a person of mixed race

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andychen

Senior Member
Chinese, Taiwan
Hi, everyone.

What can I call a person of mixed race? I found out half-breed and half caste in dictionaries. However, they are both very offensive words. Can you guys tell me a word that is not offensive?

Thank you in advance.
 
  • maxiogee

    Banned
    English
    You could very simply say that someone is "multi-racial."
    Does that apply to individuals?
    I don't think it is used that way here. Groups are multi-racial. People are not usually spoken of in terms of 'racial purity' nowadays - we don't say mixed-race or half-breed or any of the many words deemed (by historical use) to be derogatory nowadays - a person is jsut a person, why would one need to say that someone was half- anything? For a particular person wouldn't it be better to say "His mother was Irish and his father was Antarctican."?
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Well, I agree, generally, but if you had to use a single, innocuous adjective I think you could use "multiracial" to describe a person.

    Do you have a better suggestion?
     

    zerduja

    Member
    USA
    I have heard ot before, but not much "mulatto"- for a half african half caucasion. another one(and I believe only other one I have heard is "hopahalli" from a hawaiian)
     

    bezoar

    New Member
    English; USA
    I think there are many people in the US who would be offended by the term 'mulatto' - it's not as offensive as 'half-breed', but I wouldn't use it.

    Racial identity can be a pretty sensitive issue. If it is important to mention, I think I'd present the fact in the context of the reason you mention it: "Growing up as the child of a white father and black mother, Henry has grown up with a complex understanding of his own racial identity." -- or whatever the context is. If you don't want to go into that, you could just use the not-very-revealing phrase "diverse heritage" as a clue.

    On the question of multi-racial, I do think of that as applying to groups. Perhaps 'bi-racial' makes more sense when applied to an individual?
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Perhaps 'bi-racial' makes more sense when applied to an individual?
    Well, that would work assuming the person had only two races.

    Since the question was general ("a person of mixed race") I chose the prefix "multi-."
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Perhaps 'bi-racial' makes more sense when applied to an individual?
    I agree that it makes sense-- but in the U.S. ethnic backgrounds can be very complex, and Elroy's suggestion of multiracial is as often as not a better choice.

    There are forums for people in IR relationships, and they create pressure for interracial, which happens to be my preference since it doesn't necessarily limit to two-- international, after all, doesn't simply mean "between two countries." When I see acronyms like IR proliferate, I take it as a clue that a term has arrived-- especially a grassroots word developed on internet forum, as opposed to PC terms handed down to us from the agenda-ridden Academy.
    .
    .
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    I wonder how to call a person with a father from USA and a mother from Chinese, to describe a person in this situation?


    Thanks
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I wonder if Americans would call such a person Chinese-American ... or if the parents' nationalities would have to be reversed for that name to apply?
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    I wonder if Americans would call such a person Chinese-American ... or if the parents' nationalities would have to be reversed for that name to apply?

    Good point, Ewie, I used to call them hybrid, how stupid I was!

    But can you recommend me a term to call it? or just follow suits? I mean follow what the former friends said in this thread?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I certainly wouldn't call them hybrids, Silver ~ that makes them sound like plants:eek:

    I (personally) would call such a person half-American-half-Chinese:)
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thanks, I have confidence if I have enough time to explain the one who I talk to about one's complex nationalities, the term you recommended is fine, but I still have a question, I couldn't remember whether it was my teacher told me, he said "Silver, you can call them mixed."

    Sounds fine to you?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I wouldn't (personally) call them just mixed ~ I might say mixed-parentage or of mixed parentage if I didn't know the specific mix.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I wonder if Americans would call such a person Chinese-American ... or if the parents' nationalities would have to be reversed for that name to apply?
    A slight variation (and the one I would use) is "An American of Chinese-American descent".
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    There are forums for people in IR relationships, and they create pressure for interracial, which happens to be my preference since it doesn't necessarily limit to two . . .
    .
    .
    But that term involves two (or more) people, as in interracial marriage or interracial group. I don't think it can describe an individual.

    Biracial works, it seems to me, if each of the person's parents is of distinct, unmixed racial heritage; that, I believe, is true of President Barack Obama.

    But it wouldn't work for, say, the golfer Tiger Woods, whose mother is (was?) Asian and whose father was of mixed heritage (black, white, and native American, if I recall correctly). He is thus at least "triracial" and perhaps (if I'm correct) "quadriracial". I do not suggest using those terms!

    And: Depending on how and where you are speaking or writing, the preferences of the people you're describing may need to be considered. Many people who are biracial or multiracial choose to refer to themselves as one race or another. Many biracial Americans (including President Obama), for example, choose to refer to themselves as black. Many who are of multiracial (white, black, native American) heritage refer to themselves as native American.

    It's complicated!
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    I read the thread once more, I want to rephrase my question.

