One, history is written by the victors and by that I mean that the north loves to portray the south as 100%evil backwards plantation living slave owners, truth 10% of the south owned slaves with only 1% owning more than ten (not defending any ownership) meaning that 90% did not own slaves therefore did not have their food prepared by slave hands and they did eat whatever they could get from the land around them- My grandmother said that the family did not have slaves, they had children 13 of them to do the work, same was said by my mother in laws grandmother who was 1 of 21 children. So Southern cooking for 90% of the people was less to do with Africa or wherever the food came from and more to do with hunger (“poke salad” anyone?) so the history did not get passed down because of racism but probably of ignorance of the origin. Two, Come to my hometown of Macon Ga and go on our historic tours and you will hear that we do not shy away from the slavery issues of history but we do keep in mind that no matter how immoral and distasteful it was, it was legal and the North benefitted just as much from the system- how much profit did the textile mill owners get from having access to “cheap” southern cotton? The civil war started out less about slavery and more about money- the northern mill owners got tariffs put in place to limit southern cotton growers ability to sell the cotton at higher prices in foreign markets so that they could keep their own overhead low. Slavery was wrong and is still wrong and is still going on in many parts of the world. This continued focus on words masks the real issues that face us. I am a Southern white woman, raised by a Southern father (who would have punished me but good for using that word) and a Northern mother that was much more racist than my father could have been.

  307. oldsouljess says:

    Reblogged this on Obscure Meandre and commented:
    I came across this blog post thanks to Bitch Media out of Portland, Oregon. Not only do I find it interesting because of all the hype around Paula Deen this week, but also because Michael makes great points about the power of language, and the origins of foods.

  308. Erin Fussell says:

    This is brilliantly written. Thank you for posting! Sending a prayer out that she’ll have the courage to accept your invitation.

  309. Zully says:

    Not only gay men identify as queers and f******. Gay women do too. Otherwise spectacularly put!

  310. AZGirl says:

    Years ago, I did a “plantation tour,” as I had never visited the South before. I was astonished and infuriated to hear the term “servants” used in place of “slaves,” and especially by a sign outside a plantation doctor’s very small office claiming he treated X number of “human beings” there. Revisionist history. I’m as white as they come, but am the descendent of Yankee abolitionists, and when people question what 60-year-old white woman hasn’t used the term, I can raise my hand and say *I* am a 60-year-old white woman who has never used the term. Thank you for writing what this is *really* all about.

    • Reality Jones says:

      And I’m pretty certain you never openly tried to arrange a party where you had Black servants dressed in white suits, serving guests “like in olden times” as Mrs. Deen has done.

      The racial slur is the least of her crimes. Treating other people like she does is the problem.

  311. Donna says:

    Please run for office!!!

  312. Metoa says:

    The most amazingly insightful thing said about this entire issue. Thank you for your perspective and I truly hope she joins you on September 7th.

  313. Krista says:

    Beautiful and thoughtful. I hope she shows.

  314. Rene says:

    Thank you so much for everything you said here…this is a genuine understanding of the long and complicated history of racism in this country, as well as an open admission that racism is still ingrained in our culture. This is the beginning of an honest conversation, which we need to have here instead of the constant barrage of sensational 30-second soundbites that try to sell the story for ratings.

  315. Beverly says:

    Dear Sir, 8% of the Population in 1860 owned slaves. . . that means the rest of the population cooked their own food. They created, expounded on their own cooking that also became part of the cooking history of the south.

    • You are correct…however black and white folks interacted in so many ways.Okra, field peas, came across cultural lines.Many yeoman farmers rented enslaved people. In many cities poor and middling whites interacted with freed blacks and enslaved people. Its very complex. Thank you because you helped bring up an important aspect.

  316. Patrick says:

    All I can say is thank you, Michael.

  317. Joelle says:

    So beautifully put. I’ve been telling people all week long that they are missing the point by focusing on that single word. There really is more to the story, how about the rest of her family treating employees poorly in their restaurants? Women, Blacks, Jews apparently if true, they are equal opportunity offenders. I do hope that she accepts your offer and though there may not be any cameras, I hope that you will give us a follow-up on your time together.

  318. debbeepalmer says:

    … you put into words what my heart was feeling. I cannot thank you enough.

  319. Donna says:

    What a well thought out, reasoned and clear-headed response. A friend pointed me here, and I will stay. You’re a beautiful writer and I’d copnsider myself damn lucky to have an invitation to break bread, share bbq or have a coffee with you. Thanks for this.

  320. Julianna says:

    So, yesterday, a close friend of mine was stupidly saying to me how she didn’t feel it was that big of a deal, that we all make mistakes, it happened twenty years ago (or whatever), blah blah blah… And I looked off into the distance, desperately searching the trees for the simple thing to say that she would understand. But, that simple thing to say didn’t really exist. It wasn’t there. It didn’t come. I TRIED to find the words. I WANTED to give rise to these feelings… And I failed. I am ashamed that I couldn’t voice the frustration I had with her ‘argument’ in the heat of the moment, and instead, I let it go. She’s getting this in her email box immediately. I don’t even care if she sees this comment. Actually, I hope she does. We all have some work left to do.

  321. JeremiahW says:

    you sir are wise beyond your years……..refreshing. we need to hear and see more of you.

  322. Nicely composed and woven with sensitivity – yet Paula ruined her own trademark, in fact. We all pay a price for a lack of circumspection. Its not about political correctness. Its about editing out of practicality. There is a 1st Amendment, but there is no constitutional protection from the social and economic consequences of the misuse of that freedom.

  323. Great commentary! I wish I could attend the findraiser and I really hope Paula Deen does. You’re offering her a true opportunity Michael. Take care and I wish you success with the fundraiser.

  324. dankelly60 says:

    Michael, that is a fantastic letter. I wish I could attend the fundraiser myself. I’m sure the food will be great and learning the history you discussed would be enlightening. I hope Paula Deen takes you up on this very generous offer. Good luck with the fundraiser. Dan

  325. trendbytes says:

    Beautifully written. Has Paula accepted your invitation? She’d be crazy not to…sounds like a wonderful time! Is it open to the public, as I happen to live in NC and would love to attend. I am a foodie to the core. Still reeling from my $3.95 purchase of three (yes three) perfect figs at the Reid’s produce, which sells raw milk, heirloom everything, etc. How could I not? Good fresh food is the essence of living well.

  326. janeaustenrocks says:

    Beautifully stated, a joy to read, (please add lowly brilliant writer to your list of professions). I just can’t tell you enough how much I enjoyed this post. An absolute pleasure; thank you for sharing.

  327. I loved everything [except the slight regional and seemingly unfair dig to Northerners]…but the rest, bravo!

  328. Art says:

    Thank you for your very well written piece. I have immediate family that live in Savannah and work for Paula Deen in her office. I know first hand she is not a racist and that is the real dilemma here.
    I am white and I came down to North Carolina State “College” in 1960 from N.J. and participated in the civil rights movement and went to jail with my black friends from Shaw University. This was to help secure their right to sit in a movie theater along side me instead of me having to sit in the balcony with them. I was treated worse than they were by the authorities and as well as by my ‘fellow’ white college classmates.
    I still live in North Carolina and I love it here. I have many friends of all types of ancestral backgrounds that are not proud of where they were years ago but in this case the media does not want the atrocities of the past to die because it does give them as good a revenue as love and understanding gives them. Please wait until the trial is complete before buying into the other hype.

  329. Art says:

    Typo or just stupidity: Insert ‘not’ between ‘does’ and ‘not’ in the next to last sentence please.

  330. Marjorie says:

    I don’t believe you were trying to excuse her racial slurs… long will we put up with this bull….
    You feel she negates her southern cooking heritage and yes I agree with you, but there are many southern white cooks who don’t call people by the “N” word or hire them to look like plantation slaves. I think the priorities are a little screwed up here. I think we all know she realizes where her cooking comes from…now if she’d only realize that because she’s become a cooking show queen, she’s not immune to criticism from people who are trying hard not to be even “a little bit racist”.
    I live in Sonoma County and have to go to Oakland for your kind of cooking. Sad, Sad, Too Sad!
    And by the way, some of the greatest southern, cajun food is in New Orleans and how many of those chefs are black? I think a good number based on the food.

