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Speaking to reporters at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Orlando, Florida, Oscar nominated-director Lee Daniels (Precious, The Butler), said that it is possible for White people — particularly in the Deep South — to “really love” Black people and still call them “n*ggas,” reports

Delving into the “strategic” use of the n-word in ‘The Butler’ as it was used by former President Lyndon B. Johnson against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, Daniels opined that obvious displays of racism can be misleading:

“For me, it was very strategic,” Daniels told a group of reporters at NABJ. “When we did use it, it was used later on by Cuba [Gooding Jr., as the head butler] making fun of someone that did use it, Lyndon Johnson. It was sort of the joke that this guy uses it. So when he says it and talks about, it opens up —  like Paula Deen — the concept of white people loving us and really loving us and feeling that it’s fine to use the word nigga. That’s how Johnson felt. He did something that was incredible for us. That’s trying to be taken away from us right now. And yet, he used that word just like ‘pass the grits.’ Racism is a very hard thing to explain, especially in the South.”

As previously reported by NewsOne, Paula Deen was fired by the Food Network and lost countless endorsements over her use of the word “ni**ers” and her plantation fantasy of planning a wedding reception with Black men serving food dressed as Antebellum slaves. The incident opened up an interesting and often contentious debate on racism in America. Scholars, pundits and critics debated whether White people conditioned by slavery, Jim Crow and supremacy in general should not be considered racist for saying the n-word.

Reverend Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton are two high-profile civil rights leaders who publicly supported Deen.

‘The Butler,’ which stars Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, opens August 16th.