Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch is in hot water after he referenced black actors as “colored” during an interview with PBS talk show host, Tavis Smiley. Benedict quickly issued an apology, however, and called himself “an idiot” for having used the word to describe actors of African descent.
In the interview, Cumberbatch told Smiley “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 the US] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change.” The irony is that Cumberbatch was offering his opinion on how minorities are oppressed in Hollywood and how that needs to be addressed.
Cumberbatch was quick to acknowledge his offensive language and he later told People Magazine that there was “no excuse for my being an idiot.”
“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.”
It was acknowledged by the British anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card that his overall sentiment was admirable and that “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. Show Racism the Red Card feel that the term ‘coloured’ is now outdated and has the potential to cause offence due to the connotations associated with the term and its historical usage.”
While it may be unfortunate that Benedict Cumberbatch’s message was usurped by his unfortunate choice of words, his fans were overall supportive of him and did not feel that Cumberbatch was overtly racist, but rather that the term was a product of a certain ‘mindset’ in some circles.
It should be noted that the term “colored” is rooted in racism and slavery and that it is offensive because of how far back the term goes. Nevertheless, this incident will surely be used to illustrate how the subject of racism and the terminology of slavery are closely related.
Benedict Cumberbatch is a Hollywood heavyweight, and it is most likely that this will blow over in time, especially in light the heartfelt apology by Cumberbatch. It is important that in his interview with Smiley, Benedict Cumberbatch noted that the U.S. is way ahead of the U.K. in terms of affording actors of all ethnicities opportunity and that Britain needs to change along with the U.S.
Do you think Benedict Cumberbatch is really a racist, or is he receiving unfair criticism?