When in Doubt, Say No

One day in junior high, while standing in the cafeteria line, a girl from my class opened the conversation by asking me, "Are you mulatto?"
"No!" I answered, with disdain and disgust, not knowing what she was talking about but not wanting to admit to being something weird.
"Oh, ok." 
End of conversation but not the end of me wondering: what in the heck is mulatto?!
It cracks me up to think about what she must have thought after that little chat. Either, oh, you're black. Or, oh, you're white. Or, oh, you're a mess!
Obviously, I now know what she meant, which is good because similar versions of that question come up at least once a quarter. But to me, asking someone if they're mulatto shows a level of ignorance equal to asking a white person if they're a honky or an Asian if they're a Jap. Originally, mulatto meant white mixed with some other stuff, including something Latin. Today, urbandictionary.com defines mulatto as a person with one black parent and one white and "they are usually very attractive because they are the perfect blend..." And then there's the myth of the tragic mulatto - a mixed person who is lost, mixed up and even suicidal because they hate the black in themselves. 
I am none of these things. There's no Latino grandma in the closet, neither of my parents is just black or just white, and I am not lost. I'm mixed, but not mixed up.
So, if my little school friend were to ambush me with that same question today, while my tone would differ, my answer would be the same.

1 comment:

  1. See, I always took offense because of the mule connotations... Any way you slice it.