    I checked out the Chinese counterpart of what I want to say in English, then I got several choices, the first one is "metis", according to the dictionary.reference.com, one of the meaning is:

    So, can I say:

    Let me introduce a new friend to you, she is a metis.
    Let me introduce a new friend to you, she is a mixed-blood.


    Thanks
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I read the thread once more, I want to rephrase my question.

    I checked out the Chinese counterpart of what I want to say in English, then I got several choices, the first one is "metis", according to the dictionary.reference.com, one of the meaning is:

    So, can I say:

    Let me introduce a new friend to you, she is a metis.
    Let me introduce a new friend to you, she is a mixed-blood.


    Thanks
    Personally I would not use that phrase. It makes the friendship seem qualified and limited. It almost sounds like, "This is not one of my real friends, this is one of my lesser, mixed-blood friends."

    I would say, "Let me introduce a new friend to you."

    If the people you introduce the new friend to wish to delve into his/her lineage, then leave that to them.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Personally I would not use that phrase. It makes the friendship seem qualified and limited. It almost sounds like, "This is not one of my real friends, this is one of my lesser, mixed-blood friends."

    I would say, "Let me introduce a new friend to you."

    If the people you introduce the new friend to wish to delve into his/her lineage, then leave that to them.

    I do agree with you, I don't know who invent the word, but sometimes, maybe in China, you will meet someone is curious about the new things, for example, some of my relatives now are living in a village, maybe they don't even know where my city is, not to mention other things, imagine one day they see a kid with a Chinese face but with blue eyes and curly hair, in China we do have a term to say it, but in English it is, I have to say, a bit hard, at least I still have to dwell on it.
     

    I_Daniel

    Member
    Afrikaans/South African English
    You could refer to his skin colour. Such as he is dark skinned, he is brown skinned, he is olive skinned etc., or just coloured. But that doesn't really say anything and could be regarded by some as derogative.

    I lean towards the previous statement "of mixed parentage". Then again you may wish to be more specific and the question arises if both societies regard the head of the family as the man then the man's race would come first. But not always because you can say, he is an afro-american but american-afro just does not sound correct. This is a tricky question. Must we use the country where he lives first ? or is it alphabetic order ? My guess is the one that sounds best.
     
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    xqby

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    I'd say it depends a lot on context. If you're in China, or Japan, or Korea, or et cetera, and your friend has blonde hair blue eyes, you could get away with describing them as half-white, it being understood that the other half is Asian heritage.

    I wonder if Americans would call such a person Chinese-American ... or if the parents' nationalities would have to be reversed for that name to apply?
    You mean for the father to be Chinese and the mother American? I don't think which race is which gender makes a difference. Of course, all we've been told is that the father is from the U.S.; he could well be a black fellow, in which case Chinese-American might be misleading. Might not be! Context!
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I want to rephrase my question.

    I checked out the Chinese counterpart of what I want to say in English, then I got several choices, the first one is "metis" . . .

    So, can I say:

    Let me introduce a new friend to you, she is a metis.
    Let me introduce a new friend to you, she is a mixed-blood.
    Neither of these terms would be used in this country in referring to a person of mixed racial heritage.

    The second "mixed blood," would, I think, be taken as somewhat pejorative.

    The first, metis (properly spelled métis), is an uncommon term taken from the French and usually refers to a person of mixed native American and French-Canadian ancestry.

    In any case, at least in the US, mentioning a person's racial heritage in an introduction would be considered very impolite.
     
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    I_Daniel

    Member
    Afrikaans/South African English
    qxby has answered my question.
    So we should rather use the race and not the country. Although we no longer used negroid or african as such but rather use Afro.
    It is the same as trying to say South African-Chinese parentage which is meaningless because we have; Whites, Blacks, Indians, Brown people (and Coloureds for people of various mixed parentage, which in turn is also misleading.)

    As to introducing someone we never refer to his race or colour we only introduce him or her by name.
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I wonder if Americans would call such a person Chinese-American ... or if the parents' nationalities would have to be reversed for that name to apply?
    I agree with xqby.

    In these hyphenated names, we put American last because that is regarded as the most basic identity. The other nationality is considered added information, but optional. A Whatever-American can be more simply described as an American.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    qxby has answered my question.
    So we should rather use the race and not the country. Although we no longer used negroid or african as such but rather use Afro.
    It is the same as trying to say South African-Chinese parentage which is meaningless because we have; Whites, Blacks, Indians, Brown people (and Coloureds for people of various mixed parentage, which in turn is also misleading.)

    As to introducing someone we never refer to his race or colour we only introduce him or her by name.
    A co-worker, who I would think of as "African-American", refers to herself as "Asiatic", which she says goes back to the origin of humans.

    I don't recall the use of "Afro" lately (or, perhaps ever--except as a description of a hair style).

