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Benedict Cumberbatch apologizes after calling black actors 'colored'

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In an apology for using the word “colored” to describe black actors in a recent interview, Benedict Cumberbatch said he makes “no excuse” for “being an idiot.”

“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. I can only hope this incident will highlight the need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive,” Cumberbatch said in a statement, which the Daily Mail printed in full. “The most shaming aspect of this for me is that I was talking about racial inequality in the performing arts in the UK and the need for rapid improvements in our industry when I used the term.”

PBS’s Tavis Smiley had asked Cumberbatch about British actors playing American roles and mentioned films like Selma and 12 Years a Slave, which star David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor, respectively. “I think, as far as colored actors go, it gets really difficult in the U.K., and I think a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here than in the U.K. and that’s something that needs to change,” Cumberbatch said. (The discussion starts at about the 22-minute mark.)

The Imitation Game Oscar nominee faced criticism on Twitter, and the organization Show Racism the Red said in a statement that while Cumberbatch “highlighted a very important issue,” “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 Show Racism the Red Card feel that the term ‘coloured’ is now outdated and has the potential to cause offence due to the connotations associated with the term and its historical usage.”

Following Cumberbatch’s apology, the organization tweeted:

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