Sorry, what was it you were actually trying to say Mr Cumberbatch? It seemed important.

* This an opinion piece I felt compelled to write. It is not a post about single parenting, but I suppose it could be.

Recently, a talented British actor named Benedict Cumberbatch referred to a group of people as ‘coloured’. Ironically (I’ll explain in a minute), he was defending this particular group of people against some kind of oppression in the acting industry.

A day later the PC media police from the world over were flick-flacking around in swoon-inducing vexation. To be honest, I’m not sure what the actual message was that the poor man was trying to convey, because (here’s the irony) it got lost in the fire and brimstone stoking sea of chanting voices across the internet, vilifying him for a single, apparently outdated choice of word.

Coloured.

Anyway, a day later there he was in all his pale Britishness, mortified, red-faced and calling himself an idiot. You can’t help but love that truly self-deprecating nation, can you?

But frankly, I don’t see the balance in being called ‘coloured’ or an ‘idiot’. Had he used the word idiot instead of coloured, then sure, tar and feather the man in the town square I say, internet metaphorically of course which is damn near close enough to the real thing. But honestly, aren’t there enough real intentionally racist, sexist, misogynistic quotes being said by people who actually mean them to have fits of rage about?

I know the dreadful, shameful history associated with the word, but he very clearly wasn’t using it in that context and there is just no pretending that he could have been.

So can everyone with a keyboard just take a seat, calm down and stop throwing bottles at the guy sweeping the stage?

Now I understand that no one has time, especially when confronted by the press to whip out a smartphone and google the latest PC wording for “a person with darker skin colour than a white persons” mainly because almost every PC term in the world is updated more often than AccuWeather. Also I can see that that in itself could be seen as rather un-PC because I suppose it could be read in a way that means “everyone else except white people”, which is not at all what I meant, but hopefully that leads you neatly to my point.

Should I be terribly offended the next time I am called white? Because the bottom half of me is so pale you won’t find it against the current snow in the north. The top half get a fair amount of African sun from driving around in short sleeves a lot and standing outside glass doors waiting for the employees of the traffic department to finish their lunch. Therefore, over time it has ‘coloured’ more than the rest of me. Also though, my skin is tainted with freckles. If you had to join them all up I would have a patch the size of the Karoo and just as brown on me. One more thing, I have terrible circulation, and I love hot showers. So my feet and hands are blue most of the time except when I get out of the shower. Then they are as red as that ball in the centre of the flag ‘o Japan.

Honestly, if he were describing the likes of me, in context, coloured is a much closer fit. Unless he is only describing one half of me. Then I guess he would be justified in saying ‘white’.

At the risk of reiterating a very important but tired cliché that no one takes any notice of – now that you have an overview of the outside of me, what does it tell you about the inside? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Where on the scale of Ted Bundy and Mother Teresa am I? It gives you no idea does it? But an attack on a person’s character is a whole other matter compared to unintentionally using a less than choice word to describe a person’s aesthetics.

Moreover, if a genuine, known-to-be-a-good person of any colour at all stands up on a public platform to defend me, or anyone else with a history of societal oppression against any form of inequity, and happens to call me ‘barely toasted on the one side’ as opposed to say, a redneck, how would I respond? I’d like to think I would just thank him profusely for speaking out on injustice on my behalf, not his mind you, and for having my pale, freckled back on that one.

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2 thoughts on “Sorry, what was it you were actually trying to say Mr Cumberbatch? It seemed important.

  1. Carla godfrey says:

    brilliant – absolutely brilliant . You write sooo incredibly well – what a great “peace” or should i say piece on the state of the nation !

  2. nickyhster says:

    Months later but I just saw this… I am coloured, and I WANT to be referred to as coloured. I don’t want to be “non-white” because that is far far worse. Just recently, I saw a post on our neighbourhood watch page, describing two “charlie” males. Why can’t they just say coloured?? I’m more offended by that than if they had just said coloured, and it seriously annoyed me.

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