  331. Courtney says:

    I am weeping; this is so beautiful and powerful.

  332. tobymarx says:

    My friend, you have just renewed my love of all that is good in humanity. Blessings to you. I hope Paula is able to renew herself by breaking bread with you.

  333. Dover Whitecliff says:

    Very well written, Sir. And thank you for making the point about the melting pot of language as well as food. I grew up in Hawaii, but my mom was from Georgia, so you might say that I speak pidgin with a southern accent. I had no clue why people were so grumpy with each other over skin color when I first moved to the mainland from the land of Ohana. To some extent I still don’t, considering most of the causes for original anger go back hundreds of years (or in the case of religion, thousands). It’s sad to think that we can hurt inside for generations instead of a single lifetime-there’s so much more joyous things out there to spend time on, really good biscuits and gravy being one of them. But thank you for giving me a new point of view on why it happens. I truly appreciate it.

    I agree with everything you said save one part. I believe that if a word is wrong to use in company, then it’s wrong for anybody to use it in company, to refer to themselves or to anyone else, whether it’s a good old Viking four letter word or a slur on someone’s honor. Your article brings up a lot of things to think about, and I hope that on September 7, people can come together and share food and history with open hearts and open minds. Thank you again for writing this…

  334. SDK says:

    Because sometimes, you just need a gay black Southern Jew to tell it like it is.

    Your writing has been voted “best comment on Paula Deen” by my entire family.

    When you are next in Boston, come for shabbos.

  335. Art says:

    Wow, I’m old! I meant to say ‘…..but in this case the media does not want the atrocities of the past to die because it gives them more revenue than what love and understanding brings in.’

  336. SDK says:

    Because sometimes, you just need a gay black Southern Jew to tell is like it is.

    When you are next in Boston, come for shabbos!

  337. Cyd says:

    Thank you so much

  338. Pingback: Food, race, culture, history – quite a recipe | Heidi Li's Potpourri

  339. kate says:

    THIS is what I was hungry for.

  340. David Myrick says:

    Very well written and well thought out article and definitely stamped by a southerner. I myself am southern and just happen to be from Mississippi where this past weeks news as always made me a little embarrassed for that moment to be white. My mom passed away several years ago and was in her seventies and she to would have been embarrassed also. That word was not allowed in my house and if she even thought you said it you got popped and your mouth washed out with soap. My mom happened to grow up on a farm in Jones County,Mississippi where her family raised cattle and also had a dairy. Her best friends were the black children of the workers that lived on the farm and no, they were not slaves. My grandfather happen to be way ahead of his time when it came to race relations, thank God! He and my Great Uncle both caught the devil from some because of this. The great thing about my mom growing up where she did is that she not was taught to be color blind just as my children are but she also learned how to cook and much of it was from my grandmother and the many women that lived on the farm that would also cook and teach her secrets. I now live on the Miss. Coast, not far from New Orelans where there is not another place in the world in my opinion where the African American touch to dishes is most prevelant and I should add delicious. Leah Chase is a perfect example of this which I am sure you know her and her restaurant Dooky Chase.

    Once again, thanks so much for the artilce, it really took me back and also reminded me of my mom and the influences on her cooking but also of my Grandfather and his fight for reconciliation in a day when it was not popular. I to forgive Paula and hope and pray her life is put back together after this terrible learning experience but I have to give her a nod for admitting her past and asking for forgiveness. Thank God both of my sisters didn’t like the kitchen growing up and I got to spend much of my time there with my mom learning how to cook. If you need another stand in for your meal you are preparing or just someone to stir the rue I am sure I am available. You see, sweet tea also runs through my vains!

  341. Beautifully written. I’ve always been very proud of the diversity of my southern Louisiana culture with a “gumbo” of Cajun, Creole, Spanish and French spices in everything. The hypocrisy of the media over the last week has infuriated me. Instead of spending all of this airtime on Ms Deen’s past mistakes, it would have been time better spent as an informative and educational dialogue on race relations, but particulary historical contributions on society. But, of course, why would the media ever consider anything but drama? I once brought a food and travel writer to the African American Museum in Opelousas, Louisiana. It was small and rustic, but the most authentic and fantastic representation of African American culture, food, etc. And, Ms Rebecca was the most fabulous woman I’ve ever met. You should visit Ms Rebecca and her family at the museum if you’re ever this way.

  342. Nanette says:

    Thank you, I’m in tears at your compassion and honesty. We all needed to hear your words. I’m a white Jewish woman living in the Pacific Northwest, having no ties to the South, yet my heart is open. May G-d bless you in many ways, and I do hope Ms Deen takes you up on your invitation.

  343. Michael, this is a thoughtful and enlightening letter. It addresses a panoply of things that need to be said.

    Paula, you should accept this invitation.

  344. Michael Burke says:

    Thank you, Michael, for a thoughtful and eloquent response to an issue that tends to provoke reactionary rather than reasoned commentary. Is the event in Stagville open to the public? I’d love to come, and I’d love to meet you and take the tour – with or without Ms. Dean tagging along.

  345. You are an absolutely amazing person!! I love your article for its grace, education, love, forgiveness, challenge and dedication to what you love. God Bless you and yours. And thank you so very much for sharing your thoughts!!

  346. Jon Eveland says:

    Great essay sir! Aloha from Hawaii!

  347. Dave Sanders says:

    Today I am now a follower of you. I really like your respect for all people and your acknowledgement that we are human.

    I do have a question though. Why G-d? Why not God?

  348. Julz says:

    As an English professor, avid cook, and admirer of the flawed human race, I thank you for an elegant and deeply heartfelt essay. Well done.

  349. Mothy Ham says:

    You are one cool dude

  350. redheadedstepsister says:

    So grateful for your voice.
    Huge respect.

  351. Snow says:

    You are a blessing upon us, thank you for articulating this so well!!

  352. Ellen says:

    Darlin, if I could hug your neck I would. I think your letter is eloquent and speaks so many of the words i couldn’t seem to find. i would love to come and cook with you and would welcome you on my Alabama kitchen as well. id be proud to call myself your southern soul sister. Sending hugs your way.

  353. Gail Monk says:

    Your story brought by some memories. I have a story as well , A friend of mines was in the U.S. Navy and he had to work along side this white guy. The first day they work together the white guy told my friend (which is black ) , I don’t like black people, my friend said I don’t like white people. The moral of the story they became best friend, because they measure each other by the content of their character. Each did not like the other ones race because this is how they grew up and this is how they was taught back in the days. As I say this about Paula Deen she told the true about her life back in the days, and as years past she learned better. You should be afraid of Food Network, Target, Sears, Walmart and others companies that drop her. First they was to quick to drop her, secondly what do you think go on in those board rooms at their corporate offices. Do you really think they are thinking about black people well being? They only thinking about us spending money in there stores. These companies are the one that racist.They use Paula Deen to help boost their profits. Please think about this, workers at Walmart most are working for a little over minimum wages ,low benefits and the owners are billionaires. Racisms will always be in country until the end of time , we been call names all our lives. The way I see this , we can let the news media and others try to use this and throw our focus off what we really need to be focus on and that surviving in this country, not only for ourselves but for generations to come as well. As for Paula Deen she will survive because she is white and this is the way life is, no matter how we look at it. Never heard of your charity send me some information, I am a native on NC.

  354. THB says:

    Thank you! I received this from a very dear friend. There are no words to tell you how much I appreciated your kindness and diligence in actually wording this so beautifully along with educating us ….

  355. Dawn Johnson says:

    What an interesting read! Thank you for sharing this (your) perspective with us. I believe I’ll be back to read you again.

  356. Ann says:

    Thank you. Beautiful. This is how to do things – teach, engage, invite to the table. And don’t let ourselves be sidetracked from the major political issues of the day by a media that gives more time to entertainers/personalities… And btw, I was raised in Philly, spent 16 years living in Boston, and have lived in Northern Virginia for the past 10. And, yes, plenty of racism up north.

  357. Linda Ball says:

    Thank you Michael for putting words that matter into the current dialogue. Paula Deen would be blessed to call you friend. I hope she able to understand your invitation.

  358. sherrelle says:

    Speechless! What a wonderful article…eloquently & truthfully told from the heart and soul. Love it.

