Colored people's time (also abbreviated to CP time or CPT) is an American expression referring to African Americans as frequently being late. It states that African Americans can have a relaxed or indifferent view of work ethic, which leads to them being labeled as lazy or unreliable.
According to NPR's podcast Code Switch, the phrase has variations in many other languages and cultures, is often used as a light-hearted comment or joke regarding being late, and may have first been used in 1914 by The Chicago Defender newspaper.
In popular culture
The expression has been referenced numerous times in various types of media, including the films The Best Man, Bamboozled, Undercover Brother, Let's Do It Again, House Party and several television series: The Mindy Project, Prison Break, The Boondocks, The Wire, Weeds, Where My Dogs At?, Reno 911!, 30 Rock, Everybody Hates Chris, A Different World, The PJs, Bridezillas, Mad TV, Cedric the Entertainer Presents, In Living Color, Empire, F is for Family, and reality series The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
In the Maude episode Florida's Problem (season 1, episode 18), which aired on February 13, 1973, Henry Evans (who later becomes James Evans Sr. on Good Times) says to Florida, "I'm coming back at 9:00, and I mean 9:00 WPT." He leaves and Maude asks Florida, what's "WPT"? Florida responds "White People Time. If he didn't mean 9:00 sharp he would have said CPT. That's Colored People Time. Which means 'shuffle on in when you feel like it'".
In The Wire season 3 episode 8 "Moral Midgetry", when Devonne asked Marlo Stanfield when he wants to meet, Marlo responded, "Five. And five mean five. I don't truck CP Time. Five and change; I'm gone." The mention of "CPT" in the television series Prison Break was by the white supremacist character Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell.
In the Black Jeopardy sketch aired during the March 29, 2014 episode of Saturday Night Live, host Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson) says upon the sound of the final bell, "As usual, we started late." On an episode of The Neighborhood aired October 22, 2018, "CP Time" was mentioned and assumed by the main characters to mean "Cool People's Time".
Colored People's Time was used as the name of a 1960s public interest program produced by Detroit Public Television and of a 1980s play written by Leslie Lee, the latter of which consisted of 13 vignettes of African American history from the Civil War through the Montgomery bus riots. CP Time was also a 2007 book by J. L. King.
In his 1982 book Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., author Stephen B. Oates notes that Martin Luther King Jr. and his staff operated by what they jocularly called "CPT"—Colored People's Time—"and kept appointments with cheerful disregard for punctuality".: 280 King once apologized for being late for a banquet, saying he forgot what time he was on—EST, CST, or Colored People's Time, adding that "It always takes us longer to get where we're going.": 328
In April 2016, in a staged joke skit done for charity, Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio said he was on "C.P. time" for not previously endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. Leslie Odom Jr. then said he did not like the joke. After that Clinton delivered the punch line that it was supposed to mean "cautious politician time". This was criticized as racist and tasteless. In response to this, President Barack Obama, during the 2016 White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 30, jokingly apologized for being late because of "running on C.P.T.", adding that this stands for "jokes white people should not make".
In February 2018, Roy Wood Jr. presented a segment on The Daily Show called "CP Time" to celebrate Black History Month by "honoring the unsung heroes of black history". It has since become a recurring segment on the show.
- Baratunde Thurston (2010-02-23). "Black History Month: An Explanation of CP Time by Your Very Delayed Guest Book Editor". HuffPost. Retrieved 2020-06-22.
- Nikki Lynette (2009-12-03). ""CP Time": Does my Black race indicate I'll always be late? | Becoming Nikki Lynette". Chicagonow.com. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- "A Geography of Time". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- "Valerie June On Learning To Love 'Perfectly Imperfect' Voices : The Record". NPR. 2013-08-09. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
- Feliks Garcia. "Hillary Clinton under fire for participating in racially charged joke | Americas | News". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- "'Sorry, Hillary, I was running on CP time'; Backlash over NYC may". Torontosun.com. 2016-04-09. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- Judith H. Katz, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. "Aspects and Assumptions of Whiteness and White Culture in the United States". Retrieved 2020-07-15.
- Adam Howard. "Bill de Blasio's 'colored people's time' joke comes at a bad time". MSNBC.com. Retrieved 2016-04-13.
- T.J. Holmes (14 March 2014). "Black Stereotype: C.P. Time Is Not a Myth - The Root". The Root. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- "Running Late? Nah, Just On 'CPT'". NPR.org. November 23, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
- "These behaviors are more commonly associated with the monochronic world view". www2.pacific.edu. Retrieved 2019-05-15.
- Cooper, Hal (1973-02-13), Florida's Problem, Internet Movie Database, retrieved 2016-04-12
- Solange – Binz, retrieved 2022-05-16
- Lee, Leslie (1983), Colored People's Time, ISBN 0-573-61894-1
- King, J. L. (2007), CP Time: Why Some People Are Always Late
- Oates, Stephen B. (1982). Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr (paperback ed.). ISBN 9780862418373.
- "Hillary Clinton, Bill de Blasio criticized for race-based joke". CBS News. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
- President Obama COMPLETE REMARKS at 2016 White House Correspondents' Dinner. C-SPAN. April 30, 2016. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21 – via YouTube.
- The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (28 December 2018). "CP Time with Roy Wood Jr. - 2018 Episodes". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 22 June 2020.