Benedict Cumberbatch has got into some hot water after referring to black actors as “coloured” during an interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS a few days ago. The Oscar nominated actor used the phrase during a debate about the diversity problems that black British actors face in the UK compared to the US, which he argued has been more open to casting them.
“I think as far as coloured actors go, it gets really different in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in America] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change.”
After uproar from certain quarters, the actor who got a lot of critical praise for his portrayal of gay mathematician Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, tendered his apology saying he had been an idiot. In his statement Cumberbatch said:
“I’m devastated to have caused offence 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 U.K. 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.””
Anti-racism charity, Show Racism the Red Card, were among the many who understand that the actor was being sympathetic, even as they do decried his poor choice of words. A spokesperson for them told the Independent:
“Benedict Cumberbatch has highlighted a very important issue within the entertainment industry and within society. In doing so, he has also inadvertently highlighted the issue of appropriate terminology and the evolution of language.”
They added that the organisation feels the term “has the potential to cause offence due to the connotations associated with the term and its historical usage”.
According to the Guardian, Cumberbatch has previously been embroiled in the race conversation when last year, Stacey Cumberbatch, the city commissioner in New York, told the New York Times "that she believed Cumberbatch’s fifth great-grandfather had owned her ancestors, who were held at a sugar plantation in Barbados."
The actor has spoken about his family’s past as slave owners and revealed that his mother once advised him to not use his name professionally in case of reparations claims by the descendants of slaves.
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