‘Mulatto’: Racial Slur or Socially Acceptable?

I was perusing the want-ads section for freelance projects when I stumbled upon an add calling for ”mulattas” to model in a local hair show. The title ”Azafatas Multatas para eventos 16, 17, 18 de Septiembre” caught my attention immediately and I clicked on the posting curious to know who was behind the advertisement. From what I could tell it was an afro-latino hair show calling for Cubanas, Columbianas and… mulattas.

Ouch!

There is that word again. I was taught that it was a “derogatory term that came into use during slavery when referring to the bi-racial offspring of African slaves and most often, their white European slave masters.” I was raised believing that mulatto was just as bad as the n word and to see it boldly written in a title for an ad was jarring, to say the least.

Anyone using that term in America would be liable to get smacked upside the head or at least a good tongue lashing, however here in Spain, and Latin America at large, mulatto is a socially acceptable term. I have had the word tossed at me a few times when discussing the possibility of future offspring with my Spanish novio. Conversations that went from cute and cuddly to terse when someone said mulatto babies.

‘What? Excuse me? Did you say, mulatto?‘ I said in my best educate them because they’re ignorate voice.

I explained that where I come from it’s not ok to use mulatto because of its historical usage in slavery times. I always received in return a fast rebuttal of ‘So sorry,  I had no idea but the term isn’t racist and in fact, it just refers to mixed-race people.’ Then, thats when I have to go even further and explain that most linguists or lexographers agree that the word “mulatto” comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word for mule, which is written the same way but pronounced moolay. Now knowing what a mule is, a cross between and horse and a donkey, the comparison is quite ugly. Most academics that have studied the origin of the word are quite certain that word has its roots in Spain’s  prominent role in the slave trade and their need to brand people based on the amount of white European blood running through their veins. These are same people that began the custom of patting the tightly curled afros of black children because it supposedly brought good luck.

So, what to do? Do I just let the word slide and get used to people using it in their lexicon. It was in job positing, for goodness sakes! Should I just grin and bear it when someone brings it up in context of my future kids? I can only imagine an extended in-law from my Spanish novio’s side of the family making some wise-crack about the cute little brown mulattos. Am I giving the word more power by hating it?

What do you think? Tell us your opinion on the use of “mulatto” in a comment below.

Last 5 posts by Espana Fly

  • Creole Kid

    They should be called creole, because that’s what they are. Creole Defined: is a mixed race person of either, European, African, Spainsh, Indian of French ancestery. Any mix of these races. In earlier years Blacks where called “N” words we now know that is wrong. Same goes to Mulatto’s. If you can’t call me white or black then call me Creole. Because my mom or my dad is neither horse or donkey nor do they look like one.

  • Tmoe

    Should have know it only came up, because he didn’t have a sister. Mulatto, mulatto, mulatto, ugh!

  • Roy Applewhite

    This word doesn’t sound “bad” like the “n” word. I am a Black American and it upsets me when other ethnicities use the “n” word around me as though I’m suppose to be accepting of this and it’s usually the younger generation using the “n” word so loosely in public. What aren’t we teaching the younger generation?? Their not being taught history at least “African American” history and RESPECTING others across the board. How did it get this bad?? Why aren’t parents being held accountable for their out of control and disrespectful children?? Americans we need to fix this. I’m done!!

  • AG

    I came here looking for verification. I recently got upset due to someone referring to me as a mulatto. This wasn’t the first time though. Just the most recent,lol. I have always hated that word. Placed it right up there with mixed/half breed and the “N” word. Yet, I will say…this article and the comments posted below has got me thinking. It said the word was derived from the Spanish for mule. I always said, “I’m not a mule!” Just like I’m not a BREED. I think I hate that one the most. Then reading that a mule is the offspring of a horse and a donkey. That saying whites are the horses and blacks are the donkeys. WOW! So I probably became a little more perturbed by that word after reading that. Then I scroll on down to the comments. I always love to read the comments to any article/conversation. I agree that by having to select one or the other, we have not been accounted for. It’s like we don’t even exist. Smh. Sure, they have it today where you can select EVERY race you are but it’s still not the same…kind of. I agree we are our own people and we shouldn’t have to pick one or the other. A lot of people overseas are ok with it. It’s not a racist term to them. I wonder…is the history of their country/Island similar? Or is it just strictly meaning “of mixed race”? It just makes you think. It’s always good to learn about other cultures and in our case, other nationalities around the world and how they view mixed race people. Ya’ll have opened my eyes a little.