  359. LisaGregory says:

    You Michael Twitty are a true gentleman…And if more people adopted your attitude, this world would be a better place. I was born and raised in New York. I spent the 1st 27 years living in the melting pot. I to, knew a little about prejudice and racism. We were the only Puerto Ricans living in an all “white” neighborhood. Luckily, we were embraced. My best friend, next door neighbor,was Jewish and we lived across the street from a German family. No problems. There were also the Irish, the Polish and the Italians on the block. All of us kids never experienced prejudice and racism. Yes I am sure it existed, but we didn’t feel it as we were not taught to hate because of ethnic origin. It wasn’t until I moved to the south, where I have been the last 25 years, that I knew prejudice and racism really existed. I remember when we decided to move to Florida’s West Coast. Someone casually said to me, “Don’t tell anyone you are Puerto Rican when you move there. Southerners are REALLY prejudice. I was kind of scared. I married an Italian, whose parents changed their last name from Giangregorio to Gregory..That was American sounding. I thought I was safe…And I was…Yes, the KKK lived miles from my neighborhood, and I made sure I didn’t flaunt my ethnicity in public for fear of them finding out I lived in a neighboring subdivision. But I have lived here 25 years without a problem. I guess I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood where we are all treated as equals. Black, White, Asian, Hispanic…Doesn’t matter..We all bleed red.Thank you for your honest candor. For extending the Olive Branch, for being you…I hope that Paula takes you up on your offer. My daughter just graduated Le Cordon Bleu last year. 20 years old. She is working her way up the ranks and wants to learn foods historically. Her first gig was the Food and Wine Festival when she was working for Disney at Epcot. A taste of the world left her hungry for more. She is now working at The Sandpeart Resort and Spa on Clearwater Beach. A 4 star resort…But she sees the deep south in her future, The bible belt, or perhaps New Orleans. She is not afraid. Why?? Because she loves everyone equally. She doesn’t see skin color. She wasn’t taught to. But she knows the differences exist. Unfortunately prejudice and racism still exists. But with her love of food, she hopes to rise above it. Hit common ground. We all eat. She hopes that will break down barriers..The love of food and it’s history… xo

  360. Susan lopez says:

    so sensible … thank you! go forth, spread your teachings and change our world ❤

  361. Most intelligent response to this tempest in a teapot I’ve read! Really hope she sees it, and takes you up on your offer! I must admit, I was at first puzzled by G_d, until I read the FIRST time you explained it. At which point I facepalmed and said “Oh, yeah, I knew that!” I just had only heard it in connection with Scriptures, and didn’t connect it with modern practice.

  362. Amina says:

    An eloquent piece, however, it just wasn’t the word that has caused concern. You and many others don’t adequately address Paula’s antebellum yearning for those days when some of your ancestry was under one of the most brutal oppressive systems in the world. To pine for those days and for heaven’s sake entertain a wedding that would reflect those days of ‘splendor’ as Paula would reframe them leaves one perplexed. This woman was also accused of perpetuating a hostile work environment. She speaks of her long time friendship with a black man that she cautions not to stand in front of the blackboard…so folks can see him. You can attribute this to the south if you want to or assert on how bad it is in the north but those of us who don’t care to break bread now with Paula will go on with our lives, do wonderful things for humanity and embrace those who truly respect and appreciate the differences of others. The latter would also entail losing the condescending and patronizing attitude and platitudes she espouses. One person said it best…Paula loves and views black people like she loves her pets! Remember she tearfully told millions on the Today Show that….I IS WHAT I IS! Hmmmmm………

  363. evelyn says:

    Thank you Michael for your beautiful response. God Bless you.

  364. Dreamutter says:

    I have a question. Was that Galloping Gourmet guy not considered a Southern cook? He was from Louisiana, I think. We used to love watching him.

  365. GRIT says:

    First sensible thing I’ve read – all the best to you — wish I could neal at Mourner’s Bench.

  366. GRIT says:

    First sensible thing I’ve read – all the best to you – wish I could meet you at Mourners Bench.

  367. MAB says:

    Michael, in the last several days the media coverage of the Paula Deen controversy has left me breathless. Thank you for pumping oxygen back into the room and articulating so beautifully the complexity of the relationship between whites and blacks in the South and their shared humanity. I loved your discussion of the origins of Southern food. Though I knew about hoe cake, I didn’t know about some of the others. You give me faith in the human race. What a beautiful soul you have…………..Peace.

  368. justobserving says:

    As a Jewish person, do you find Jessie Jackson, Jr.’s use of the term “hymie town” just as offensive?

  369. Karen way says:

    I am a born- raised and am now, still living in the south which I am sooo proud to have been raised and am still living- the southern happiness. My problem is with you, Paula, is the embellishment of the south accent and the y’all you are making millions on, and are now crying how you never meant any harm or intent. What happened to your roots and who made you who you are today. If I know the flavors of food, which I do, and could employ others to do my work, I could be financially stable as you are. My advice is to go back to your roots where you had to fight on a monthly basis and pay bills and become humble as you once were, as we the common southern folk, the ones who made you who you are today and stop your whinning in a multi-million dollar business you are in and gives thanks to our God in Heaven what you have today. Be happy in what you have, there are others in poverty with no home.

  370. Nick says:

    Thank you for your comments on this issue. If only Paula had been more contemplative and thoughtful in her own response to the situation. I think her biggest problem now is that she appears unrepentant even as she faces the cameras.

  371. Patrick Hall says:

    Paula Dean is from an era that is slowly dying off. She was raised in an enviroment that did not think about the power or meaning of the words you spoke. I remember being in a store in 1987 a women asked a woker in the store how much the Brazil nuts were a pound and the worker got on the P.A. asked the manager of the store how much the “nigger toes” were! That is what the nuts were called when she was growing up. To her it was not racist, it was just what the name she was taught. The manager called her to his office and I’m assuming “educated” her on the word. If you don’t know any better or you are not aware of the impact of your words is it racist or just ignorance, and how many decades should one be held libel for not understanding?

    • Chiffon S says:

      Patrick, I’m African/American women, living in the Southwest, I know this is a touchy subject and, is not a funny matter, but I find my self laughing so hard at your 1987 story, I’m about ready to fall off my chair, I’m laughing so hard I don’t think I’m going to make It to the bathroom to pay my water bill.LMBO. @ Michael, well said.

  372. Annie says:

    Great essay. And an introduction to a great website. Thanks for doing what you do and saying what you say. I’ll be back to read more.

  373. It’s an ancient Jewish custom.

    • Ohiogirl says:

      Many things are custom – oppression, slavery – that does not make them right, just because they are custom.
      In this case, with the spelling, it’s a custom of respect.
      And that’s all good.

    • David P says:

      I’m not Jewish, but yes I know that it is a Jewish custom. It is felt that it is neither necessary nor that mortal man is even privileged enough to say His name in its entirety. Might want to do your homework friend before being so quick to chastise.

      • Ohiogirl says:

        I’m not chastising. Totally get the spelling thing.

        Just as Michael so beautifully put things in perspective, it’s a good time to remember that many wrongs are often continued, under the name of custom and tradition. That’s all!

  374. Sharon says:

    I have been reading all about Paula’s story and this is the first one that has opened up my eyes to your history. As a middle-aged white woman raised in Louisiana, I too was not surprised by what I read about her. But I truly had never, ever heard about the fact that all the Southern dishes I knew came about from Black slaves. That their contribution is completely lacking is absolutely true – I had never been taught that. There are some good shows on Food Network by black cooks, but the network is clearly not doing enough to educate us on this historical fact. In my small, white world, I assumed it was passed down from my ancestors. Anyway, thanks for opening my eyes. I have decided that I am going to add that plantation to my list of places to take my child – we both need to see a place where 900 people were forced to live their life in bondage. Maybe it will get us out of our complacency and acceptance of the history we are taught in the public school system.

  375. pegodaaj says:

    This is a very powerful, effective, spot-on letter. Thank you.

