Tyla Sparks Pointless Debate Over Race & Identity On X

Tyla, a rising South African singer with one of this year’s biggest hits, is known as coloured in her homeland, a term that is widely used to describe people of mixed heritage.  In the United States, the term “colored” has a checkered racist past, thus sparking an unnecessary debate between the nations on social media.

Tyla, 21, is riding the wave of her massive hit “Water,” which has sparked dancing trends, covers from other artists, and an interest in what the Johannesburg native will do next. With the rise of the song and Tyla’s ethnicity becoming a topic of discussion, the term coloured has struck a nerve among some of the singer’s stateside fans.

Based on our quick study of the term, coloured South Africans are a wide tapestry of mixed races that include groups from Asia, Europe, and Africa. Further, coloured is seen as a racial classification in South Africa simply meant to designate those individuals who are both not white or from one of the aboriginal groups across Africa.

The current debate over the term isn’t new. Since the rise of Tyla’s “Water” single and American fans learning more about the artist, some were shocked to learn that coloured was an actual thing in modern times. During times of slavery, “colored” was an attempt to otherize Black slaves and spread further division.

This discussion is playing out again on X, formerly Twitter, with some American fans stating that Tyla should be referred to as Black while others from her country are pushing back to say that her choice to be seen as coloured should be respected.

The back-and-forth over Tyla and the word coloured is still bubbling although we’re still struggling to see why. That said, we’ve got reactions from all sides below.

Photo: @tyla / Instagram

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