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mulatto: mixed race in america

This 2010 documentary short by Director Sterling Hudson explores how mixed race Americans conceptualize their personal racial and ethnic identity. Interview subjects include scholars, actors, artists, physicians, students and others, as each reflects upon the challenges they have faced while navigating an often hostile social landscape. The clip begins with a discussion of the term “mulatto” — a word that denotes the offspring of a white person and a black person, but has become an antiquated phrase for describing mixed race identity.


The interview participants describe the common occurrence of being asked, “What are you?” by friends and strangers. Why is this a question that they are often expected to answer? Why is it one that some participants found to be inappropriate? What different strategies did they employ when answering? Have you ever been asked this question? What was your response?

The interview participants seemed to have different perspectives on whether or not the term “mulatto” was an offensive one. Who should decide what terms are appropriate or not to describe a person of mixed ethnicity? What is the significance of different mixed race individuals having different perspectives on the appropriate terminology?

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