plural mu·lat·toes or mu·lat·tos
Spanish mulato, from mulo mule, from Latin mulus
1 : the first-generation offspring of a black person and a white person \
2 : a person of mixed white and black ancestry
As to be expected, Webster only reports the terms meaning (Duh, it's a dictionary). So, in order to get a broader and more clearer picture of the word we will have to dig in deeper. As the title suggests, let us derive how this word may even be considered offensive to some today by starting with the etymology of mulatto.
The Spanish interpretation of the word mulato is derived from mulo/mule. This mule, produced from a male donkey (62 chromosomes) and a female horse (64 chromosomes) has 63 chromosomes. This resulting number of chromosomes inhibits sterility in mules over 99.99% of the time (there have been a few documented cases of sterile female mules).
Back during times of slavery many people operated around the paradigm that black people and white people were different species to say the least. Thus, when a mulatto was born it was believed to be sterile, much unlike mules. It is hard for one to believe that people actually believed in this phenomenon, but believe it or not this was a dominant perspective at the time. Of course mulatto's would go on to produce healthy and normal children with white, black, and other mulatto people, thereby contradicting such notions. So one must ask, was such negativity used as a constant reminder that these children spawned from two diametric forces, such that the difference in white and black people would effectively make mulatto's too different to be accepted anywhere? Better yet, did bad habits just die hard?
While some people did harbor these absurdities, it's hard to believe that the majority of the people (whether they were racist or not) would continue believing a proven falsity that mulatto's were sterile, especially into the 20th century. Surprisingly, by the early 20th century, mulatto was continually used as a description for black/white biracials until the 1930 census. By this time, mulatto's were already "successfully forced" into a black identity thus restoring the black-white "color" line. Now that we know the history of mulatto, is it socially acceptable to be used? It is the most accurate description of a half-white/half-black person; however, its history does carry a lot of weight.
I think that if a person wants to be empowered through the description mulatto, then that person and his or her views should be respected. Just take a look at the word nigga. Many African-Americans have turned one of the most heinous of words into a term of endearment. Quite naturally, I don't see why mulatto's can not do the same. Opponents would suggest just calling these individuals solely brown. But what does brown even mean? Exactly, it can mean a myriad of things. Again, if someone wants to be called a mulatto then more power to him or her.
I surmise that most of us do not consciously consider black people to be inferior to whites and vice versa; yet, we still denominate biracials like Obama as solely black. This misnomer sends a clear message that white is an exclusive group, whereas black is inclusive. Meaning that although we delude ourselves into thinking that we are making progress towards racial harmony, this unresolved pertinent issue will crumble any progress that we hope to achieve. As long as white is an exclusive group, there will be a racial hierarchy based upon perceived racial traits. Any sensical individual regardless of class or race would suggest otherwise. So, do your part to help make mulatto socially acceptable, even if you’re not mulatto, plus it's cool with the tongue!
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