    I think this is constantly evolving and an area that is very fraught with a real risk of insult.
     
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    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Here is a quote from dictionary.reference.com, "multiracial" seems work, but it is too general.

    Josephine Baker (1906–1975), French dancer and singer; born in United States. Josephine, ch. 16 (1977).

    Written in 1963. Baker, a black performer, married a white Frenchman and assembled a multiracial, multireligion family of adopted children.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    This is a different use of multiracial. The children are not being described individually as "multiracial". Because they are of different races, together they constitute a multiracial group. This is consistent with some of the comments made above about the use of multiracial.
     
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    I_Daniel

    Member
    Afrikaans/South African English
    When speaking of multi-racial we refer to the various races in a country. i.e a multiracial society, or put differently the american polulation is multiracial that is it consists of Red indians, (?. The indigenous people - sorry I don't know the correct word), whites, blacks, indians, chinese, japanese etc.

    The same would apply to a multiracial family as the in-laws would be from two different racial groups, yet they do become one family.

    Chinese-American refers to the nationality of the person with reference to her race. i.e she is Chinese but an American citizen.

    I apologize. With further thought on "Afro", I think I should rather edit that out. African is used more and the reference to Afro is indeed insulting. It appears to refer to a frizhead, meaning jumbled thoughts (crazy) which is downright insulting.

    I also wish to thank qxby for informing me that the correct term is not red indians but Native Americans.
     
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    mathman

    Senior Member
    English-American/New England
    A word that I have heard used by numerous politically correct colleagues to refer to someone like, say, Tiger Woods, whose father is (more or less: in the US, things can get complicated) African-American,and whose mother is (again, more or less) Thai is "multi-ethnic." "He is of multi-ethnic background/heritage," for instance. They have explained to me that there is only one race (human) so you should not say "multi-racial." You can discuss the validity of that argument with them, not me.

    But politically correct terms come in and go out of favor rapidly, so this may have changed in the time it took me to write this.

    And as others have said, it would be considered rude to refer to someone's ethnic background when you introduce them. Leave that up to them, and the person they are being introduced to, to bring up, if they want to.
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Don't use "metis" - no one will know what it means.
    Don't use "mulatto" - it's offensive.

    What is the purpose of mentioning your friend's ancestry anyway? If for some reason you just want people to know she is part-Chinese or half-Chinese, and it makes no difference what the other part is, then just say "She's part Chinese." Or if this is important for some reaspn, you could say "Her father is American and her mother is Chinese." Of course since not all Americans are white, her father might be an ABC (American-born Chinese) himself and maybe she's ethnically 100% Chinese anway. Or if she is some kind of more complicated mixture, like Tiger Woods (his mother was Thai) you could say "She's from a multi-racial background." I think what you say depends on why you are saying it and why you are even talking about it.

    My daughter went to an almost all-black school and the term most often used was "mixed" to describe someone with one white parent and one black or mostly black parent.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Don't use "metis" - no one will know what it means.
    Don't use "mulatto" - it's offensive.

    What is the purpose of mentioning your friend's ancestry anyway? If for some reason you just want people to know she is part-Chinese or half-Chinese, and it makes no difference what the other part is, then just say "She's part Chinese." Or if this is important for some reaspn, you could say "Her father is American and her mother is Chinese." Of course since not all Americans are white, her father might be an ABC (American-born Chinese) himself and maybe she's ethnically 100% Chinese anway. Or if she is some kind of more complicated mixture, like Tiger Woods (his mother was Thai) you could say "She's from a multi-racial background." I think what you say depends on why you are saying it and why you are even talking about it.

    My daughter went to an almost all-black school and the term most often used was "mixed" to describe someone with one white parent and one black or mostly black parent.
    Dear Friend,

    Two things please allow me to say, You know in China people are more curious than other parts of the world, for example, if you met a gilr like this, I wonder how you describe her without knowing her background? In China there is a term to say, "Hun Xue er", which literally means "mixed-blood person", but indeed this sounds a bit offensive.

    Mixed, I mentioned in the former thread, and it might not be appropriate?

    Thanks
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Please do not post bare links, Silver. You should always describe what is in the link you post.

    I see a little girl holding a stuffed animal toy.

    As has been said, we do not usually discuss a person's race, for one thing, and for another I would not have guessed that this little girl's parents are of different races. Perhaps I am less attuned to such things.

    As someone mentioned above, we do have the term "Amerasian", if that is what you are looking for.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thanks a lot, I am not testing you all, as you can see above, I also said why I feel painful to say that term, anyhow, I won't be obsessed with it any longer.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I would probably prefer "He is of mixed ancestry."

