Is the word mulatto offensive? Is it a racial slur? What does it mean & what is the origin of the word mulatto?
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Some people may never have even been aware that the term “mulatto” is an offensive word. In fact it’s a racial slur.
That might sound strange to some, as they assume it’s a Spanish word that means mixed or mixed race.
In Spanish the word “mixed” is “mezclado”, while the term “mixed race” is “raza mixta”.
What about “biracial”? That’s “birracial”.
So where did the term “mulatto” come from?
As is the case with so many of these race based derogatory words, it came from slavery. The problem is that it has now become extremely socially acceptable to use this word, especially in Latin America.
The term mulatto is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese root word “mula” and “mule” (pronounced ‘moo-lay’) meaning mule, the offspring of a horse and a donkey. The term was then used as a slur to describe multiracial children during slavery when Black people were treated more like animals than human beings.
The Black parent was meant to symbolize the donkey while the white parent was the horse.
From Mula To Mulatto
The suffix “tto” was added to the word “mula” creating “mulatto”, meaning “little mule”.
Over time the word has started to be seen less as a slur and more as a name for multiracial kids. The Meriam Webster dictionary defines the word as “the first-generation offspring of a Black person and a white person, now sometimes offensive.”
But for many, the name still holds all the weight of a racial slur.
But Is “Mulatto” Really Offensive?
In Latin America the word mulatto is a racial classification a long with other antiquated racial classifications. It has become part of the everyday labels in the latino community. So does this mean that the word is no longer offensive? Has the word been reclaimed?
The short answer is no. The word has not been reclaimed. It was never taken out of use. The word was a derogatory word used to describe people of Black and white heritage. It never stopped being used. It’s simply a case of people stopped focusing on the root meaning and the origin of this oppressive word.
As Bad As The N Word?
When we think of the N word we think of how painful that word is and how oppressive it is. The main reason for this is that the word has continued to be used as an oppressive and offensive word, even til today, with it’s origins widely known.
The word mulatto however has tried to slide through under the radar so to speak. It has remained in regular use in Latin American communities hoping no one would remember its own oppressive history.
However, make sure to watch the video as all will be explained in much greater detail.