Television sitcom star and comedian Tim Allen wants to “take the power away” from the N-word.
The 60-year-old actor-comedian told the Tampa Bay Times in Florida that the term “N-word” is worse than the racial slur it represents.
“(The phrase) ‘the N-word’ is worse to me than ‘n—–,’ ” said Allen in an interview with Times media and TV critic Eric Deggans.
“You want to take the power away from that word so that no one is offended by it,” Allen said.
“If I have no intent, if I show no intent, if I clearly am not a racist, then how can ‘n—–‘ be bad coming out of my mouth?”
For him, the criticism that keeps any nonblack comic from using the word is a step backward from the days when [Richard] Pryor and [Lenny] Bruce were breaking comedy boundaries by purposefully using street language in ways middle-of-the-road comics wouldn’t dare.
The star of TV’s “Home Improvement” and “Last Man Standing,” and films such as “The Santa Clause” made the comments last month after controversy ignited over celebrity chef Paula Deen’s admitted use of racial slurs in 1986. The interview was published this week ahead of a stand-up performance.
Allen argued that the taboo against white people saying the word was itself a damaging practice and insisted that the an unfair double standard was at play.
“I’ve had this argument on stage a million times. I do a movie with Martin Lawrence and pretty soon they’re referring to me, ‘hey, my n—–’s up.’ So I’m the n—– if I’m around you guys but 7 feet away, if I said n—–, it’s not right. It’s very confusing to the European mind how that works, especially if I’ve either grown up or evolved or whatever, it literally was growing up in Colorado, with Hispanics and Anglos, that’s all I remember.”
“So when Paula Deen (admits her language), they go after her, and now we’ve gone backwards in the world.”
According to Deggans, the comedian did not censor his use of the word, but rather said it freely several times in “talking about how using racial [s]lurs feels from a white guy’s perspective.”
Allen’s comments were dissected on social networking sites and TV talk shows.
Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson condemned Allen on Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show on Sunday.
“Look, y’all invented the N-word,” he said. “We didn’t invent it. We just co-opted it. We hijacked it. We did a carjacking on that word a few decades ago, and now you’re mad because we’ve made more sexy use of it — some denigration as well. And now you want back in? No, you can’t have back in.
“He says it’s confusing to me. It ain’t confusing!” Dyson continued. “Here’s a general rule of thumb to follow when using the N-word for white people. Never. When you do that, then you understand you can’t do it.”
In a statement provided by his spokeswoman, Allen says it wasn’t his intention to offend anyone.