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The tragic mulatta -- a byproduct of Interracial coupling
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
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PHOTO: Halle Berry . -- Halle Berry is bi-racial; born to Judith Ann Hawkins, a white mother of English descent, and an African-American father, Jerome J. Berry ( Photo source )

If you are involved in an interracial relationship, the possibility exists for you to have a bi-racial child.

Although times have changed and many biracial children grow up aware of an advantage over peers who are not part White or not fully Caucasian, a number of biracial females claim to face issues of not being able to identify either with Black women or White women. While many of these women find themselves enjoying an advantage in being prized for their light complexions and good hair, in a number of aspects of life they have found that being neither completely Black nor completely White makes them a bit like the "tragic mulatta".

What is a tragic mulatta

The tragic mulatta is a stock character that appeared primarily in American fiction before the Civil War. Literary critics sometimes distinguish the tragic mulatta from the tragic mulatto in that the latter encompasses a broader defition that includes characters suffering from a sort of biracial angst, while the former term applies specifically to the female characters existing during the time period in which the presence of "negro blood" would result in legally sanctioned restrictions.

This figure is a woman of biracial heritage, a mulatta, who must endure the hardships of African-Americans in the antebellum South, even though she may look white enough that her ethnicity is not readily apparent. As the name implies, tragic mulattas almost always meet a bad end. Lydia Marie Child's 1842 short story "The Quadroons" is generally credited as the first work of literature to feature a tragic mulatta, allegedly in an effort to garner support for emanicpation and equal rights. Writer Eva Allegra Raimon notes that Child "allowed white readers to identify with the victim by gender while distancing themselves by race and thus to avoid confronting a racial ideology that denies the full humanity of nonwhite women."

The character appeared in numerous subsequent works, and later in film as well.

Generally, tragic mulattas fall into one of three categories:

A woman who can pass for white attempts to do so, is accepted as white by society and falls in love with a white man. Eventually, her status as a mulatta is revealed and the woman ends in tragedy.
A woman appears white and believed she is Greek or Spanish. She has suffered little hardship in her life, but upon the revelation that she is a mulatta, she loses her social standing.
A woman who has all the social graces of a middle-class or upper-class white woman is nonetheless subjected to slavery.
A common objection to this character is that she allows readers to pity the plight of oppressed or enslaved races, but only through a veil of whiteness that is, instead of sympathizing with a true racial "other," one is sympathizing with a character who is made as much like one's own race as possible. The tragic mulatta often appeared in novels intended for women, also, and some of the character's appeal lied in the lurid fantasy of a person just like them suddenly cast into a lower social class after the discovery of a small amount of "black blood" that renders her unfit for proper marriage.

Tragic Mulatta information text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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