Tyla Coloured

South Africans are constantly having to defend Tyla from US trolls. Image credit: X @Tylaaaaa

Is Tyla “coloured” or “black”? [Explainer]

Americans say she’s black, but Tyla like every other South African. insists she’s coloured. Here’s why there’s confusion.

Tyla Coloured

South Africans are constantly having to defend Tyla from US trolls. Image credit: X @Tylaaaaa

Tyla’s recent viral video sparked another debate between South Africans and Americans over the meaning of the word “coloured”.

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Fame and controversy tend to go hand in hand. For Tyla, who has experienced plenty of fame in the past few months, the controversy is starting to catch up – albeit through no fault of hers! Social media users from across the Atlantic Ocean have been engaged in fierce debate over what race the singer should call herself. The debate took place on X (FKA Twitter) where American users took exception with South Africans explaining to them that Tyla is coloured.

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In American diction, the term “colored” is a loaded word with historical context. In the Jim Crow era, the word was used as a racial slur to describe black people. With this in mind, Americans embraced “black” to describe African-American people of all shades, no matter how much or how little black ancestry was in their DNA.

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In South Africa, of course, “coloured” has a whole different meaning (and spelling). Coloured or Cape Coloured South Africans are a South African ethnic group whose ancestry has traces of Asian, European and Khoi/San roots.

Enter Tyla, who is a South African, coloured woman.

Americans have been triggered by the insistence that she is not black, by their definition and that she is coloured, by South Africa’s definition. As a result of the two different takes on the word, a cross-continental fight has broken out:


Remember what we said about fame and controversy? This might turn out to be Tyla’s first real saga in her young but flourishing pop career. Despite the tense nature of the discourse, the singer herself has refused to address the situation on social media. It might be unfair for a young adult to have to address an issue that has been a recurring tension point between Americans and South Africans in recent years.


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Tyla has made it clear in the past, however, that she firmly identifies as coloured and that fact has never been debated within our nation’s borders.