South African Singer Tyla Sparks Online Debate After Stating That She Identifies As ‘Coulered’


South African Singer Tyla Sparks Online Debate After Social Media Users Discover She Identifies As “Coloured”: Our History Is Not Your History

Rising star/songstress Tyla recently threw social media into a frenzy.

After some of her Western fans found out that the singer identifies as a South African “coloured” woman instead of Black, many chimed in sharing their conflicted thoughts.


Reportedly the Johannesburg native, full name Tyla Laura Seethal, 21, referred to herself as “coloured” during a previous interview. Sharing about her musical influences, she reportedly stated:

“If you grew up in a Coloured home, you would know that I grew up listening to a lot of old school R&B [laughs] so that definitely has something to do with my sound.”

It doesn’t appear that Tyla has necessarily stated that she doesn’t consider herself a Black person, but using the term “coloured”, which notably includes a “u”, seems to have shocked many. The problem with social media users seems to come down to lack of understanding. Referring to a Black American person as “colored”, without the aforementioned “u”, in the US and other Western countries is widely understood to be a racial slur. The term was popularized during the post slavery Jim Crow error and was used to segregate and dehumanize Black citizens.

In South Africa, however, its reported that the term is used much differently, and describes a specific group of people who are mixed race. A South African journalist reportedly covered the matter earlier this year, explaining in an article:

“Coloured is a term that identifies a community who have cultivated a culture, language, and overall identity that wasn’t related to their segregation, but rather to identify the newly established community…Coloured” (again, with a u), was legally defined as a racial classification during South Africa’s apartheid, which lasted from 1948 until the early ’90s. It specifically refers to those who are neither white nor among Africa’s aboriginal groups. They are regarded as a separate race group in the country alongside those who identify as Black, white, and Indian. It does not have the same connotation as it does in America, where it does not feature a “u.” The community is incredibly diverse and doesn’t fit into America’s idea of racial binary.

Tyla has reportedly shared in the past that her ancestry includes Zulu, Indian, and Mauritian descent, which by South African definition, certainly puts her in the “coloured” category. However, the misunderstanding did cause quite the stir online. As the singer just recently rose to prominence in the West with her hit Tik Tok single “Water”, many expressed their frustration at the entertainer seeming to choose identifying as a racial slur over being Black.


Some criticized Tyla, arguing that she’ll be viewed by the world as a Black woman whether she likes it or not, and should be ok with it as her audience consists of many Black fans. Others, including both Black and South African users however, came to the artist’s defense. Many shamed those attempting to “erase” her ancestry for their comfort and urged people to get educated on the topic.

It doesn’t not appear that Tyla herself has spoken on the matter at this time.


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Authored by: Kay Johnson