Many people weren't too happy that Cumberbatch used such an outdated and offensive term, which was probably the exact word his family used when they owned slaves. After receiving backlash,Cumberbatch did issue an apology for his ignorance:
I'm devastated to have caused offense by using this outmoded terminology. 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.
While speaking with a British friend, I asked him how common was it for the word "colored" to be used by others in his country. And unfortunately, it is still all too common, especially by older people. While Cumberbatch may have apologized for his slip of the tongue, one has to realize that the U.K. is just about as post-racial as the U.S. There are words that people refuse to let go that have been ingrained for centuries. In the words of Whitney and Bobby, "We got something in common."