Mulatto or Mixed-Race?

In an ongoing series on mixed-race identity, The New York Times reports that the term ‘mulatto’ is making a comeback among 20-somethings.

As a 40-something, I despise the term ‘mulatto’ and consider it offensive. The history of the word stems from our country’s legacy of slavery and racism when mixed-race people who were any part African American were ‘mulatto’.

Recently, a friend emailed me because she got a request from a major television network that was looking to cast ‘mulatto’ twin infants in a TV show. My friend thought the term was offensive and wanted my opinion. I told her I think it’s outdated and racist. I’ve only been asked if I’m ‘mulatto’ a few times in my life. My friend politely emailed the casting associate and told her the term was offensive. Clueless, the girl said she’d looked it up on Wikipedia.

I understand some people think using a word takes away its power, rendering it less potent. Some African Americans think it’s acceptable to use the ‘N’ word among friends or in music lyrics. I respectfully disagree.

Racism is too complicated for me to tell anyone else what words to use to describe themselves or others.

Just don’t call me ‘mulatto’.  I’m mixed. 


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