Female rapper Mulatto, born as Alyssa Michelle, has been the target of social media hate recently over her controversial and insensitive name. This isn’t the first time the XXL freshman artist has received criticism, but now she is becoming a household name and the conversation is coming back into the spotlight.
The term mulatto is derived from the Mexican and Portuguese root word "mula" meaning mule, the offspring of a horse and a donkey. The term was then used as a slur to describe multiracial children during slavery when Black people were treated more like animals than human beings.
The Black parent was meant to symbolize the donkey while the white parent was the horse.
Over time the word has started to be seen less as a slur and more as a name for multiracial kids. The Meriam Webster dictionary defines the word as “the first-generation offspring of a Black person and a white person, now sometimes offensive.”
But for many, the name still holds all the weight of a racial slur.
Mulatto is an artist who has been in the rap industry since she was first seen on Jermaine Dupri and Queen Latifah’s rap competition show, The Rap Game at 16. On the show, she called herself Miss Mulatto, and admitted to knowing her name was a racial slur but said the name is a part of her because she is mixed.
IU junior Kathryn Hart is familiar with both Mulatto the artist and the controversy surrounding her name. Being multiracial herself, Hart said she is familiar with the term being used as a racial slur, and its Spanish origins.
While she realized the term has negative connotations she was able to understand how and why Mulatto may have decided to use that as her name.
“I just think that in her head it was probably just her way of reclaiming the word, or trying to put a positive spin on it,” Hart said.
She used the N-word as an example of how a word can be taken back and given a new meaning by the people it once oppressed and draws a connection to what Mulatto may be trying to do with her name.
“I have mixed feelings about it just because there are other words that have been reclaimed in the past so why is this one any different?” Hart said.
Trying to take back the history of a word and give it a new meaning is something that is not easy to do. Even today the N-word is something many Black people aren’t comfortable with, but other Black people say it is a word the Black community has taken as their own.
Who’s to say Mulatto is wrong for possibly trying to do the same thing? But when you’re in the public eye, you are susceptible to people always giving their opinions on you.
With a name that comes with many different layers, Mulatto could have a hard time continuing to build her brand and become more prominent in the rap industry.