Op-Ed: British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is in hot water in the USA after using an outdated word to reference people of colour. Did he use the offensive 'N' word? No he did not. What he did say was coloured people and for that he is being dragged over the coals.
He used the "offensive" word on the PBS talk show Tavis Smiley last Wednesday. Tonight Monday he has issued an apology.
There should be no place for racism, sexism or many other 'isms' in our 21st Century societies but class and skin colour wars continue.
In India there is still a caste system with sections of that society looking down their nose at low caste individuals. In the UK there is still a class system although it is less in your face than years ago.
And sadly in many countries in the west racism continues in spite of laws to tackle such abuse.
But sometimes a person says something, perhaps just one word that is jumped on even though there may have been no bad intention.
Being politically correct is fine but any person can pretend to be that and mouth off out of public earshot.
What Cumberbatch did is a use a word commonly used in the UK in the 60s to describe a black person.
At that time calling a person of colour black would have caused offence. But after the black and proud movement took hold things changed.
Using the word coloured is crass but we have heard far worse.
He later apologised saying he was devastated to have caused offence. "I offer my sincere apologies.
"I make no excuse for being an idiot and know the damage is done."
He was also blasted on social media; on twitter typical tweets included ""Benedict Cumberbatch tries to stick up for black actors and then calls them 'coloured' #cringe."
Another tweeted ""Cumberbatch used term 'coloured' why does that not surprise me. To use this term suggest to me he has no black people as friends #outoftouch."
Maybe or maybe jet-lagged or maybe racist or maybe thoughtless; in truth we do not know.
The term was possibly deemed more offensive in the US than it would have been in the UK.
According to Sky News "The British anti-racism educational charity Show Racism the Red Card said: "Appropriate terminology differs from country to country; for example, we know that in some countries the term 'coloured' is still widely used, and that in the US the term 'people of colour' is quite common.
"During our work with young people in schools throughout England, we discuss appropriate language to use when describing people of different skin colours and backgrounds and explain why the term 'coloured' is no longer the best way to describe someone."
At age 38 Cumberbatch is a bit young to be using out dated terminology such as coloured and his timing was way off. He was discussing the need for more ethnic diversity in British acting when he made the blunder.
But I wonder if he is public humiliation was really necessary for saying "coloured"?
Ironic note: Remember the Benedict Cumberbatch colouring book? Whoops.