  376. Venessa says:

    I read this twice. The first time because it was fascinating, the second because it was liberating. It is a wonderful example that regardless of spin and rhetoric, the basic issues continue to come into play – that humans share a common thread of humanity – that if I dishonor you, your contribution, your voice, your place – I dishonor those exact things in myself. My family immigrated from Eastern Europe and I have always found it interesting and slightly irritating that folks think Mrs. T really made Periogi. Actually, it was my old Slovak granny or maybe my polish friend’s Babushka who taught her… teaching us how to do that properly around the family table of 12 of us, each with different roles and responsibilities, but always together as a community and a family. Without one person, the dough flopped, the filling overcooked, the spice was all wrong. We all had special knowledge of the part we played and without our contribution, or our collective history around food, family and faith what runs in our DNA would be made of dust instead of Hot Paprika, and that matters. But I won’t pretend that in my youth I didn’t rage and storm about the boxed versions of my family’s food – that there aren’t still days, particularly when I’m missing my granny and her stories and the flour dusting the front of her apron but never hitting the floor, that I still get jumped up about it. But this writing – your writing, Mr. Twitty, reminded me that I can and ought focus on my own ability to act compassionately and graciously while honoring my truth as well as your truth. That I can share those moments of love around food, the stories of my ancestors, and the history of my family with people who are willing to do the same – and thereby I gain the truth and historical knowledge from our shared human family. Thank you for this lovely reminder that coming from a place of love to “the floor of the slave quarter” is the thing that unites us all. Thank you.

  377. Mr. Twitty I am quite proud to say I was born in SC still live there and hopefully will til g-d calls me. I have had many meal that you mentioned and over my lifetime 40+ years I have learned much of the history, may I say BRAVO to those engenious cooks of the past. Why is this an issue in todays world with all the other issues in this nation and world. Why what someone said 1 yr ago, 10, 20, 25 what ever let it go time has passed for this kind of MUD slinging. Bravo and u said it quite eloqently. Keep COOKING, writing, learning history of the great food’s of the southern UNITED States as we all need to do.
    Thank You.

  378. Seale Broughton says:

    You just gained a new fan. Well said.

  379. Jonathan Liedy says:

    So many comment sections across the internet are full of bile and negativity. I’ve enjoyed the uplifting enthusiasm on display in the comments almost as much as I enjoyed your article.

  380. Dex says:

    Is there some way to make sure Ms. Deen knows about your invitation? I saw more intelligence in your article than I have seen in quite awhile.Thank you for having the courage to write it.

  381. mark nawrocki says:

    That was probably THE most eloquently stated, best written, and most insightful thing I have ever read! Well stated SIR! Well said!

  382. Glad to have made your acquaintance through this excellent, thoughtful and articulate blog post. I’ll be back for more.

  383. Dave says:

    Michael, very well said. Thank you for your amazing words, I have grown from your insight and wisdom. Best of luck to you?

  384. Dave says:

    Michael, very well said. Thank you for your amazing words, I have grown from your insight and wisdom. Best of luck to you!

  385. darlinjackie says:

    There is only one response for this post–Bravo, Mr. Twitty, Bravo.

  386. Freddie says:

    Thanks for seeing the real truth,and speaking it.Now let’s hope Paula sees her real truth, and speak it. Well put!!!!!

  387. Scott says:

    Thank you for explaning G-d. God bless.

  388. Peggy says:

    Dear Michael,
    If , as I believe, there are no accidents, the Paula Deen debacle served to bring your fine mind and fascinating takes on important issue to the fore. I will watch YOUR cooking show.

  389. I have been stunned by the amount of outcry over Paula Deen. As a liberal, white male who has lived his entire life in a southern tobacco town, I am disappointed that she is perpetuating the caricature of Southerners as backwards, racist, and bigoted. I don’t believe, though, that she should be vilified to the extent that she has been, and made into the scapegoat that she has been. I have heard similar sentiment to yours, and had several similar conversations with many of my southern friends–black, white, and yes, even yellow (yep, in this whole discourse about southerners and southern heritage, we forget that there are OTHERS–latino, asian, etc–that have been born and raised in the south.) Thank you for your thoughtful essay!

  390. Debi says:

    Lovely, heartfelt, articulate message. Let’s bring the ghosts into the light and banish them. Shalom!

  391. L Hollis says:

    Thought provoking and extremely well written piece! Enlightening!! Thank you so much Michael for carving through the fat and getting to the, as my grandma used to say, “nitty gritty” of the matter! Superb!

  392. jeolin2 says:

    What a thoughtful and insightful piece. As a Jewish woman living with a Nigerian American man for the last 15 years we have both had to learn a lot and learn to accept and sometimes even love the foibles of our very mixed cultures. I had never heard of you before a friend posted your blog on Facebook but I can guarantee you have a new follower. I look forward to reading more.

  393. Cheryl says:

    A well written article. However let us write an article about those thugs in the corporate world – ie WalMart, Sears, Home Depot, etc. who have behaved as a spoiled child – tossing their toys around the room. Paula is human and who is not? This controversy reminds me of the Jesus comment of 1966 and John Lennon who was the victim of a similar well oiled witch hunt. The Beatles stopped touring after that and who could blame them? As for that word – I hear that word a lot from black women when they are discussing their black men. What a double standard.

  394. Mr. Twitty, I’m unable to find information on Historic Stagville’s event in September, but I’d love to know more. If I can’t make the drive, I imagine some of my friends in NC would love to know about it. Where can we get more details? Stagville’s website doesn’t yet list the event.

  395. WhiteGirlFromTheNorth says:

    This really made me re-think my own perspective on the whole debacle. The power of the word is right up there with the power of food.

  396. grlsrule says:

    As a white southern gal I applaud you. This is well written and examines where the real energy should lie – examining the totality of the past that we all share in one way or another. Too often I have been at historic places in my life and wondered about ALL the people who lived there or worked there or died there. I have imagined the lives of babies growing up in very poor and oppressed condition; and I have imagined the lives of early civil rights leaders who only wanted justice for all. Recently, we visited Philadelphia and were very pleased to see that right in front of the liberty bell is an exhibit about the lives of the people (slaves) who built and lived in 1st house for our 1st President. We need more exhibits like that, more opportunities to consider the lives of all people who contributed to the fabric of this nation.

  397. Milicent says:

    You have restored my faith in the human race!!!!! I hope Paula can soak this in and attend! I sure would. I am proud to meet a black man and is proud to be black, who is conscious of his color and appreciates that fact. I am proud to meet a white man who is proud to be white. Every man has some color and any color is all right. I am proud to meet all men who strictly understand that character makes a person, color does not make a man.

  398. Kathie says:

    Hmmmm……… Lots written here the last few days , and a GREAT deal of learning here for all! Wonderful offering that started it all.

  399. karen1015 says:

    An amazing column. I could say more but I can’t find the words …

  400. What a thought-provoking and intelligent article!

  401. Roz Goudeau says:

    Thank you….as a white woman in her 60s who has been a social worker all her life and whose great-grandparents owned slaves, I know how impossibly complicated this issue is. I am a fervent Obama supporter and have been so angry and saddened by the re-emergence of so much racism…I guess I had hoped we had gotten past the worse of it, but clearly we have not. Thank you for reaching out to Paula Deen. It would be nice if what is happening with her comments could lead to good dialogue and more opportunities to bridge the gap, be together, get to know one another better as people and not stereotypes.

  402. Pingback: An Open Letter to Paula Deen | Scapegoats and Panaceas

  403. Ronnie Podolefsky says:

    Mr. Twitty,
    If Paula Deen’s transgressions were limited to those addressed in your thoughtful essay, redemption might be within her reach. However, the lawsuit in this matter suggests otherwise.

    It doesn’t appear that you have read the lawsuit against Ms. Deen. If you had, you would know that it is based on allegations that the defendants subjected Lisa Jackson, a Caucasian female manager in their employ, to heinous sexual harassment, sex discrimination, assault and battery, and more throughout her employment; that the defendants racially harassed, discriminated against, and physically abused African American employees; that Ms. Jackson repeatedly reported these things to top management, including to Paula Deen and Ms. Deen’s corporate attorney, asking them to stop the conduct against herself and against African American employees; that the defendants instead continued their conduct; and that, after five years of this, it made Ms. Jackson so physically and emotionally ill that her doctors said the only cure was to remove herself from that workplace.

