Half-black or mulatto?

Reading your article about formula one driver Lewis Hamilton has reminded me that a certain word is never read or heard. You define Mr. Hamilton as “half black”, but a correct word to define his background is available in the English dictionary: MULATTO. The same goes with American president, he is referred to as ”the first black president”, but everybody seems to ignore the fact that his late mother was white. What’s wrong with the word mulatto? It should not be offensive, why don’t you use it? Dario D’Arcangelo (Taranto)

The problem with the word mulatto is that it’s old-fashioned and politically incorrect. It’s a throwback to the days of slavery and for this reason people don’t like it. When talking about race the issue isn’t really language: it’s more a question of sensitivity and social acceptability.
The same applies to Obama’s “blackness.” Yes, his mother was white, but most African Americans have some white blood. This is also to do with the issue of slavery: on plantations white owners regularly abused female slaves. Just exactly how “black” someone is is something most African Americans would probably prefer not to discuss.

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