The Meaning of Mulatto

The Meaning of Mulatto
Radcliffe Quarterly Fall / Winter 1997
by Erin Bannister

My mother is white. My father is black. But I have never known what I am. I used to define myself as multiracial, an eleven-letter, four-syllable, politically correct, trendy word. But this changed when I entered ninth grade and my French teacher asked: Who isn’t multiracial? So when eleventh grade rolled around with the SATs, I became “Other”-a less-than-romantic, slightly mysterious, but definitely unsatisfying word. However, when I told this to my father, he reprimanded me for not marking black on the test questionnaire. He insisted I call the SAT headquarters to change what I had put. For reasons I have never understood, he firmly believed that the right answer was black.

When I look in the mirror, I see a person who looks like she has a tan even in the winter, and whose hair may be dark, but not always curly. I have no prominent African American features (assuming that such features exist on anyone). And, although I am sometimes mistaken for being Spanish, people generally see me as white.


  1. I’m kind of assuming you mean “Hispanic” not “from Spain” there when you say people think you are Spanish.

    3/1/2004 2:38:45 AM

  2. i know wht u mean i feel the same way i dont know what i am somtimes and i really hate it when people call me white girl

    4/2/2004 12:01:00 AM

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