TODAY   |  June 27, 2013

Paula Deen controversy spurs discussion of race

The fallout surrounding celebrity cook Paula Deen plus two recent Supreme Court rulings have inspired a national conversation about racial divisions in America and just how far we’ve really come since the civil rights movement. NBC’s Mara Schiavocampo reports.

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>> that's right. meanwhile our exclusive interview with paula deen is generating a huge response. got people talking not just about paula deen herself but the bigger issue of race in america . nbc's mara schiavocampo has more on that. good morning to you.

>> reporter: matt, good morning. paula deen as well as two supreme court decisions and the george zimmerman murder trial are stoking deep divisions when it comes to race and raising the question of just how far we've come.

>> so i'll ask you bluntly. are you a racist?

>> no.

>> reporter: celebrity chef paula deen responding to a firestorm of criticism after revelations that she had used a racial slur in the past.

>> i have never, with any intention, hurt anybody on purpose. and i never would.

>> reporter: it was one of a series of moments this week that has thrust the topic of race in america back into the spotlight.

>> the reality is this taps into a lot of discomfort around issues of race.

>> reporter: with the election and re-election of president obama and more mixed race americans than ever before, some have suggested we're in a post racial era and two major rulings from the supreme court earlier this week seemed to confirm that, the first making it tougher for colleges to use affirmative action, the second removing restrictions on nine southern states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval before changing voting laws. but those examples stand in stark contrast to other recent events, including the racially tinged trial of george zimmerman charged with murdering black teenager trayvon martin. then there's deen's insensitive comments for which she has apologized.

>> mom?

>> yes, honey.

>> reporter: even a new, seemingly innocent cheerios commercial showing an interracial family that was targeted online with hateful comments.

>> lot h been done, but a lot remains to be done. there is no such thing as being a post racial america and neither should the ideal be post racial. i think the ideal should be post racist.

>> reporter: now, for deen the damage to her empire goes on. since wednesday's interview she's been dropped by walmart, home depot , and cesar's but still has plenty of supporters. her new cookbook which doesn't come out until october is now number one on amazon.