This week America seems to be in the midst of a real life diversity training seminar: first Paula Deen loses endorsement deals over her use of the N word, and today we discover that Alec Baldwin spewed a bunch of homophobic hate towards a reporter on Twitter. What’s fascinating – and telling – is how we’re treating Paula and Alec so differently.
Like many people, I slammed Paula Deen when the news came out that she’d made racist comments. “…Deen needs to own up to her hate and not look like my old dog did after she took a big stinky poop on the rug. Let's be frank here, I doubt Deen would have even come forward had it not been for the lawsuit.” She’s obviously a racist, I concluded, and deserves whatever’s coming to her.
In an effort to be a little more open-minded, I watched Paula Deen’s interview with Matt Lauer on Today, which was a bit of a challenge since Matt was acting, as usual, like a condescending asshole. Once he finally lets her speak, I hear Paula say that she hasn’t used a racial epithet in 30 years. I also see her obvious remorse, which I know is at least partially because she’s desperately trying to win fans back and stop her sponsors from racing each other out the door. But her interview as well as other statements she’s made this week raise a few questions:
The first is this: If she hasn’t said the N word in 30 years, does she still deserve a public thrashing? And here’s the second: If she hasn’t used the N word in 30 years but is still a racist, is it possible that she does not discriminate in her place of work?
As I’m pondering all this, I hear that Alec Baldwin let loose a fusillade of homophobic comments against reporter George Stark after Stark claimed that Alec and his wife Hilaria were tweeting at James Gandolfini’s funeral. Here are some gems Alec shared with the world, "If put my foot up your f**king ass, George Stark, but I'm sure you'd dig it too much," and "I'm gonna find you George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I'm gonna f**k you... up."
Try to guess what most of America is saying about Alec today. That he has an anger management problem. That he needs to stay off Twitter. That he was defending his pregnant wife. Basically, when Alec Baldwin spews hate we laugh it off and say, “That Alec, what a kidder!” Will he lose endorsement deals or great roles? No. Will Tina Fey publicly criticize him? Nope. Will he have to cry on the Today Show couch with Matt Lauer acting like God? Definitely not.
Why the double standard? I can’t figure it out. Maybe it’s because Paula’s a woman. Maybe it’s because she’s from the South, so everyone below (and above) the Mason Dixon line who has ever had a negative thought about blacks can dump all their guilt onto her. Even the language we use to describe them is different. Paula Deen is a racist (noun) while Alec Baldwin had a Twitter Meltdown. There’s hypocrisy here, and perhaps someone smarter than me can explain why.
Beyond Paula and Alec’s drama, I find myself asking how much hate and discrimination each of us tolerates in our everyday lives. Have you ever heard a friend or family member make a derogatory joke about Jews, Gays, Arabs, Muslims, the obese, Stay at Home Moms/Dads, trailer park residents, etc.? What do you do when you hear those jokes? Most of the time, I tell the person his/her comments are offensive. But every so often, I keep my mouth quiet, thinking that I don’t want to cause trouble.
Here’s a radical thought. If more of us told all the Paulas and Alecs in our lives to shut the f*ck up, perhaps eventually everyone would be a little less close-minded. Or at least they would think twice before making offensive comments to others, especially in public. Until then, I guess we will continue to castigate Paula Deen and wag our finger gently at Alec Baldwin, not realizing that perhaps we too are part of the problem.
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