Poor old Benny Cumberbatch…him and his big old posh, ex slave owning gob.
Actually I feel for the bloke. Trying to do his best for British actors of colour and he gets the metaphorical shit kicked out of him by the terminally offended.
He made the silly ‘mistake’ of saying he thought as that “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,”
Boo fucking hoo…he used and (and I quote) an “outdated term” to describe people of a particular ethnicity.
His heart and intention were in the right place but in a society that has a victims commissioner that is just not good enough.
He has to offer an apology.
Does he say “I am sorry for having referred to ‘coloured’ people”…no he does not.
He doesn’t actually apologise for using the outmoded term. yesterday he released this statement-
“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.”
He apologised for the causing of offence not the use of a naughty word….good man! Even better would have been to not apologise – it just encourages those who enjoy the frisson of being offended to find more ways to find their fix.
I accept that language evolves…it has to to be a living language but the evolution of terminology is something specific; something based around being ‘in’ or ‘out’.
Growing up in the seventies ‘coloured’ was still the right word to use…it made one ‘better’ ‘morally superior’ to those who came before or who were lagging behind with negro…wog….nig nog…. yanno…I’m not sure what my parents called black people. I know my ex husbands grandfather who was something important in the colonial service somewhere in Africa likened Haile Selassie to a monkey just down from a tree having just met the geezer… but given the historical context I doubt he was far out of line at the time.
Then after coloured came black…sometimes Black…. and if you used that instead of coloured it sort of felt hip and right on and meant you’d probably watched ‘Roots’ as a kid, read ‘The Colour Purple’ at sixth form and had a black friend or two at Uni.
Black as terminology has lasted quite a long time…. most of us and the mainstream press are still using it; but look beyond that to where the need to feel hipper and more ‘in’ than the average bear lies…. in activism, in academia, in opinion pieces by young up and coming Guardianistas. Places where the push for change are sharpest and you will find a more encompassing ‘people of colour’ being used. It’s an umbrella term as far as I know for people of all minority ethnicities and has been used in the States for quite a while. Here in the UK it is on the creep – I’ve certainly been told I should use it because it is less dehumanising.
Coloured people (like disabled people, or trans people or any other sort of people apart from white, middle class men) have to be people first and their defining feature second… so people of colour (people of black obviously didn’t work) people with disabilities, people of trans history…. you see the difference?
I can… and I know that the unspoken rules allow me to make pious judgements on the language (and therefore assumed underlying belief systems) those of you who are still saying “who…wha…the fuck?!?”
This isn’t evolution of language…well it is…. but it’s based on a nasty moral superiority of point scoring and it goes hand in hand with the insidious passive aggression of ‘finding offence’….most often found where no offence was intended and quite often when some poor bloke with his heart in the right place says something pertinent in regards to the plight of some group he has no ‘right’ to be speaking on behalf of and therefore needs taking down a peg or two.
He’s posh… his family used to own slaves…. he’s white…he’s male…. how very DARE he say something sensible… quick…find the offence….ooooooh…coloured…. nobody who’s had anything to do with political activism since Roots was on the telly uses THAT bad word….WAH…WAH…..WAH….WAH….WAH (thats the offence alarm going off).
He must apologise or we won’t watch his films… we’ll boycott him and his niggardly** use of terminology and very likely ‘no platform’ him in Universities across the land and he’ll ever more be known as THE RACIST ACTOR (Note…. not the man who is an actor who is racist).
So Mr Cumberbotch issues a non apology for a non event and we all settle back down until the next time…
….but we can either go with the flow or against it… we can either all change our language to stop offence being taken – but I’m not sure that’s going to work because victimhood is fairly entrenched as an ethos in society now and the victims commission like the witchfinder general has to keep finding witches or they are out of a job.
Or we can just say enough is enough. Look at the intent behind the words as a whole…I know its tricky. It’s almost as tricky as understanding that bad sex that you didn’t want isn’t necessarily rape because the definition of the ‘offence’ is bigger than the belief of just one person. Both people have to have a particular mental position for rape to have legally occurred – and so it should be for ‘offence’. You may have TAKEN offence but if there’s a jolly good chance the person really didn’t mean to offend you may as well crawl back under your cotton wool mound and make sure the world stays a good fluffy distance away from you.
PS. Is this blog meant to be offensive? Damn tooting it is…but please do try to find it offensive for the reasons I have chosen as opposed to the reasons you decide….and either way. You won’t get an apology because I too am offended.
** I’ve actually seen people take racial offence over the word niggardly… which as any fule knos has absolutely no links to the word nigger. In my book someone so desperate to find offence is no better than the mob of idiots who stormed the home of a paediatrician because they were incapable of reading further than the first syllable of a word.