This is a tale of two words — and two reactions to those words.
In 1987, after being robbed by a black man at gunpoint, then-bank teller Paula Deen used the N-word to describe the mugger in a conversation with her husband.
This is the only confirmed instance of Deen deploying that word, but you would barely know it from the obsessive media coverage of her downfall over the past week.
Lisa Jackson, a (white) former employee at a restaurant Deen co-owns with her younger brother Bubba, has accused the pair of racial and sexual discrimination in a civil suit that has enraptured the press.
The case is a typical example of she said/she said, and much of the inappropriate behavior alleged by Jackson was attributable to Bubba, not Paula. But never once in Jackson’s original, sworn testimony did she state that she heard Deen use the N-word.
Deen’s legal fate has yet to be decided, but in the court of public opinion, the verdict is already in. Almost immediately after the self-revelation of her use of the racist term became public, Deen lost her endorsement deals from Smithfield Foods, Caesars Entertainment, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Kmart, JCPenney and Sears. The Food Network has canceled her popular television show.
Practically the entire country has reveled in turning the celebrity chef into a sacrificial hog from one of her own recipes.
Fast-forward 26 years from Paula Deen’s lamentable, if isolated, use of the N-word in a private conversation with her ex-husband, to the very public Twitter account of Alec Baldwin. After a gay journalist at the British Daily Mail erroneously reported that Baldwin’s pregnant wife had herself tweeted during the funeral service of James Gandolfini, Baldwin erupted in one of the pathologically vicious outbursts that have come to mar his public image over the past several years.
“I’m gonna find you, George Stark, you toxic little queen, and I’m gonna f&%$ . . . you . . . up,” Baldwin wrote. “If put (sic) my foot up your f&^%ing ass, George Stark, but I’m sure you’d dig it too much.” Baldwin then implored “all my followers and beyond to straighten out this f*&^ing little bitch, George Stark.”
As a reporter for the sensationalist Mail, Stark may be part of a “toxic” enterprise, but it’s hard to see what his sexuality has to do with it. And Baldwin, of course, did not mean for his comments to be taken as homophobic. “My ill-advised attack on George Stark of the Daily Mail had absolutely nothing to do with issues of anyone’s sexual orientation,” Baldwin said in a statement.
He then elaborated upon his unique understanding of the epithet “queen,” telling the website Gothamist that, “the idea of me calling this guy a ‘queen’ and that being something that people thought is homophobic . . . a queen to me has a different meaning. It’s somebody who’s just above. It doesn’t have any necessarily sexual connotations. . . . I know women that act queeny, I know men that are straight that act queeny, and I know gay men that act queeny. . . . To me those are people who think the rules don’t apply to them.”
Well, then by that definition, perhaps the queeniest of them all is Baldwin himself. For unlike the bevy of corporate sponsors that dropped Deen, Capitol One has yet to say anything about its spokesman’s homophobic tirade. Nor has much of the Manhattan and Hollywood media elite, which can never stop expressing all of its “solidarity” with the gay community.
While the great and the good would have us believe that Deen’s use of a racial slur 26 years ago is an obvious expression of deeply felt racist sentiment, Baldwin’s foaming-at-the-mouth rant should not obscure his “history of actively supporting LGBT equality,” according to the GLAAD, the self-described “LGBT movement’s communications epicenter.”
Commenting on Deen’s blurting of the N-word following a crime, Dana Goodyear of The New Yorker intoned that, “Weirdly, she thought this constituted a relatable excuse rather than a revelation of her actual attitudes.”
If a white woman’s uttering the N-word in the hot aftermath of an encounter with a robber is a “revelation of actual attitudes,” how could a straight man calling a gay man a “toxic little queen” in the safety of an online social network not amount to the same sort of “revelation”?
Never mind that she stumped for Barack Obama in 2008; ridiculing Deen — this plumpy, white, Southern purveyor of comfort food — makes white liberals feel good about themselves. The same schadenfreude doesn’t apply to Baldwin, star blogger at the Hollywood insane asylum that is The Huffington Post, perpetually rumored New York City mayoral candidate and vocal advocate of all things right and liberal. For Queen Alec, the rules just don’t apply.