The Paula Deen fiasco that has unraveled over the past several days has me thinking about her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers. Specifically, where the hell is Uncle Bubba? Because if you take a look at the original lawsuit, he is the one who needs his ass kicked all the way to Tybee Island for the hostile work environment created at the restaurant that carries his name.
To be clear, I still believe Paula Deen needs to be held accountable. And for sure, she needs to offer a more sincere apology–one that doesn’t suggest that it’s about someone who wants what she has. (See the the analysis of her Today Show interview.) That may be true, but it doesn’t let Deen off the hook for her own racial missteps.
What boggles my mind, though, is the extent to which Paula Deen goes to cover for the men in her life, especially her brother.
In the lawsuit, we learn that her companies and her restaurant Lady & Sons is essentially a “Boys Club.” And the boys, it turns out, behave badly. Especially Uncle Bubba.
The lawsuit, moreover, isn’t just about a work environment damaged by racial slurs. It’s very much about the ways that sexual harassment created a hostile work environment for women.
First, it is abundantly clear from the allegations that Uncle Bubba is the primary culprit for making racial slurs. Yet what is also clear is that he regularly engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior and often used foul language when speaking to women or about women.
According to the lawsuit:
–Karl Schumacher, who is in charge of compensation for employees allegedly said that “women are stupid because they think they can work and have babies and get everything done.”
–Bubba Hiers allegedly either brought pornography to the restaurant or openly watched pornography “on the kitchen computer” where it was visible to several employees;
–Bubba Hiers allegedly made several sexual jokes in the workplace, criticized the “fat girls” who worked in the restaurant, told Lisa Jackson she had “nice legs” and to bring in photos of herself from when she was younger; and suggested that the restaurant staff be replaced with “Hooter’s girls.”;
–Lisa Jackson also alleges that Bubba Hiers “[grabbed] her face and [kissed] her and [spit] on her;”
And on, and on.
So, what’s much more clear now from Paula Deen’s deposition is that while she used a racial slur herself, she enabled the men who worked for her to continue their behavior by either ignoring the complaints brought to her attention, being willfully unaware of how her restaurants operated, and now, covering their asses–especially her brother Bubba. This pisses me off, because while Deen is apologetic about the racial slurs, she hasn’t offered one apology for the sexual harassment.
But then, the media has ignored this aspect of the lawsuit as well as “Uncle Bubba’s” behavior.
Fortunately, we have reached a point in our society where many of us can rise up (and have) to say “no” to racism. But we have NOT reached that point when it comes to sexual harassment. In the public trial of Paula Deen, everyone’s been silent on this point. The media, Paula Deen, and her sons. Of course, Uncle Bubba has been silent about everything and is hiding behind his sister’s imaginary hoop skirt.
I, for one, think Earl “Bubba” Hiers needs to be held responsible for his behavior. He should be dragged through the court of public opinion, too. The fact of the matter is that he’s gotten off easy.
If Deen’s use of a racial slur has proven there are consequences for doing so, then why not the same when it comes to sexual harassment? There needs to be consequences for that, too.
That day can’t come soon enough.