In Brief

Benedict Cumberbatch: I'm an idiot for 'coloured' remark

Actor apologises for causing offence after referring to black actors as 'coloured' on US talk show

British actor Benedict Cumberbatch has apologised after using the term "coloured" to refer to black actors.

Cumberbatch, star of Sherlock and the Imitation Game, made the remark during an American TV discussion about diversity in British acting.

"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," he said on PBS's Tavis Smiley show.

Cumberbatch went on to say: "Something's gone wrong, we're not representative enough in our culture of different races and that really does need to step up a pace."

His comments sparked an immediate reaction on Twitter, with some praising the sentiment of his argument, but criticising his choice of words as outdated and offensive.  

Twitter user Third Man Films wrote "Did Benedict Cumberbatch just use the 'Coloured' word? Where is he from the 1950's???" Another wrote: "Benedict Cumberbatch tries to stick up for black actors and then calls them 'coloured' #cringe".

And ITV presenter Charlene White tweeted: Benedict Cumberbatch on lack of opps for black actors in UK. For me tho, undermined by him calling them "coloured"...

Others came to the Cumberbatch's defence. Scottish writer Irving Welsh wrote: "Maybe not the appropriate term to use but if anybody thinks this guy is a racist they need their heads examined."

The Daily Telegraph reports that Anti-racism charity Show Racism the Red Card His applauded Cumberbatch for his overall message, but condemned the actor's use of the word "coloured" to refer to people from ethnic minorities. The charity said the "the term 'coloured' is now outdated and has the potential to cause offence due to the connotations associated with the term and its historical usage"

Cumberbatch was perhaps his own harshest critic. He issued a statement saying: "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."

Still, the Daily Mail couldn't resist pointing out that the actor's slip was "troubling" given that his family history was connected to slavery. It referred to a story it published last year describing how the Cumberbatch family had owned a plantation in Barbados two centuries ago, the proceeds of which had trickled down to pay for the actor's private school education.

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