Skip Gates’ New TV Series

…and the “baddest genealogy story I’ve ever heard….”

This one cracked me up.  I haven’t been paying as much attention to Henry Louis Gates as I might’ve before.  But he’s kind of reminding me a bit of Michael Steel with his colloquialisms.

“No matter what laws of segregation, the one thing that DNA shows is that when lights came down, we were all getting down,” Gates said. “We are all mulattos.”

I laughed my mulatto ass off to that one.  Yeah, “We’re all mixed.”  I’ve heard that a few times.  Too bad the mulatto cop that arrested him couldn’t recognize his mulatto brother last year, or vice versa.  I know he was trying to be humorous.  I appreciate that.  I giggled.  It’s true, too (that no blood is pure).  But it still kind of irked me – just a little bit.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-faces-of-america10-2010feb10,0,1477516.story

2 Comments

  1. Monica Sanchez May 20, 2010

    Please help me understand. Why does the fact that blacks who are finally able to find their own mixed history offend biracial people when they identify themselves as a mullato? The definition of mulatto also means a person who has both black and white ancestry. This is the very reason why I had such a hard time mustering the courage to do a geneology. I grew up around mixed “white” looking relatives. Due to Southern politics, they never had an open discussion about their biracial blood. Now , I know my complete makeup and found it liberating. I finally have an answer for the question “what are you?”. Now it seems the more I look for a community that will allow open dialogue about such things…I find a new type of segregation. Even though I have a mixed experience, with both the advantages and disadvantages…those who can point to an “all-white” parent seem to want to a monopoly on the word mullato. I am not trying to be argumentative. I really am disgusted with the feeling that the mixe community is just another group that I will not be totally accepted in either. Please explain.

  2. Jason Luckett May 23, 2010

    Monica, you picked up on an interesting point that wasn’t my intention of this post, but is something to ponder. ‘Mulatto’ is definitely a fraught word. I identify as mulatto only with a tongue planted firmly in cheek. My father used to call my sister and I his “beautiful mulatto children.” He also called us “Ni-Cracks,” which… well, it was the age of Richard Pryor. But mulatto is just another purposefully divisive word with derogatory overtones. My “mulatto moments” are times when race smacks me in the face in surprising ways that seem to happen more often to people with high comfort levels in more than one surprisingly insular community. It seems like you’re having a mulatto moment within isolated biracial communities. Coincidentally, I’ve actually been slowly working on an essay about the “degrees of mixedness” and the uneasy terrain I tread as a “first generation” biracial person. The terms are in quotes, because they’re borderline absurd, but there is a real feeling that you, I, and others have around being seen for who we are.

    My irk with Gates’ statement is around that. I often feel people throw out that “we’re all mixed” line as a way to minimize my experience. I think there is a different experience between a person of primarily German and Irish background, with a little Russian and a North African great-great grandmother, and my experience as a person with a black father from Mississippi (African of indeterminate origin, Native American of indeterminate tribe and French spiced) and a white mother from Maine (of English and Scottish, lineage yet “American” since the 17th Century), who grew up in the white suburbs. Same goes for a “black” person with two self-identified black parents who grew up in a predominantly black community, yet has an Irish great-great-grandfather. In a way I have a community of two – with my sister – and her experience is vastly different than mine.

    So the point is that we all feel isolated to an extent and unaccepted. I just try to make myself understood in the communities I choose and the chips fall where they do. The thing I love about the Mixed Roots Film & Literary Festival community, is that, unlike some organizations that I’d previously encountered which seemed to self fetishize the mixed experience, this festival community really embraces the full diversity of a multicultural experience without judgment or stratification.

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