The Word Mulatto
Yes I am mixed: black and white. Because of the way that I look there is not a week that goes by where someone does not ask what am I. They are asking about my nationality because I have a look that people of different nationalities can relate to. Even though I am mixed I have never really had an identity problem. I understand that some mixed children go through life not knowing where they fit in or what category they belong to. That was never really me. I have been accused of being too black, too white, not white enough and not black enough at different instances of my life which has always made me sit back and laugh. I do not feel defined by my races, never have, I am simply me a combination and culmination of my parents; plain and simple. I have been called a lot of things in my life Oreo, nun, newspaper, zebra grey girl. Basically anything that represents a combination of black and white I have been called. And there are many names that children of interracial relationships can be called by; mixed, bi-racial, multi-racial and the list goes on and on.
Being called all sorts of names makes it really easy for me to understand the concept that a word is just a word and I try not to give words any negative power. Sometimes that is not easy to do and it has taken a long time to feel this way. However, there is still one word that gives me problems to this day. This word just rubs me the wrong way every time I hear it. The word is Mulatto. The word Mulatto just hits a nerve every time I hear it and I have never liked the word from the first time I heard it. I still hear this word today and with children of interracial relationships such as Tiger Woods and President Barack Obama the word Mulatto has had somewhat of a resurgence. When I first heard the word Mulatto I had no idea what the word meant just the sound of it alone was ugly to me. Then when I finally was old enough to look up the meaning it just made me dislike that word even more. Mulatto is a derivative of the word Mule which is a hybrid/product of a donkey and a horse. When I was a little girl in the 1970s the dictionary definition actually included the word mule. Since then the dictionaries have been updated to say the product or offspring of one black/African American and one white/Caucasian parent. This definition is more to my liking although I still cannot get the word mule out of my head.
I do not believe that Mulatto was meant to be a hateful word but the very definition is something that I would not want to identify myself with. I understand that it is just a word and if I don’t give it the power it can’t hurt me. But the word has always sounded ugly to me even before I knew what it truly meant. Since the word is making a comeback I am trying to turn the image in my head around from negative to positive so that I do not shutter at the sound of the word every time I hear Mulatto.