    Ms. Dean is skillfully using her powerful media savvy to broadcast the message she wants us to believe, thereby recharacterizing herself as the victim and trivializing Lisa Jackson’s claims. This state of affairs not only reinforces bigotry, but recasts courageous people like Ms. Jackson as the villains.

    In all fairness, Lisa Jackson’s civil rights lawsuit – her narrative – deserves equal attention.

    State and federal anti-discrimination statutes were intended to serve a public good, to rid our society of the scourge of discrimination and to encourage citizens themselves to step up and become private attorneys general, to bring wrongdoers before the law. Re-victimizing the victims in the court of public opinion discourages them from coming forward, thereby frustrating the noble purpose of these statutes.

    Ronnie Podolefsky, Esq.

    • Im focusing on the aspect she admitted to ..but I appreciate your comment. I would like her to contextualize the unethical and abusive practices in her business with a visit to a place where those horrors were manifest. I didn’t want to try her on my blog just address the outrage over language, race and ethics.

      • Ronnie Podolefsky says:

        I appreciate your purpose. However, all of this appeared in the news as a result of publication of parts of Deen’s deposition testimony in the lawsuit. If Jackson’s allegations are true, then Deen’s deposition admissions are the wrong vehicle for the very meaningful point you intended.



    • Primary source time! Thank you Ronnie.

    • Wiona says:

      Just because Ms. Jackson is alleging these things does not mean they are true. In fact, from what I read in the deposition, I am suspect of this young woman’s motivations and ability to tell the whole truth–why? Because as manager for a number of years, she had an opportunity to mitigate the situation and does not appear to have done so. My guess is that Ms. Deen’s other employees cannot speak out because they are testifying at the court trial. Don’t we owe it to the truth to wait and see what other information comes out?

      I do applaud and am heartened by Mr. Twitty’s reasoned and thoughtful response–one of the few I’ve read on this matter which seeks an avenue for healing and reconciliation instead of endless tit-for-tat attacks. With luck, this debacle can be used for the betterment of our society. First step is for the elitist whites to stop their cries of “racism!” towards whomever they deem to be flawed. We are all flawed–at least the rest of us realize it. It is real difficult to have a dialogue with people who are too busy to listen because they are shaking their finger in a holier-than-thou fashion. It is not lost on me that the voices of reason and reconciliation regarding this whole debacle are Black voices–those that have been most hurt, and it is the elitist whites in the media whom have steadfastly stuck to the same-old sanctimonious attitudes. Thank you again, Mr. Twitty, for being one of the voices of reason. I breathed audible sighs of relief as I read. Thank you. I really can’t say it enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  404. khodgkin says:

    Dear Michael W. Twitty:
    I will not forget your name, I will not forget the words you’ve so eloquently written here, I will not forget your message, and I will not forget your invitation to Paula Deen to “break bread” you and begin to heal this wound.

    I’ve been giving this “Paula Deen fallout” a lot of thought and, based on my own personal biography, I came to the same conclusion you’ve come to here….just a couple of hours before running across this brilliant open letter. However, in all the days of my life I could not have written a message like the one you’ve written (extended) with such consciousness and one that is so filled with love/truth. Your authenticity and clarity about this subject is, quite frankly, genius.

    I can’t begin to tell you what an amazing deed you’ve performed by ensouling this incident, shined a light into its dark corners, and yet synthesized this highly complex and dynamic subject in order to transform that which is evil into that which is truth/love (it is my belief that truth is also love). For that, I pay homage to you my dearest Michael W. Twitty, afroculinaria. You have demonstrated the mark of a modern day hero. I love you and hopefully Paula Deen will embrace your wisdom and truth/love too so that she too has an opportunity to leave behind a legacy that stands for truth, respect, honesty, humility, gratitude, joy and love. I will pray for this plateau and thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing the most thoughtful letter I’ve ever read. I can honestly say, I love you for this Michael.

    Kelly Hodgkin

  405. Gay Bailey says:

    Thank you for your eloquent words. Being a writer is somewhat like being a cook. If you mix the right things together, it’s a moving experience. I too have experienced the sting of racism in the North as a Native American. When I moved to the Southwest the difference in the color of my skin was not so much an issue. Thank goodness I have moved beyond, for the most part, that hurt and anger. Sometimes now it is just an inkling of fear and a goodly amount of sadness when I hear of the unfairness that surrounds people of color, those with alternative lifestyles and diverse beliefs, and many women. I have become stronger so that fear does not rule my life but reminds me that I need more than ever to be fair, and kind, and good to others. I’m hoping for Paula that she takes this chance to make the “great change” in the direction of her life that is afforded when one door closes and another opens. For you Michael, I ask the whole Universe to help you in your efforts. Is there anything we can do to help the African-American farmers that you spoke of?

    Gay Bailey

  406. Pingback: Twitty on Deen | Dolphin

  407. Chris says:


    Very well written article with a lot of heart and thought behind it. I agree on so many levels with your assessments and the overall lack of identification of so much of Southern foods African American beginnings.

    If anything, as a means of continuing the conversation, I have a couple of questions that I, as a Texas white man, have struggled with in this continual racial discourse in our nation. I grew up on the east side of Houston, served in the military and have never really experienced the Southern racism that Mississippi, Arkansas, et. al. are known for. I know there is history, but growing up in a metropolitan city in the late 20th century I have missed out on a lot of the deeply entrenched racist tendencies of the deep south. I agree with you that everybody is a little bit racist and I recognize we all see the world differently based upon our family upbringing and where we live/lived. So here are my questions:
    1. You stated that “I am not in agreement with esteemed journalist Bob Herbert who said “brothers shouldn’t use it either..” I think women have a right to the word “b….” gay men have a right to the word “queer” or “f…” and it’s up to people with oppressive histories to decide when and where the use of certain pejorative terms is appropriate.” I struggle understanding why this word that is so offensive shouldn’t be done away with altogether. Hip Hop culture has become mainstream and to hear the over the top use of the word in this genre seems to do nothing but reinforce the fact that it is a word that not only hear to stay, but that will pick up more traction among non-black men and women who like Hip-Hop. Though they would only be allowed to sing the songs among white friends ;). I don’t get the double standard, though I’ve heard african americans explain it as contextual or descriptive of a certain type of black person. I think off limit words should be just that, off limits. Getting rid of the word “retard” is an example. If it’s never cool, it’s never cool. “b….” “queer” “f..” and “n” should just go if people are going to not only be offended by using them, but the offender could lose a job over a word. How can we be okay with a horrible word if it’s only horrible when a comparatively few people use it?

    2. I think history is a beautiful thing. We understand who we are by understanding who we’ve been. I also think that history should make us better and not be used as a weapon. We are a generation and a half removed from the Civil Rights movement and a few generations removed from slavery. My grandparents rode a boat from Denmark to the United States. They lived in Idaho where my dad was raised. I am not ashamed of where I’ve come from, but I am not identified by what my great-grandparents did in another time and another place. I was born and raised in a country that has a history, but I know so many people (black and white) who not only don’t share the same history as those who trace their roots to the days of slavery, they have never experienced any of the historical fallout of those days. They have to be taught to be angry about the injustices done in America’s past as they have never experienced them. My African American friends don’t view me specifically as racist, just “white people” in general. They know me, therefore prejudice falls away. I know them, therefore prejudice falls away. I am not naive, by any means, and I know that there are deep seated racist tendencies still in pockets of the south. And I think those should be dealt with. But given that everyone will probably always be a little racist, I guess my question is which comes first in this discourse, African Americans genuinely forgiving the past and moving forward to create a better story or eliminating all forms of racism among non-African Americans? I’m so ready to move on from this topic as a nation. We have a future to create.


  408. khodgkin says:

    Dear Michael W. Twitty:

    I will not forget your name, I will not forget the words you’ve so eloquently written here, I will not forget your message, and I will not forget your invitation to “break bread” with Paula Dean.

    I’ve been giving this “Paula Deen fallout” a lot of thought and, based on my own personal biography, I came to the same conclusion you’ve come to here just a couple of hours before reading this open letter. However, in all the days of my life I could not have written a message like the one you’ve written (extended) with such consciousness and one that is so filled with love/truth. Your authenticity and clarity about this subject is, quite frankly, genius.

