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View Diary: Why? CNN and NPR Present a Potpourri of Tragic Mulattoes Before a National Audience (285 comments)

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  •  "tragic mulatto" has been around a long time (16+ / 0-)

    as an archetype - and I don't find it offensive - it is simply describing a construct manipulated by racism - when it benefits whites, blacks are encouraged to abandon ship. when it doesn't no shade lets you slip through the cracks.

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    by Denise Oliver Velez on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 01:02:21 PM PST

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    •  Naw, sis (6+ / 0-)

      The term offends me. No one should feel or be deemed tragic for a circumstance they did not create. Nor should they pick up labels created by people who probably aren't concerned about their welfare.

      I'm surprised I'm against terms that do not apply to me. With my dark cocoa skin, I had to be smart to be noticed in a positive way. Growing up, my worst nightmare was to be in a room filled with "high yellow" folks. Wonder where I learned that phobia?

      Sigh.

      •  Being offended was my initial (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CocoaLove, Be Skeptical, smartdemmg

        response too, for the reasons you mention. I guess using it as an archetype is considered okay, but people are not archetypes, and I don't like seeing it used to define individual people.  And I sure don't want anyone using it to refer to my grandson.

      •  This. A thousand times. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CocoaLove, gramofsam1, smartdemmg
        No one should feel or be deemed tragic for a circumstance they did not create. Nor should they pick up labels created by people who probably aren't concerned about their welfare.
        And the use of the term, and consequent analysis of mixed race children with roughly the same degree of warmth that one would show a lab rat, is a goddam shame.

        "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany." - Ron Burgundy

        by malharden on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 02:49:51 PM PST

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        •  They do get analyzed to death, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WB Reeves

          don't they. And I don't doubt that there might be some figuring out for them to do at times.
          Thing is, the actual mixed race kids that I know, including my grandson, do not seem nearly as concerned about this as all of the people trying to study and evaluate them.

           

          •  It's a good thing that your grandson (0+ / 0-)

            isn't so concerned.  I don't know how old he is or where he is growing up, but I think it could account for that for now.

            •  He's thirteen, growing up (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              tardis10, ladybug53

              in a family with white parents, an AA sister, 2 white siblings. He is lucky in that my daughter found a school with a good amount of racial diversity, which sadly was not easy to find.
              I agree it's good that he's not so concerned, he has friends of all races and seems equally comfortable with all of them.
              If people ask him about his heritage, he will tell them that his birth mom was white and his birth father was black, but if he's checking off a box on a school application, he checks the AA box, not whatever they're using as a mixed race category. And it's his choice to do that.

              Ironically, although I used to hear so much about mixed race kids not fitting in anywhere,  the kids I know seem to fit in everywhere, at least so far. The world is changing, and kids are always ahead of the curve.

      •  We've got lots of 'em (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        breakingsong, CocoaLove

        high yellows is another.  :) .  I call that one the "beige aristocracy" .  It's why Malcolm was "Red" for "redbone" You know we use "Uncle Tom" and other versions of that.  Along with "oreo" (don't know if that is used much any more)

        Some came into usage within our own community, some without - most as terms of analysis.  

        Donald Bogle's "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films" comes to mind.  

        You are correct about "they didn't create" since even the term "mulatto' has little to do with having one white and one black parent - it was a state sponsored (census) category until 1920 used to count those of lighter hue.  And was also used to create a buffer class loyal to the colonizer (Haiti)

        That is a tragedy of sorts.

        Fanon explores the psychology in depth -- and not just for "us' since it played out well in Algeria.

        I guess since my dad played one of those archetypes on b'way in Strange Fruit  (he was cast as the tragic mulutto) and in real life was anything but - I don't bristle at the use - but I do find it sad when children grow up with confusions imposed by the unrelenting systemic hierarchy of race - and that can be applied to all of us.
         

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        by Denise Oliver Velez on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 07:47:22 PM PST

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    •  I think the issue is (3+ / 0-)

      that while the term may be entirely valid as an academic description of a literary/cultural archetype, it's being used in this diary to describe real nonfictional people.

      It could be argued that the show was constructed to cast them as representatives of the archetype, and as such the term might be valid for discussing the show itself. Nonetheless, the people interviewed were real people, not fictional characters, and so the considerations are different than they would be in a purely literary academic context.

      I wouldn't presume, as a white person, to tell a respected Black academic of mixed heritage how she should refer to other people of similar heritage. But I would say that it might be worth listening to the people in this diary who feel the word 'mulatto' applies to them or their family members and who find it offensive.

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 12:56:17 AM PST

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      •  Agree (5+ / 0-)

        that it can be both personal and academic/political kyril.
        But so much of my academic understanding is rooted in real people - many in my own family whose names I know, others who I will not ever, and those children of friends who are either solidly grounded or caught in confusions this society makes.

        There are now hundreds of websites using mulatto/mixed race/bi-racial as their subject/content.  Just google.

        I have had students refer to themselves as mulatto - and this becomes even more confusing when you also include students from Latin America/Brazil/Caribbean where "mulata" "mulatre" or "mulato" are terms used daily-and are in song and prize-winning literature.

        Further complicated by hypo-descent (the one drop rule)  
        the mess that has been created of "race", cultural identity, phenotype, color hierarchy...will not be sorted out soon.

        Better to have these discussions than not.  

        Does that make me insensitive to how people feel - or the pain. No. It does however mean that these conversations need to be aired somehow, and if we don't - ultimately we will never get past them.  

        I have a friend who is currently angry with her daughter because her daughter refers to herself as black.  

        She feels that her daughter is rejecting her - mom is white.

        Her daughter loves her mom dearly but refuses to be identified as bi-racial, or mulatto or mixed race.  

        I have another friend who has raised her child to think of herself as "white". That daughter is now experiencing trauma because she has been rejected by her white boyfriend's family.

        They don't embrace her "black' half. They reject her whole self.

        This stuff ain't easy.  And I know you never presume.  I still think it needs to be discussed and aired.  

        I've seen too many comments right here on daily kos about Obama's choice in choosing "black".

        A few people here even agreed that he had thrown his grandmother and mom under the bus.

        I guess I've been lucky to have a white grandmother who never felt threatened by her son, and me being black.

        But then she was forced by her time to live in the black community.

        It's harder for a parent or parents raising a child with some African ancestry in a white community or one that may be majority white.

        I've spent much of my life having people ask "what are you" which is pretty funny (and painful)
        since I am obviously to me - black.  

        I've been challenged academically too - had to inform someone in the black studies department a few years ago who objected to a course I was teaching simply because they decided I wasn't black.  My former Panther membership shut that up - but I didn't think I would have to "prove' anything.

        It offended me.  But I didn't let it stop me.  Nor did I avoid the discussion.

        Anyway - I'm up early AM as usual - and glad to see your comment.  Hope you see my long-winded response.

        Dee

        Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

        by Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 02:50:53 AM PST

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