I’ve noticed in my latest research that in the ’50s and ’60s “biracial” described committees, boards, commissions, councils, governments, mediation teams, towns, schools, and groups. Not people. People were “mulatto” and things were biracial. Actually groups of black and white people were biracial. Now we’d say interracial, I guess. It is interesting to notice the shift in the language. I think the definitions are ever-changing. That’s why I have a love-hate relationship with words. I love them, but they can be fickle and misleading.

Kinda like, I know that when I say “monoracial” all the time that the proper term is “uniracial.” But to me uniracial is the big prize. It’s the word we get to use when the illusion of race has been globally recognized for the fallacy that it is and we’re uniracial. Belonging to the human race. We have various cultures and all, but basically we’re people and there’s only one race of us. So I’m saving uniracial. We don’t get to use it yet.

I totally did not intend to bring that up in this post.

Anyway, the first instance I found of a person being labeled biracial was in The New York Times on March 1, 1987- “LIVING IN TWO WORLDS. By Maxine B. Rosenberg. Photographs by George Ancona. A low-key and affecting photo essay about the fewer than two percent of children in the United States who are biracial.”

Biracial shows up thrice more in 1987 in reference to foster/adopted children. Through the early ’90s “biracial” is used mostly for the aforementioned groups with a noted increase in the use of the word as a racial categorization as the articles become more recent. 

This brings me back to my defense of my use of the word “mulatto.” Most of my childhood was spent in the 1980’s when people were still referred to as mulatto and “things” as biracial. But “mulatto” was a bad word not to be spoken, so I was either nothing, “other”, or black.  Everyone like me was. As I see it, this validated and perpetuated the one-drop rule. And threw shadows of shame onto my true identity. It gave me no chance and no choice to form an identity from a foundation of wholeness. I think this word “mulatto” is a larger piece of this race puzzle than most people think.

mulatto book coverI mean, I definitely don’t want to be associated with that and if that‘s what people think of as “mulatto” I’d rather deny my whole self and be black which is exactly what “they” wanted when “they” created the system because the system will crash if too many people come to know that there is no great divide between the two races and that a person can actually be both black and white simultaneously.

The system is crashing.

5 thoughts on ““biracial”

  1. That’s very interesting – the history of the how “biracial” has been used. I’ve never thought about that. It reminds me of using Asian vs Oriental. Oriental used to be the blanket term, but now, Asian is used to describe people, Oriental is for things. I have explained this to my mom but she spent her whole life saying things like “What’s the name of your Oriental friend?” She isn’t trying to be rude or disrespectful, but she also doesn’t get it. It’s a habit for her, but a real sign of slander to some people. That’s why we have to change with the times, I guess.

  2. Tiff! Love this post! Great Post! I’m glad that you brought up “unirace= human race.” I am always talking about this and I hope you will elaborate more on this later. When it all boils down to it, we are His children. I totally forgot about how that word “biracial” was initially used for–in relation to people– adopting purposes. I honestly DID NOT know that biracial was used to categorize “things.” OKey-Dokey, Tiff! I could have used this tid bit of info about a week or 2 ago, btw. Thanks! LOL. 🙂

  3. Check out the new film, MULTIRACIAL IDENTITY, at Portland State University on Wed. March 3 @ 6:30 pm in the Multicultural Center (SMU 228) 1825 SW Broadway, Portland OR.
    This new documentary explores the social and political impact of adding a Multiracial Category—the fastest growing demographic in America—as a stand alone racial group on the US Census. Different racial and cultural groups see multiracialism differently. For some Whites, multiracialism represents the pollution of the White race. For some Blacks it represents an attempt to escape Blackness. And for some Asians, Latinos and Arabs, multiracialism represents the dilution of the culture. Preview this 88-minute film, followed by refreshments and join the discussion with filmmaker Brian Chinhema; Ethan Johnson, PSU Black Studies; Sarah Ross, Director, HONEY (Honoring our New Ethnic Youth) Inc.; Thomas Wright, Director, Oregon Council on Multiracial Affairs; and Dana Stone, Adjunct Faculty, University of Oregon Couples & Family Therapy.

    Preview of film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehhxGC0cd4E

  4. As the mother to two biracial or multicultural daughters, I think these are important questions and issues for us all. Labels based on appearance are losing their meaning (if they ever should have had meaning other than to describe as one would the colore of eyes or hair). I believe that ethnic origin is more than skin deep and that it has to do with heritage. This is something not as easily pinpointed in a census if the measure is on appearance.

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