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Marlon Wayans defends Delta Goodrem photo

Comedian Marlon Wayans says labelling Australian singer Delta Goodrem 'the most unrhythmic white woman' in a photo posted online wasn't racist, and has hit back at his critics.

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In one of the more bizarre legal disputes to surface in Hollywood, African-American actor-writer-director Marlon Wayans is being sued for racial discrimination – by an African-American actor.

Pierre Daniel lodged his claim for damages arising from harassment, discrimination and retaliation on the basis of race in a Los Angeles court on August 25.

Racism claims: Marlon Wayans has been accused of discrimination due to his use of the n-word.

Racism claims: Marlon Wayans has been accused of discrimination due to his use of the n-word. Photo: AP

The case, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, stems from a tweet sent by Wayans on September 4, 2013 in which he compared Daniel to Cleveland Brown, a character from the animated television series Family Guy.

"Tell me this n---a don't look like … THIS N---a!!!" Wayans tweeted, pasting side-by-side images of Daniel and his supposed animated doppelganger.

In the statement of claim lodged with the court, Daniel's lawyers allege that the actor, who was employed on Wayans's movie A Haunted House 2, was "throughout his employment" subjected to "offensive and derogatory language regarding his race/national origin (African-American) by the producer of the film, Defendant Wayans", who repeatedly referred to him "as 'N---a', a derogatory term and racial slur used to refer to African-Americans".

The documents also allege that Daniel was mocked for having an afro, was repeatedly referred to as "Cleveland Brown", and subjected to eye-rolling and staring from Wayans. They also claim that "on numerous occasions, Defendant Wayans also ridiculed [Daniel] in the presence of other crewmembers as he would leer at [Daniel] and then begin laughing".

While those claims suggest Daniel might have a chance for a claim of workplace bullying, the racial discrimination tack would appear to represent more of a long shot.

While the use of the N-word is undoubtedly derogatory when uttered by white Americans, its usage within the African-American community is a more nuanced – and some would say vexed – proposition. The word – with its altered spelling – has been reappropriated as a marker of positive, rather than negative, identity since at least the 1960s and has exploded in popularity with the growth of the rap scene since the 1980s.

Daniel is seeking unspecified damages. Courts in the US have awarded as much as $US80 million ($86m) in cases where discrimination followed by retaliation has been proved.

The case arises just weeks after Marlon Wayans became embroiled in another race row after posting to social media a selfie taken at a Beyonce and Jay Z concert.

In the photo, Wayans looks askance while in the background Delta Goodrem can be seen with her hands in the air.

"Man I got the most UNRHYTHMIC WHITE WOMAN dancing next to me at the jay and bay concert," he said on Instagram. "This bitch dancing to AC/DC."  

Twitter: @karlkwin