Benedict Cumberbatch Used the Word “Colored” to Describe Black Actors, Apologized Immediately

Would we call this a Cumberblunder?

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One PBS’s Tavis Smiley, the actor discussed issues of diversity in Hollywood. It’s, thankfully, something which has been talked about a lot recently due to the representation we’re seeing at awards shows, what the award shows themselves think of it, and other actors being very vocal on the topic.

The topic began when Cumberbatch and Smiley were joking about British actors, and then specifically black British actors like David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor “taking jobs,” meaning acting jobs, in the United States. But when the discussion turned more serious, Cumberbatch used an outdated term to refer to people of color.

“I think as far as colored actors go, it gets really difficult in the UK, and I think a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the U.S.] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change.” He went on to say, “Something’s gone wrong, we’re not being representative enough in our culture of different races and that really does need to step up a pace.”

The actor using the term angered many, though Smiley himself tweeted in defense of Cumberbatch after the fact:


Cumberbatch also released this statement of apology by way of People Magazine:

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 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.

I was certainly shocked to hear the actor use the term in the first place and it seems he was as well. As far as apologies go, this is a pretty great example of how to write one. What do you think?

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

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Jill Pantozzi
Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."