Welcome to Whitesplaining Palooza: a magical time where white folks will explain issues dealing with people of color so that finally everyone can understand!
Have you seen a non-white person do something confusing or have you heard about a non-white problem and you’re simply lost? No problem! White folks will explain it to you!
The latest magical Whitesplainer: Tim Allen.
You may remember Tim Allen as the lovable dad on the ’90s TV show Home Improvement. You may remember him as a co-star with Martin Lawrence in the 2007 movie Wild Hogs. Or you may not remember him at all, but Tim Allen wants to explain to you about how to deal with the word “ni**er”.
Yes. Tim Allen. Yes. Ni**er.
The following quotes had the word “ni**er” edited out by the site that published it. I unedited them.
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 nigger’s up.’ So I’m the ni**er if I’m around you guys but seven feet away, if I said ni**er, 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.
In Webster’s old dictionary the word ‘ni**er’ means unemployed and indigent dock worker. That’s one definition. So I said, (to my brother) in that case … he lives in Boston and he’s not employed … so you’d be a ni**er. And he goes, yeah. If my brother told me not to call him a dingleberry in front of my mother, ’cause I knew it pissed him… pisses me off. As soon as Mom left, and I wanted to piss him off? I’d say ‘dingleberry, dingleberry, dingleberry.’ So if you’re around a word to be problematic for you and low intellect or uninvolved people find that out, they’re gonna call you ni**er all day long ’cause they know you don’t like it.
See black people? The actual issue is that everyone knows we don’t like the word and “low intellect or uninvolved people” will then use the word because, duh, we don’t like it. So just let everyone use it, nobody get bothered and boom! Problem solved.
“You want to take the power away from that word so that no one is offended by it,” he added, telling a 50-year-old joke by Bruce about how President Kennedy could defuse slurs by using them to describe Jewish, Italian and black people in his cabinet. ‘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?’”
Yeah! If he doesn’t mean anything bad, if it’s not in his heart then why would ni**er be bad?
Tim Allen explaining how to deal with the word ni**er is hilarious. Not because he’s a comedian, but because he has no understanding of how racism works.
Racism doesn’t come with a barcode scanner that checks each person for their actual feelings when they use problematic language. Another thing that perhaps Allen didn’t know: you can participate in racism without taking on the mantle of “racist.” Racism doesn’t come in only one flavor. Poorly executed but well-meaning acts can still add to the problem.
Allen seems confused by the fact that Martin Lawrence might use the word ni**er with him but then he’s not allowed to go use it later on. His “European mind” doesn’t understand that. Well here’s a newsflash, sir: Your “European mind” doesn’t have to understand it. It would be nice though if your European mind might take a little time and learn about things like “historical context” and “complexity.”
Here’s the thing. Tim Allen has the right to say whatever he wants. He can come out and do sixty minutes of ni**er jokes and that is his prerogative. But what Allen doesn’t have a right to do is to rationalize his usage of the word and how he’s simply taking the power away. No, sir. You’re not.
You’re a white guy saying ni**er.
Elon James White is a writer, satirist and host of the award-winning video and radio series This Week in Blackness. Listen Monday through Thursday at 3pm/12pm PDT at TWIB.FM . Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+and Tumblr.