To the editors:
I would like to comment on the use of the word “mulatto” in Mr. Andersen’s review [“The Misogyny Game,” March 5]. Unfortunately, the English language has certain references to African Americans (Blacks, Afro-Americans) as animals. I would therefore like to refute Mr. Andersen’s contention that the word has experienced a “recent return to respectability.”
The word comes from the Spanish word mulato which itself comes from the Latin word mulos. Both words mean “mule.” A mule is a hybrid between an ass and a horse. In most cases, this hybrid is sterile. Obviously, in an earlier period, Negroid and Caucasoid (to use the correct anthropological terms) peoples were thought to have been of different species. Pairing between different species cannot produce viable offspring. The existence of a highly mixed and prolific African American population refutes this “two species” theory.
Other examples which perhaps more definitely relate Negroid people with animals are “quadroon” and “octoroon.” “Roon” comes from “roan,” a horse or calf which has a base color, perhaps black or brown, mixed with white hairs. Thus, a quadroon is a human who is one-fourth Negroid and three-fourths Caucasoid, and an octoroon is one who is one-eighth Negroid and seven-eighths Caucasoid.
Mr. Andersen’s article was interesting and provocative. However, another slant would have been the exploration of the similarities between Simone of Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa, a tall, slender, light-skinned Black woman who loves a White woman, and Dil, a tall, slender, light-skinned Black man who loves men.
The issue seems not to be that the best woman is a man. Rather, it seems to be that the best Black, male or female, is one who does not reproduce.
Amanda Lee Brooks
PhD in Area and Language Studies
University of Chicago 1988