On Benedict Cumberbatch: Weirdness and Wormholes

Originally published at Breaking Modern:

The actor Benedict Cumberbatch has apologized for using the word “colored” to refer to nonwhite actors. He’s 38 years old, and that term has been out of general usage for much longer than he has been alive. Where did he get this from? There has to be an explanation …


3 thoughts on “On Benedict Cumberbatch: Weirdness and Wormholes

  1. What Hairhead said. My husband emigrated from the UK 18 years ago and nearly bowled me over the first time I heard him say “coloured.” I’m not sure it’s actually gone out of vogue there. He still doesn’t quite get why “coloured people” is outre but “people of colour” isn’t.

    • Indeed, Elayne, the terms for black people have repeatedly changed since I was a kid. My mother chastised me my first day of first grade in 1968 for repeating that my classmates were excited about the prospect of seeing “colored kids” in our new school – I was very sad when my fantasy of blue and green and orange children didn’t materialize. For a hot second, roughly 1969 and 1970, the term Afro-American was bandied about as the term of choice. “Black” had a nice long run but now African-American history much replaced it, with as you note the little side term “people of color,” which I find a little uncomfortable.
      Generally speaking, I adhere to the policy that people are entitled to be called whatever the hell they want. Sometimes it takes a bit of work.

  2. There’s a really simple reason.

    He’s English. “Coloured” (note the “u”) remained in use in England for decades longer than it did in the US, as England didn’t have dozens of bloody race riots in the ’60’s which raised people’s consciousness.

    And don’t bother making remarks about, “Didn’t they watch the TV about everything happening in America?” England, and English people, remain shockingly insular in a number of ways.

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