What do you do when you use the term“coloreds” during a national broadcast interview and you happen to be a white man from the UK? You call yourself an idiot (porously) and apologize to no end.
Such is the case in the latest Hollywood “scandal” with beloved and talented actor Benedict Cumberbatch. He suffered a major malfunction when during his interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS, he referred to his black acting counterparts as “colored.’ Now before grab your signs and put your marching’s shoes on, take a look at what he actually said:
“As far as colored actors go, it gets really difficult in the UK,” the 12 Years a Slave actor said in the interview. “I think a lot of my friends have had more opportunities [in the U.S.] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change.”
In my humble opinion, Cumberbatch did not mean anything by what he said. He was actually trying to explain how wrong it is that there are still racial issues in the entertainment industry that affect us the way in which they do. In his heart of hearts, I believe his aim was to shed light on the inequality that plague actors of all ethnic backgrounds, he just used the wrong terminology to express himself.
Now, I am a Pisces so my first thought is to always give people the benefit of the doubt in situations. It has not always served me well in the past, but I have come a long way with knowing how to better judge a situation. With that, my first thought when I heard about this was, “Awww Bene, I know you really didn’t mean that, it’s okay.” But then I started to think about it more and one of the questions that I am left with is why did he use the terminology “colored.”
Cumberbatch is from the United Kingdom and I am not too familiar with how they speak in regards to us coloreds… ahem…I mean black folks, but I imagine based on what he said, that it is not anything pretty. The fact that the term is still in use further shows how much more we have to do as a global community to position black people to be seen as the assets, intelligent and beautiful human beings we are. People don’t just use a term like that for the sake of describing a person unless they use it on a daily, consistent basis; unless the people around them use it as such. Is Cumberbatch a racist? I don’t think so. Does he need a lesson on politically correct ways to refer to certain racial groups? Absolutely.
After the whole thing happened, Show Racism the Red Card, a U.K. anti-racism educational charity established in January 1996, called him out about the mishap. Since then, he has apologized nonstop. I mean, like nonstop, nonstop. The statement he put out reads like a monologue from a screenplay:
“I’m devastated to have caused offense by using this outmoded terminology. I offer my sincere apologies. I make no excuse for my being an idiot and know the damage is done.”
“I can only hope this incident will highlight the need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive. The most shaming aspect of this for me is that I was talking about racial inequality in the performing arts in the UK and the need for rapid improvements in our industry when I used the term.”
“I feel the complete fool I am and while I am sorry to have offended people and to learn from my mistakes in such a public manner please be assured I have.”
“I apologize again to anyone who I offended for this thoughtless use of inappropriate language about an issue which affects friends of mine and which I care about deeply.”
I appreciate his remorse; you can truly see that he is upset about his comments upsetting others. But, again, with my sitting down and thinking about it all is it enough? I know that he called himself an idiot and said how devastated he is, but that cannot take away how someone felt when they heard those words. The truth is, no matter how sweet Cumberbatch may seem to be or how kind he is, the media, when they get a hold of something like this, will take it and spin it anyway they can. He may have fallen victim to their way of doing business (because this may not be over with a simple apology) and if so, I hope he’s prepared for what’s to come.
Perhaps I am taking this too deeply and reading too much into it, but these are the things I wonder about. How can someone be so careless as to use such terminology? The real question, too, is does it really matter that he used it? I think that it does. What he said matters because it is a peek into the mindset of some people who still speak and think that way. Whether they mean any harm by it is not the case. It comes down to being cognizant of it before it happens so that it doesn’t happen.