Tragicmulattoes's Blog

May 21, 2010

Mixed Race Mixed Logic

Filed under: mulatto misconceptions — tragicmulattos @ 1:25 am
Tags: , , ,

This blog will not be easy for certain types of people to digest. I knew that going in, but I felt like their was a void in the blogosphere-an omission of truth that needed to be addressed. I hope this blog is filling that void.

I am NOT against the mulatto/mixed race/biracial identity.

I am against the anti-black subtext that permeates their rhetoric. I am against the black-blaming that is nearly ALWAYS implied by mulatto activist when trying to explain the sorry state of mulatto identity development. I am against the ideological ambiguity and fence-riding. I am against cowardice.

It is rare that I encounter a blog free of one of my aforementioned gripes. Recently, I came across a post by TheMulatto entitled Mulatto and African American Coexistence. I thought, “this could be good”.

Spoke to soon.

I *think* the point of this post is to opine that African-American is a broad category that includes people of distinct races, therefore mulattos are African Americans but they are not Black. I wish I could summarize why this post is ridiculous, but it’s so purposefully confusing and opaque, I decided to just pull out the parts that I find “innerestin'”

The problem with the African-American label is that it has become synonymous with black and only with black to the degree that the two words are used interchangeably. To be African-American is to be black, but to be African-American is also to be an American of African ancestry; and the two explanations are not the same despite many people assuming it is.

Where do I begin? This blogger clearly has little if any knowledge of the history of the term “African American”. It is inherently meant specifically for Black people. To be even more specific, it is particularly meant for Black people who are indigenous to the American political construct-the BLACK descendants of African Slaves in the United States. Therefore it is true-not all Blacks are African American (by it’s classic definition, though some Black immigrants and their descendants come to identify culturally as African American), but all African Americans are Black. And no matter what Charlize Theron or Teresa Heinz identify as, the term African American will NEVER apply to their children. One must be Black identified to be African American. And like the number of Whites who express disdain for the label by claiming “we’re all African”. I politely remind them, “not my kind of African”.

A self-identified mulatto is, by virtue of the primacy of the mulatto identity, “HALF African American”. Not African American. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. An African American of mixed heritage (Jasmine Guy) is African American/Black, as that is her primary style of identification. The term African American is a DIRECT result of Black political consciousness and Pan Africanism. While some Blacks in America do not identify with the term, those who DO understand that, like the mulattos struggling to name themselves and claim their own identity, Blacks needed to name themselves with the same dignity and consideration that others afforded their history. And the key point is that they needed to finally *name themselves*. African American is a contemporary concept for contemporary Blacks. Black folks would have died of laughter if you mentioned the term 100 years ago.

This is why many people believe that identifying as Mulatto is an attempt to deny one’s blackness and connection to the black community, an attempt to escape racism or discrimination. This belief has been crucial in keeping countless Mulattoes in a state of self-hate and ignorance regarding who they truly are.

So if someone self-identifies with one race, they are automatically ignorant and self hating? The hypocrisy knows no bounds….

The reality of the situation is that Mulattoes and blacks both share the African-American label because, despite a few differences, both have a shared history of slavery and oppression. However, sharing the African-American label is not the same as assuming that Mulattoes and blacks are both part of one race, or that both are one and the same. The African-American label doesn’t erase the existence of Mulattoes, to the dismay of many.

I wonder who these “dismayed many” are…I digress.

Slavery and oppression are only a component of the African American identity. After all, there are those who identity fully and solely as White who have Black ancestry. Ancestry is part of it. Who are you TODAY as a result of that past-is what matters. The “black when I feel like it” rhetoric is present here. Black people know they are Black because of what they experience TODAY. It’s MUCH MORE than a collective memory. If it doesn’t apply to you, that’s okay too.

We must change the word African-American from exclusively meaning black, so that Mulattoes can feel free identifying with who they truly are without threatening and/or denigrating our black brothers and sisters.

At the very least, rest assure that identifying as Mulatto doesn’t mean the end of the African-American identity, doesn’t mean the end of the African-American cohesion, doesn’t mean that it’s an attempt to escape from our shared and sad past.

An American Mulatto is an African-American, but an African-American can be either black or Mulatto. It has always been like this at the biological level, it’s now time that we accept this reality at the social and psychological level as well.

I’ve never gotten the sense that mulattoes were trying to escape their past. Now the present…I’m not so sure. These identities are much more steeped in the world we live in NOW, not a shared ancestry. And let’s not pretend there aren’t perceived (and sometimes real) advantages to a “not-quite-black” identity.

If you are only “half Black” (biologically, socially and psychologically) why do you want to be African American anyway? Why aren’t you Euro-Afro American or something more “accurate”? Why appropriate what Black people have theorized, invented, and claimed for themselves? That appropriation sounds like a “threat” to me.



  1. “I am NOT against the mulatto/mixed race/biracial identity.

    I am against the anti-black subtext that permeates their rhetoric. I am against the black-blaming that is nearly ALWAYS implied by mulatto activist when trying to explain the sorry state of mulatto identity development.”


    I find it pretty irritating. It seems they heap all the blame on blacks and suck up to whites. I can feel the hostility and animosity they have towards blacks and I find it pretty disconcerting. Maybe they don’t mean it to be that way, but it sure seems that way.

    Good post.

    Comment by Natasha W — May 25, 2010 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

    • Natasha,

      We are related through Phebe Lew. Hope to contact you.


      Comment by Charles — February 24, 2012 @ 1:15 am | Reply

  2. I just want to say that I am an African American of mixed decent. My father had an afro and would be considered mulatto. My mother has blond hair and blue eyes. I consider myself to be mulatto even though I’m so mulatto that I look like a white boy. My ancestors (on the black side) fired the first shots of the American revolution and my great grand father (on the black side) broke the color barrier in pro basketball back in 1902. I am a Lew even though my mother never married my dad and I have her last name. I feel a little out of place no matter where I am but I always feel at home in this country that my ancestors (who were African American) helped to make free. My skin looks fair but I am very much an African American both in my blood that is blue and in my struggle to find a common bond with the melting pot of people and culture in this country. Before there were states my family was of mixed decent. Primus married Margret Lew also know as Margret the mulatto and took her sir name after buying his own freedom with the money he made fighting in the french and Indian war, before the Lews fired at British troops on there farm in Chelmsford at the beginning of the American revolution. Look up Barzillai Lew my great great great great great Grandfather. Does the fact that over the generations a bit of melanin has evaded my chemistry make me any less a descendant of these great people with African ancestry? As I live this life in search of the truth I cannot ignore that the deeds of many African Americans have been underplayed if not written out of history all together. Have you ever heard of Gilbert Stuart? The man who painted George Washington as seen on the dollar bill. Well Mr. Stuart also painted a portrait of Barzillai Lew Jr. my great great great great grand uncle. The portrait is thought to be the first portrait of an African American in the states even though some would say he was mulatto. Gilbert Stuart by the way a man who painted the president as seen on our currency died in the streets of Boston with out a penny to his name. Could it be that the powers of the time were punishing him for painting that portrait of Barzillai Lew Jr. Which is now on display at the state house. For me to say as a mulatto descendant of these great people that I am not an African American would be to deny the great ancestry that I am so proud of and to make light the struggle for equality that lead to me being born free, a son of the revolution.

    Comment by Paul McGarry — September 27, 2010 @ 7:52 pm | Reply

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