    I can’t begin to tell you what an amazing deed you’ve performed by ensouling this incident, shined a light into its dark corners, and yet synthesized all the moving parts of this highly complex and dynamic subject……in order to transform that which is evil into that which is truth/love (it is my belief that truth is also love).

    I pay homage to you my dearest Michael W. Twitty, afroculinaria. You have demonstrated the mark of a modern day hero. I can honestly say that I love you for writing some of the most thought-provoking literature I’ve read in a very long time. Hopefully Paula Deen will embrace your wisdom and truth/love and honor your amazing invitation. If I were given the able to attend only one event for the rest of my life…it would be your fundraiser dinner for Historic Stagville; just so that I could shake your hand.

    My most sincere thank you Michael and I wish you nothing but the best in all your future endeavors. You are a bright and shining light, made of the juicy stuff we call love….and that which makes life worth living. Carry on my dear, carry on!!!

    Kelly Hodgkin

  409. Katie says:

    I think I stumbled upon this post on google news or something, but I am so glad I did. Before I start, I just want to say I find your blog fascinating. After reading this, I began clicking around and thoroughly enjoying your stories and your passion!

    Back to Paula. After these revelations regarding Paula Dean, my reaction to her choice of word was very similar to yours, although I have to admit I was far more shocked by some of the other things she said, particularly regarding black waiters. To me these sentiments demonstrated that while she has moved beyond the N word, she still holds on to some long seeded beliefs, the effects of which she seems oblivious to. She seems to have never stepped beyond the safety of her own bubble, which makes me wonder is she really knows what Southern Cuisine encompasses. It didn’t develop in a vacuum, and her great grannies recipe was likely, if not concocted by slaves, influenced by and prepared by slaves. Southern Cuisine is a a melting pot of cultures and traditions and I don’t know how Paula Dean, or anyone, can be the face of it without acknowledging where these recipes came from. Her show was always missing something for me, and sadly it took me until today to realize what, but it’s her lack of story. She always brought her own personal stories about her family into it, which is always great, but if she ever talked about the origins of the recipe, the story mostly ended with some long gone relative that lived on a great beautiful plantation. There’s clearly more to it than that. I can’t speak to her motives, or perhaps the motives of the Food Network execs (considering the lack of diversity in the genre of Southern cooking), but omitting those stories do a great disservice. Your personal histories’ are intrinsically linked, and I truly believe that only good can come from embracing that fact. I’m sad she never took that opportunity, and I truly hope she takes that walk with you in September.

  410. LN says:

    This was a beautifully written piece. I think a really good point was raised about the amount of press this is getting vs. the SCOTUS decision to gut the voters rights act. This is the conversation about racism that we as a country should be having. It is bigger than one person. I think this was simply wonderful. Thank you!

  411. Patty Killelea-Willard says:

    Beautiful…….you now have a new follower

  412. aputnam says:

    as a lifelong southerner, I couldn’t have said it better. great article.

  413. Peg says:

    I am inspired to be introduced to your perspective and your writing. Thank you.

  414. Ruby says:

    wow! this article is “amazing grace”

  415. susan giansanti says:

    from a 72 year old white lady who is deaf…. and grew up with a black nanny from Jamacia whom I loved dearly … I applaud your wonderful wonderful open letter to Paula!! If you have a restaurant, do let me know name and where so hopefully I can go whenever I am in the East (I live in Arizona) … Thank you!!!

  416. Kat says:

    For any interested, read Lillian Hellman, especially “An Unfinished Woman”. Or, read about Tallulah Bankhead. Race relations have changed and yet, not changed. I agree with Mr. Twitty…this is a game of smoke and mirrors and a complicated one at that. I have lived all over this country and these issues are everywhere. Thank you for a beautiful opinion.

  417. Sheryl G - Seattle says:

    Oh my! My eloquent brother you said it all. Nobody but GOD can improve on your excellence in communicating your “calling” (s). If you cook even half as well as you write, you name will be synonymous with “FOOD”! Much love to you, May GOD blow you up (bless you) real good!

  418. Amy Bean says:

    Thanks Micheal, for saying all the things I’d like to say, but lack a voice to say it. I linked to your blog from my facebook and I plan to post it on our business page as well as our Website. I spent a long time reading your other blog posts and recipes and I wanted to thank you also for using products from local farms in your events. It helps organic farmers, like us, to have a chef of your caliber sharing recipes and blogging about cooking seasonally. (I’m making your Green Bean Salad Recipe tonight). Even if Paula Deen doesn’t show up at your event, your blog has gone a long way, through the internet and other media, to shed light and bring understanding about racism in the South. We can hope for reconciliation, and no, I’m not just talking about Paula, and other southerners… but about all of us here in America. You have an open invitation to visit our farm at anytime, and I will cook a farm to table dinner for you. (Keep in mind, however, I’m just a mom cook. Nothing fancy, but it’ll be Fresh)
    I’m hoping that your generous heart and willingness to share your thoughts brings good things to you.

  419. Maxine Pulce says:

    This is THE BEST response I’ve seen thus far! Thanks for your insight and wisdom on this matter.

  420. Laura Bass says:

    Much respect for the article and your honesty.

  421. Pingback: As seen on the internet 6/28/13 | I Believe In Butter

  422. lorifrancia says:

    Outstanding piece, Michael….!
    Is this fundraiser open to the public? I’d like to find my way there to attend in September.

  423. Jay Watson says:

    Well done….with one exception…..In Louisiana at least….G-d is spelled GOD!

    • Im Jewish and its a custom we do lest His name be used cavalierly

      • connie says:

        I have been following comments here for a few days because I have really, truly enjoyed them. I am surprised by how many folk do not understand the use of G-d and seem slightly offended by it. It’s good to be strong in faith, but I do wish that people could better understand that the Divine is bigger than the small human-created books and faulty human writings and human words that we try to tie it all up in. Until He (or She) comes down here personally, pulls out His wallet and shows His divine ID card saying “THIS is my name and THIS is how I spell it” (in whatever language or languages) then we all should accept that we simply do not know. Only God knows the truth (or truths… I mean, He’s more than us, He can create more than one Truth if it is His desire), and we should accept that we are all have our own valid ways of respecting the Divine.

        Islam says La Allah illa Allah. There is no God but God. I like that reminder. We are not God, and no matter what we call him, the only one who defines Him, is God himself. Us humans just have to do the best we can, and should remember to allow others the right to do the best they can too, in their own ways.

      • You get it!!!!!! Its so simple…

  424. Bob Schecter says:

    In Paula’s world, nigger is just another word. That’s not racist, that’s just stupid. And you can’t fix stupid by punishing her, any more than smacking a dog on the face for pooping on the carpet will teach it a lesson. The angry white men (metaphorically speaking) will just rally ’round her now as she, and her book, wallow in newfound martyrdom. Better to turn all the attention to the children. They’ve got to be carefully taught.

  425. I Love this: “No victim here” because that is me and how I choose to live my life.

    I’m not offended at all by what Paula Deen said in her disposition because I just don’t operate from that of a victim and choose not to become offended by every little slight, either real or perceived. It makes me wonder if those who clam selective outrage would be so outraged had she told a lie because it seems that folks would rather accept a lie than deal with the truth.

    In our quest for assimilation and acceptance, thank goodness you are preserving our culture when it comes to our food and ancestral heritage because pretty soon we’re going to lose all of it if we don’t preserve it. Paula Deen should be forgiven and those who are angered should simply move on, because life is too short to waste on hatred.

  426. Mary McAdams says:

    Well put! I think the serving of food ties us to our cultures in many profound ways. The language we use to empower our thoughts is so overlooked. I wish more of us could think before we spoke. I can’t imagine any scenario where I would use the “n” word and regret to say I have met a woman of Polish descent from New Jersey who called herself a “Polock” and when I took offense she asked, “Well, what would you call someone from Poland?” I’ll leave it at that!

