One word. How I wish I could take back, one word at a time, things I have said to or about others. Perhaps it was human error, a misstep of the tongue.
As kids, we mimic what we see and hear, and that's not always a good thing. As parents we are told to lead by example, also not always an easy path. Mistakes are part of our makeup. Forgiveness should be, too.
I feel sorry for kids today. Everywhere they turn they are challenged and confused by what's right and wrong, what's good and evil. We tell them it's wrong to refer to others by hurtful names and slurs. Then their senses are bombarded by those very things in some music and movies and in everyday conversations on the street.
They have to listen to music that is littered with the "N" word and vulgarity beyond belief. Even a PG-rated movie manages to slip in the "F-word" on occasion. Comics think they have to swear and make disparaging remarks about people to be funny. I don't understand why writers of this crap feel it's necessary to insult our ears and intelligence.
Today's kids have not known the hurt of political, religious or race discrimination to the extent past generations have. They wouldn't know what it means to have to sit in a certain seat on the public bus - the back seat.
This generation today would not understand a sign that reads "whites only" and I'm not talking laundry here. Would youths today even notice that their classmates are of all colors and races? Would it even occur to them not to date a person of a different color, faith or social status?
The good thing is that the answer to most of the above questions is "no." They don't know the prejudices of the past because many of those concepts have been eliminated by laws and behavior, though not practiced by everyone.
All it takes is one word, one ugly word said in anger, despair, hate or fear, to bring it all back. Celebrity cook Paula Deen found out the hard way that there is always someone willing to tear a person down because of such a mistake. Deen, a product of the South, has admitted to using a racial slur in the past and now she is being damned for it.
I don't excuse her behavior, but as another human who has made mistakes, I understand. I believe it is only because of her fame that she is being singled out. Whether you like her or dislike her, put yourself in her shoes. It may be an uncomfortable walk but at least she's admitted her error in judgment.
We can talk about equality and hold hands and sing peace songs, but it's much harder living it every day. The so-called political correctness of our world changes almost daily. I've been in this business for 34 years. I've watched the industry wrestle with the words "Negro" then "African American" and now "black" when referring to a person's race. It would be much less complicated if we were all simply "people."
I'm not throwing Paula Deen out with the pasta water. It's time to forgive and move on.
Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.