Just weighing in on the Paula Deen kerfuffle. I think the Food Network is over-reacting by firing her for a racial slur admittedly used years ago. Paula's about my age and I'm sorry, young'uns, but language such as this used to be somewhat common.
Polite? Never. Derogatory? Depended on the situation. Hurtful? I'm not Black but it is a term they use on each other. Does who says it really make a difference?
I think the crowd should not be allowed to sing Dixie at the Kentucky Derby. After all, it references returning to a time and place when slavery was accepted:
"The song originated in the blackface minstrel shows of the 1850s and quickly grew famous across the United States. Its lyrics, written in a comic, exaggerated version of African American Vernacular English, tell the story of a freed black slave pining for the plantation of his birth. During the American Civil War, "Dixie" was adopted as a de facto anthem of the Confederacy. New versions appeared at this time that more explicitly tied the song to the events of the Civil War. Since the advent of the North American Civil Rights Movement, many have identified the lyrics of the song with the iconography and ideology of the Old South. Today, "Dixie" is sometimes considered offensive, and its critics link the act of singing it to sympathy for the concept of slavery in the American South. Its supporters, on the other hand, view it as a legitimate aspect of Southern culture and heritage and the campaigns against it as political correctness. The song was a favorite of President Abraham Lincoln- he had it played at some of his political rallies and at the announcement of General Robert E. Lee's surrender."