Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mulatto or Mixed-Race?

Part One of a two part series on "Mulatto." Part Two is the site's first video blog.

Christina Simon: 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’. I’ve only been asked if I’m ‘mulatto’ a few times in my life. 

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, who is white, thought the term was offensive and wanted my opinion. I told her I think it’s outdated and racist. 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.

Issues of race are too complex, too nuanced, for me to tell anyone else what words to use to describe themselves.

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

See Part Two

Christina Simon is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles.” She also writes the blog, about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and the ups and downs as life as a private school mom. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Christina lives in Los Angeles with her husband and kids. She has a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an M.A. from UCLA. Christina has written recent guest blog pieces for Mamapedia, BlogHer Syndication, Open Salon (Edior’s Pick Front Page), The Mother Company, The Well Mom, Reading Kingdom, Girls Lunch Out, Front Page of Divine Caroline, The Twin Coach, A Child Grows In Brooklyn, ecomom, Power of Moms, The Culture Mom, Diary Of A Mixed (Up) Kid, Sane Moms and Macaroni Kids.See Part Two


  1. I've been doing my family history & looking on old census records and for race for my grandmother's siblings & her father in 1920 (my grandma wasn't born yet)they were M, which meant Mulatto.
    It's funny cause I told some of my grandma's siblings that are alive today that their family were mulatto's and they didn't even know what that term meant. But that's what they were classified as. But in their mind they were just black. Back then the one drop rule stuck.
    It is very outdated term, it's like calling a black person a Negro.

  2. I like mulatto for myself. I treat it like a compliment.

  3. Yeah. There are so many shades to the word. Some people like it, others don't. It being outdated can either seem offensive or sort of groovy and old school.