South African singer Tyla has become one of the most prominent artists in 2023 with her hit single “Water.” However, the Johannesburg native recently became the center of a social media debate as Black Americans and South Africans argued the differences between “colored” and coloured” in their respective homelands.

What is Tyla's ethnicity?

The back-and-forth between Black Americans and South Africans began over the weekend when fans in the States were surprised that Tyla, born Tyla Laura Seethal, does not identify as a Black woman. Instead, according to Business Insider, the 21-year-old is considered “coloured,” a term used in South Africa to classify those of mixed race. Tyla is of Indian, Zulu, Mauritian and Irish descent.

According to Uproxx, race is viewed differently in South Africa than in the States. In America, race and Blackness go hand-in-hand since they are primarily determined based on the “one-drop rule,” having one Black ancestor and possessing facial traits that would otherwise label them as Black. Whereas in South Africa, race is recognized through apartheid with more of a European viewpoint.

Tyla’s South African fans defended her decision to be viewed as “coloured” on X, formerly known as Twitter, after a fan in the States tweeted a photo of the singer alongside rapper Travis Scott, insinuating that he had never been seen with a Black woman, per the Atlanta Black Star.

“Tyla is a COLOURED woman. Tyla does not identify as Black,” @EscaflowneClown wrote in response to the original tweet.

What does coloured mean? Tyla identifies as coloured.

The user’s remark sparked an ongoing debate between Black Americans and South Africans as “colored” and “coloured” hold different meanings in both countries. In South Africa, “coloured” isn’t viewed as a racial slur but a term to label mixed-race citizens. However, in America, “colored” was used to group all Black Americans who were enslaved people.

South African comedian Dillan Oliphant said in a video, “The world is bigger than you. Black Americans are not the main characters everywhere, the world is not a Tyler Perry movie. This is Tyla’s movie, and in Tyla’s movie she identifies as a coloured… You can’t erase a whole identity to suit your comforts. Don’t be like the people who took you to America.”

Here are additional reactions from fans of both sides who shared their thoughts on the racial differences in America and South Africa.