Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Coloured people and People of Colour

Might as well join in with the Cumberbashing, as I've got nowt else better to do.

So today Benedict Cumberbatch is all over the news for a relatively innocuous slip up. I say innocuous, because it wasn't as bad as various other much worse things people have been saying recently (and say in real life every day), but it is of course still important to point out when people in the public eye use terminology that is offensive or inappropriate.

In this case, it can't be that offensive because all the newspapers have repeated the word he used: 'coloured', to refer to black actors who aren't getting the jobs they ought to. For context, this was until relatively recently the correct term to use, and grandparents are still apt to use it thinking it's the right word. However, either it was never right and now we know better, or else language has changed, because now it sounds really inappropriate and not at all the right word to use.

But ANYWAY even though clearly Cumberbatch was being a good person and pointing out racial inequality and calling for change, the media has stirred up a great big fuss over it (which I'm now contributing to, sorry) and people have got their knickers in a twist over 'political correctness gone mad'.


Firstly, this is not PC language. Or rather, it is, but only in the sense that PC means 'not being a dick'. It's really basic courtesy to not offend people more than you absolutely have to. If it's a simple matter of using a different word, that's not such a hardship. Secondly, it's not about deliberately finding new PC terms to use to deliberately make bigots' life harder. Language changes. Deal with it.

But I was wondering about the people complaining about overly-sensitive people getting offended by what they perceive as such a little thing. Probably some people were offended, but most do not appear to have been. There are not lots of people on the internet talking about boycotting his films, or even criticising him beyond a gentle reprimand. These people who are whinging about sensitive souls are saying we should consider his intentions, which were clearly good. This is true, we should do, but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't also politely point out that he should not use that language. After all, no matter that the word is not as offensive as 'the n-word'; the unnoticed undermining of a person's identity by the almost unnoticed use of language by lots of generally right-thinking people is as important as the idiots using obviously offensive slurs. If it goes under the radar, it's more likely to go unchallenged and become part of the way we think about things.

Anyway I don't know what my point was, really, beyond a general moan that PC language ought to be a good thing but is only ever used in a negative way.

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