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The Paula Deen Debacle: A Recipe for Double Standards

Posted on Jul 10, 2013 by Lisa Ricard Claro   No Comments Yet | Posted in Al Sharpton · Alec Baldwin · Capital One · E.R. Shipp · Huffington Post · Kris Jenkins · Paula Deen · race · Stacey Dash · T-Pain

For a society that spends so much time preaching tolerance and equality, we offer scant amounts of those commodities in fair distribution.

Take for example the recent crucifixion of Paula Deen. She admitted that, among other things, many years ago she employed use of the reviled “N” word—which, ironically, is uttered over and over again in popular hip-hop and rap music, along with many other equally distasteful racial slurs—with nary a thought or concern for political correctness.  When was the last time you heard of a rap star losing corporate endorsements over the utterance of offensive racial speech? That would be . . . never.
So why the double standard? Why was Paula Deen made a pariah when multiple others are not?
Please compare the Paula Deen Debacle with that of actor Alec Baldwin. Baldwin used Twitter to spew a vitriolic rant that illustrated his prejudicial opinion of the gay population. And this didn’t occur years ago. He shouted it out just last week.
Some gay activists have called for Capital One to drop Baldwin as their spokesperson (which the banking giant has at this point declined to do), but other than that, there has been no blowback, no punishment, no public flogging.
Again I ask, why the double standard?
I’m not a Paula Deen fan, have never had an opinion of her one way or the other, but the abandonment she’s experienced by corporate America as it rushes to distance itself from her seems unprecedented.  And to tell you the truth, it scares me just a little. The idea that my life and career could be upended because of something stupid I may have said three decades ago is terrifying. Three decades ago I was 23, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have to wonder if I said anything stupid at 23—I’d bet money on it.
Age has bred maturity and insight and both have taught me that life is many shades of gray, not black and white, and that being judgmental of anyone for any reason is ignorant and counterproductive.  I’m not sure I knew that at 23. Did you?
You may be reading this and thinking, “Wow. This blog post is so yesterday. The peak on the Paula Deen Debacle is over; move on already.” But this is relevant because of the blatant double standard. The fallout in the case of Paula Deen was torrential and overdone, and in the case of Alec Baldwin was minimal and insufficient by comparison.

To be clear, I am not condoning Ms. Deen’s attitudes or behaviors. I believe her current situation stems less from her long ago use of the “N” word and more from her lack of perception regarding modern racial climate. What bothers me is the level to which she is being strung up, and I’m not alone. A number of black celebrities have offered their support to Ms. Deen, among them NFLer Kris Jenkins, actress Stacey Dash, Civil Rights activist Al Sharpton, and rapper T-Pain who said, “She was treated very unfairly.”

Double standards rile me. It may be because my parents taught me that while it is true that life isn’t fair, treating people with respect and fairness is a personal choice not dependent upon the random universe. Also, my internal scales of justice seek balance with even the most inconsequential of things, like spending ten minutes to go through a bin of rawhide chews at the pet store to ensure each of my dogs receives a treat of equal size. (I say it’s because I’m a Libra. My husband says psychiatrists have a label for people like me.) 
So again I ask, what happened to tolerance and equality?  Why is it afforded so readily to some (Baldwin) and not to others (Deen)?  Why do you think Paula Deen was raked over the public coals while Alec Baldwin and so many others are handed a virtual pass?
Why the double standard?

(Recommended reading: Journalist E.R. Shipp’s article “Parsing the N-Word”)

See you next week for the naked truth about . . . those pesky, cohabiting twins: Excitement and Terror.
Have a great week –

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