  427. Michael Rhoads says:

    Fortunately a friend, and fellow member of my Sunday School class, posted this on FB. Wow. Wonderfully thought out and marvelously written. Though I have lived in a number of states and originally come from the Maryland and Delaware area I have lived in south Louisiana longer than anywhere else and consider it home. Few places can compare to the amalgamation of cooking styles and ingredients that we are so blessed with in our area. While we (those of us in Louisiana) often acknowledge the influences of the Creoles, the Africans, the Spaniards, the native Americans had in the foods that we so dearly love, I must admit that far too little credit, if any, has been given those that were enslaved. They, far more than the white mother or father, were responsible for passing the cooking traditions along to their children as well as the children of their owners. My, do my tastebuds thank them for that. ( I would be remiss if I failed to also recognize the impact of the Acadians when they settled here)

    What a beautiful marriage history and food make. I would dearly love to attend your event in September and hope that Ms. Deen makes every effort to do so.

    I wish you much personal and professional success and look forward to learning more about you and your cooking. You see, I have come to know that even a white, southern cop can learn a thing or two from a gay, Jewish black guy. More than anything I have learned that we can quickly pass by the descriptions I just used above to become friends and revel in the worlds of history and cuisine.

  428. Scully says:

    Finally! Someone not only says something SANE about this overblown drama, but says it with such eloquence, thoughtfulness, politeness, honesty and heart. Thank you. Your work sounds fascinating. I grew up in Georgia, majored in history and I am a history teacher, so I was aware that Southern food wouldn’t be Southern food without the foods and cooking methods that the slaves prepared and introduced. But I only know that in a very superficial sense. I plan to follow you and I hope to learn more. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavours. Thank you again for your clear-sightedness. I hope Paula Deen comes to the event in NC. I wish I could!

  429. DEW says:

    What a compassionate and intelligent piece you have written and shared. I really do hope Paula Deen takes you up on your kind offer and takes this experience as a significant learning opportunity beyond just modifying outward behavior to avoid losing business deals.

  430. Dr. P. A. Smith says:

    Now that is some straight talk from a real Southern fellow….love the mix of humankind..Now if folks could adjust to the notion that we really are all humans!! hello… Are you including healthy foods in your historical look at these areas of food? I am a big proponent of Food As Medicine and the Natural Ways that folks knew how to use foods for benefits to health..
    Happy Adventures to you…& thank you..

  431. alanmonasch says:

    This post is perhaps the only important thing to come out of the Paula Deen matter. Thank you, Mr. Twitty, for your clear view about the relevant politics, for seeing through the media message to a matter of substance, and for your teaching about the African roots of what we call Southern cooking. I am delighted to be following your blog and look forward to your next entry.

  432. Reality Jones says:

    So will you be dressing in a little white butler outfit and working as a slave-themed servant “just like in Shirley Temple times” as she requested (referring to a movie based in slavery days), or will you merely be working for her as a party server and laborer and accepting booze as your only payment as she has done with her Black staff in the past? They don’t get money. As she and Bubba said it, all “they” would spend it on is booze anyway, so Paula just gave them booze instead of money.

    Be forgiving, certainly, but this is not just about a few times using the N-word. This is about her repeated racist ACTIONS and behavior. By all means invite her to your gathering, but don’t be surprised when she’s shocked that you won’t shuck and jive for her entertainment. She is what we in the north like to call a “polite racist” or a “clueless racist.” She’s a bigot and says or does incredibly stupid things because she simply doesn’t know any better, and she does it with that southern hospitality and therefore comes off as being “polite” about her bigotry; But make no mistake… She’s a bigot.

    And she also has this awful habit of licking her fingers while cooking, and then sticking her hands back in the food. Really, does no one else find this absolutely disgusting?

  433. iPapi says:

    One word: Stellar!

  434. Kathy Gilson says:

    As much as I enjoy your open letter (which is boundless), I am even more encouraged and uplifted by the responses you have received to it. There really are more than five good people in the world……

  435. Diana Gale says:

    Wonderful. Thank you for taking the time to put these sentiments, and this knowledge, into so eloquent a form.

  436. wayne Cathey says:

    I think this should be sent to all the news networks. Great piece.

  437. Janet Volz says:

    I’ve read your open letter twice. I’m stunned. What a lovely, eloquent, gentile young man you are. Thank you humbly for your letter.

  438. Heather Ely says:

    I love everything about this.

  439. Gretchen says:

    I am in absolute awe of this entire conversation you inspired! How wonderful! It made me think about how difficult change can be. In leadership development, behaviors that are deeply rooted in beliefs are the hardest things to guide someone to change. The way you have opened a door for PD to consider walking through, is so brilliant. There are stages to learning, and the first one is awareness. Even fully exploring awareness is a journey. So, the image discussed regarding the deeply sad, confused, emotional, and even shocked look about her in her video responses, makes total sense to me. If she had known better, she would not have done all these hurtful things, unless she was a sociopath, which I don’t feel is the case. So, really, this may be the first real, huge, earth-shattering feedback she has ever heard about this behavior. If so, this is her road to awareness from which acceptance grows and only then a real change can happen. So, I am slower to react to her deflection of criticism, and her lack of depth around her contribution to this problem, because of the level of difficulty of this kind of learning. She has likely used her charm and talents along the way to get away with saying and doing these things, and probably has been told all her life that it is funny or adorable. Working in development, and knowing how learning for the first time that you have been negatively effecting other people with a behavior you have been displaying all your life can shut people down, tank them emotionally and send them off thinking about every thing they have ever said and done with terrible shame and hurt. It gives me the compassion and hope that she can walk through the door in the public eye, with more judgement and embarrassment imaginable, and learn and grow from it, instead of imploding. We all have things to learn. Thank you, Michael!

  440. I adore you, Michael. Now I need to find a way to make it to NC in September. Thank you for this essay.

  441. omanii says:

    Be sure and post if she takes you up on your offer to cook or even attend the September 7 gathering.

  442. KT says:

    Thoughtful; very d r a w n o u t, but thoughtfully written… Use a spell-checker as a writer when you can. In your first paragraph there is a “typo” that brings the flow to a halt… “…as long as its breezy and mosquito-free;” it’s has an apostrophe. Keep growing as a writer; you’ve peaked peoples’ interest with this one!

    • Thank you…I wrote in haste but true..I hear ya

      • vsazera says:

        Hi Michael,

        I sent you a response but not sure if you got it? I have a feeling you got thousands. Looks like you are diligently reading them all. I was so moved by you open letter. I wrote you a long comment from my heart. It is a subject so near to me. Your approach is very inspirational!

        Peace, Love, Joy,


      • im definitely doing my best 🙂 did you mail it to koshersoul?

      • vsazera says:

        Your letter made me lol and the end I was moved to tears. I was raised on Soul Food, the youngest of 7 daughters born and raised in Bessemer, Alabama. I went to Catholic school. My parents were Irish/Italian/Catholic/ Democrats. In 5th grade I told on a kid for saying the n-word. I’m 48 and to this day I’m proud of being a “tattle- tell” that day.

        I try to teach my children to be forgiving. That two wrongs don’t make a right. I know that we all make mistakes but as a mother I so desperately want my children to learn from their mistakes. I even tell them to get their tests and learn the ones they missed. It’s not about the grade but the knowledge you walk away with.

        “Can’t we all just get along”? I followed the Rodney King case so closely. I was stunned when the verdict came out. It made me so upset. I sobbed when he gave that speech. He said some great things that I hoped people were listening to. I thought it might actually be a turning point for our country.

        Many times I’ve felt that way. Hoping people were paying attention to how important and much everybody would benefit.

        When President Obama was elected I was certain the moment had come for our country. I have been devastated by things that came from the mouthes of people I love, and respect. So disappointing it’s made me angry and hardened my heart. I’m not as calm as you. I get SO worked up. I’m like a combination of Barney Fife and Linda Blair. My peaceful message of “Can’t we all just get along” gets lost because of my delivery.

        I hope with all my heart Paula Deen comes to your gathering. But even if she doesn’t your letter is beautiful. It inspires me to be calm and practice what I preach to my children. I’m no longer naive enough to think it will change the world but it sure makes it a sweeter place. Thank you!

      • I think I just found a real kindred spirit. This is really the kind of personal testimony that tells me something good has been planted.

      • vsazera says:

        We are definitely kindred spirits! My husband and people who really know me say that I may look like a white girl but I’m really a black, jewish, gay person. He’s been calling me Gay Sammy Davis Jr. for years 🙂 I’m going to try to come in September! I look forward to following you. Also LOVED “My Response to your Response” with the two ladies in B’ham. YOu are an awesome writer with a big heart!

      • LOL thank you (bows) 🙂 Please do–we are working out the kinks now but after July 7th tickets will go on sale!

    • I believe you mean piqued

  443. a reader says:

    Wow! Amazing post. You are amazing, interesting, intelligent and thoughtful in your writing and position. Thank you for sharing.

  444. As Rox Goudeau expressed above, I hope that this incident could end up being a real catalyst for change. Certainly your wise and eloquent words should make people take notice!!! I sincerely hope that Paula accepts your invitation–not because she feels that she has to, but because she wants to.

  445. Donna Ackerman says:

    Dear Friend,

    I applaud you in your forgiveness. I too forgive Paula! We, as children of God, are not perfect. We make mistakes and learn from them. The past is the past. We shouldn’t throw the past in each others face and condemn them for it! I pray for them.

    . Your Friend,
    .Donna Ackerman ^_^*

  446. Rick says:

    Michael, What a well thought out and eloquently written letter. I applaud your effort.

    I would like to state, however, that I think I disagree with the section that deals with people with oppressive histories being allowed to use pejorative terms with each other.

    I am a gay man. I am just as appalled when another gay man calls me a “f*g” as I am when a straight man does. We are all one species. We all are the same. Making exceptions for groups with oppressive histories, in my opinion, creates dangerous double standards. There should be no division nor exclusion on any basis. If it is wrong for one man to lie, it is wrong for everyone to lie. In the same one if it is wrong for one man to call me a “f*g”, it is wrong for all to call me a “f*g”.

    • I really appreciate that–I don’t call other gay men that and I appreciate your point of view. What I am not in favor of is policing other’s language. I am not comfortable with certain language in certain spaces and I police my own mouth, but we don’t always know where others are coming from.or how they relate. My threshold isn’t theirs…I know it isn’t a popular viewpoint but the anthropologist in me doesn’t curtail the ways of others easily. But your viewpoint is valid and that’s why I want it here.

  447. Kathleen says:

    Spectacular! I’ve never seen you before but someone posted the letter to their FB page. Just Spectacular — Course now I’m hungry 😀

  448. Stef says:

    I received your letter as a share on FB. It peeked my interest so I decided to have a casual look and scan your letter. That didn’t happen. I read it carefully, twice. Then I spent the next hour reading all the marvelous and thoughtful posts from everyone. It gives me hope that there are more good, caring, intelligent people here in the US than I thought. Thank you for your letter.

  449. hollide says:

    This is the first comment that I have written about the Paula Deen ‘situation’, and I truly enjoyed reading your article, but as a MULTI-racial woman (Black, Polish, Native American, Scotch-Irish, and German) married to a 100% Italian man, and have a child from my first husband who was 100% Irish, I cannot agree with your statement of “women [or anyone] hav[ing] a right to the word “b….” gay men have[ing] a right to the word “queer” or “f…” and it’s up to people with oppressive histories to decide when and where the use of certain pejorative terms is appropriate.” Those are NOT kind words. My family does not use them, my adult daughter does not use them, my husband does not use them, our friends of MANY creeds do not use them, and we ALL find them offensive. They are harsh, mean words that OFFEND and to allow self-deprecating words to be thrown around so lightly in a like crowd is NOT acceptable. Allowing use of that kind of language keeps hatred alive and it needs to STOP.

    • I don’t support that language, but I can’t police other people’s language, only my own. But I respect what you have to say and try to remind myself of those same values everyday. Thank you for saying there is a higher standard.

    • Ross Hill says:

      I posted somewhere today that all ethnic groups have identifiers for all other ethnic groups but they never use them on polite conversation.

      • this is true–and its human nature–because how else do we know the “other?” I have a problem with people saying don’t identify as anything to keep the peace. That’s impossible..because we are trapped in these one-souled nations made up of our brains and the experiences that affect those brains.

  450. bryan says:

    Very well put Michael. Excellent job. And to all the critics, all I can say is, ” Let the person who has not sinned cast the first stone “. otherwise take a look at yourself first before you judge others. I can guarantee you are not perfect.

  451. pablo cowbo says:

    Man this guy knows words! I like this article VERY much

  452. Diana says:

    I hope, and I pray that is woman enough to accept your invitation. It would be a wonderful good will gesture, and might possibly begin to repair some of the damage wrought by racism. Blessings to you for an eloquently written message.

  453. Barbara Barrick says:

    I continue to think about your wow-factor original post (it’s caught in my craw, as my Mama Tucker would say) and after reading the many replies, I’ve decided folks with the 5th blood type, ‘sweet tea’ which we share, have an easier time grasping the complexities of the Paula Deen issue than many other well-intentioned people. And, by the way, this low-church Episcopalian, now living north of Indianapolis, totally recognized the significance of your spelling of G_D. Peace and stay strong.

    • 🙂 nothing but smiles on this comment

      • Barbara Barrick says:

        Older folks with the ‘sweet tea’ blood type can remember that dinner was the meal served in the middle of the day, and left-overs from dinner more than likely remained on the kitchen table covered by a table cloth making ‘what’s for supper’ a no-brainer.

  454. PL says:

    Thank you. The world needs more people like you.

  455. Susie says:

    Sometimes you find some really wonderful things via your friends on Facebook…this is one of those times. Thank you so very much Michael for this heartfelt, intelligent and beautifully written post.

    I’ve also never seen so many thoughtful and thought provoking comments on a post. I especially loved the one from Nathalie Dupree.

  456. Michele G. says:

    Well said Michael, truly a beautiful and inspiring letter. The world needs more beautiful souls like you. I wish you the best and pray that your words have a profound influence on all who read them.

  457. Cheryl says:

    I thank you sir for being the kind of human being who is a role model for the possibility of peace and harmony in our land. I am praying hard that Paula takes you up on your kind offer.

  458. jjinyancey says:

    Speaking of a “spelling thing,” in your last paragraph, you should have made “great-grandfather’s” either singular or plural. It is not possessive. 🙂

  459. Brandon says:

    I normally just read or skim things my friends share on Facebook, but this was too beautifully written and so humanly said that I had to just sign on to commend and thank you. A lovely, sane, thoughtful look at the controversy. I wish all of this Nation’s citizenry thought through what they did and said to others as you have here. You are a beautiful person. Write on!

  460. Sandi Akyuz says:

    Michael, if you are as good a cook as you are a writer you are a double blessing to the world. Kudos to you for extending the olive branch. I hope the invitation is accepted. I am so glad that Kaylin White ( shared this post on facebook as it lead me to you. I look forward to following you and your career for many years to come. Bravo!

  461. Candi Fox says:

    Humbled by your words.. thank you

  462. sue fite kershner says:

    Beautiful! This is the most eloquent, valid response there has been or can be to the entire situation. You are a beautiful soul.

  463. West Coast Mom says:

    Thank you for this essay. I am a born and raised WASP southerner who is raising her biracial, bilingual, Catholic kids on the West coast. There are many things I love about the South but I can’t have my children facing the amount of racism they would face or hearing racist comments. Even people who are “not” racist make them (so I agree with you on the everyone is a little racist thing). Paula Deen’s words were ugly and I am glad she has been called out about it, but on the other hand the Voting Rights Act decision by the Supreme Court is so much more than ugly. It is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad decision.

  464. Cat says:

    I wish I knew you personally. The world needs more people like you.

  465. Ashley P says:

    Hi Michael, I found this article through one of my local women’s groups. As a food lover and amateur cook, and one who lives in the south, I realized reading your article that I know so little about the origins of southern cooking. Your article was wonderful, and I appreciate your kind heart on this subject, but even more, thank you for making me decide to dig around a little bit into culinary history!

  466. Ashley P says:

    I know people who after living in florida for many years, decided to move to a rural area in Illinois because “There aren’t any black people there”. I visited them once, and they were totally correct: that place was devoid of anyone but white people, and the way they talked about black people was worse than anything I’d heard in the south, because they didn’t seem to realize what they were saying was racist. It was as if because they weren’t around black people, things we consider racist and watch our mouths about they didn’t see any problem with : no one around to offend. It was disgusting, and terribly sad.

  467. pmrubin says:

    I found this profoundly moving and hope-inspiring. I see that i am not alone. Thank you, Mr. Twitty.