    However, as several people have said above, it is not customary where I live to mention a person's genetic background in ordinary conversation. The terms I would use depend on the specific context that makes the information relevant. If we were discussing the results of one of the DNA tests that some people currently are having done, I might say "He is of mixed ancestry."
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    As a mixed person myself I'll just say that the very concept of "race" exists pretty much only because of social attitudes towards strangers rather than some sort of reasonable biological factors. So if you're talking to me, or about me, I'm sort of wondering what the point of mentioning it at all is.

    Now, if you are going to describe me according to "race", just say "mixed" then. We all know what you're talking about anyway so you don't have to say "descent" or "ancestry" or "race". There is no "pure" race(s), so this is all just nonsense, but if you're going to describe a person then just say "mixed". Or, be more specific. Just say exactly what we're supposed to be mixed of. For example African/Chinese... or Dutch (Caucasian)/Polynesian.... or native American Indian/Arab... and so on...

    But all of this is in essence just nonsense. We're all from Africa, and none of us are purely one thing or another.
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    well, most of the African-Americans I know would use "mixed" specifically to describe someone with both black and white ancestry. Other they might say 'his mom's Vietnamese' or something more specific.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Yes, "mixed" could be black/white, but it's also "multiracial" then by definition, is it not? So is black/Asian. "Multiracial" is no more specific than "mixed", but since we're discussing what the appropriate term to use is then "mixed" to my ears sounds 'softer' as it doesn't have the dumb term "race" in it (even if that's what it means in this context).

    Or in other words: If you ask me if I'm "multiracial" I'll say "yes", but it's a very on-the-nose question. If you ask me if I'm "mixed" I'd give the same answer, it's just that it sounds 'softer'.
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I am not sure what you are arguing about. A lot of people are biracial, which I think is a little clearer than "mixed.' Someone who is English/Irish might consider themselves mixed. The most general term for, say, population surveys, is "multiracial." "mixed" is a pretty vague term and as you say doesn't clearly refer to race. I don't think you would ask an individual if they were 'multiracial" or even biracial anyway. Or usually even mixed. It could be kind of rude, depending on context. (What is an 'on the nose' question?? I have never heard that expression. Do you mean a blunt question? If so, I agree.). If you are talking about or to a specific individual, then it's probably kind of obvious what the races in question would be anyway.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Is it correct to say "of mixed descent"?
    I have heard that but, to me, it sounds either very formal or as if the speaker is consciously trying not to give offence.

    MattiasNYC makes a good point:
    So if you're talking to me, or about me, I'm sort of wondering what the point of mentioning it at all is.
    The only circumstances that I can think of off-hand for mentioning this is when being asked (i) to give an official description of a person or (ii) when discussing circumstances specific to such a person or people. In the first case, the listener will not be much bothered by sensitivities. In the second, Google Ngrams for "multiracial children,mixed race children,multiethnic children" gives "mixed race children" as most frequent in BE, and "multiracial children" in AE.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    I am not sure what you are arguing about.
    What I'm arguing about? I'm not "pure race" and so since this question came up - a question of what you're to say if you want to talk about it - I figured my opinion might actually matter. So I'm arguing that it sounds potentially less annoying to hear "mixed" instead of "multiracial".

    A lot of people are biracial,
    This assumes there are "pure" races, which there aren't. It's just a concept people who think they're "pure" think they can use to divide people into different completely arbitrary groups (and of course some "non-pure" people have been taught that it's true and subscribe to it, for no good reason).

    which I think is a little clearer than "mixed.' Someone who is English/Irish might consider themselves mixed. The most general term for, say, population surveys, is "multiracial." "mixed" is a pretty vague term and as you say doesn't clearly refer to race. I don't think you would ask an individual if they were 'multiracial" or even biracial anyway. Or usually even mixed. It could be kind of rude, depending on context. (What is an 'on the nose' question?? I have never heard that expression. Do you mean a blunt question? If so, I agree.). If you are talking about or to a specific individual, then it's probably kind of obvious what the races in question would be anyway.
    It is not obvious what the races in question would be, that's the point. People who divide others into these clearly distinguished races might think this is the case, but it is not. Not at all. In New York you see all sorts of people, and you simply can't tell a lot of times. There aren't genes that neatly determine "race" the way we can neatly determine gender (physically). It just doesn't work that way. Anything a lot of people think they know about this is just due to "some people" having decided (or deciding) for us how to divide us.

    As for confusing "mixed" with talking about nationalities I don't really see how a conversation would go that ends up in a place where that confusion occurs. I've never ever heard "mixed" referred to that way, and certainly not end up where someone goes "Oh, you meant mixed race? I thought you meant mixed nationality..."

    And lastly, yes, I mean "blunt". It sounds "softer" when omitting the word "race" (regardless of its form).
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    "on-the-nose" isn't something used in English at all, at least not in my idiolect. I am not supporting race as a way to categorize people. At least in the US, mixed might mean a lot of different things. If you ask someone what his background is, he could say, kind of mixed, my paternal grandfather was Polish but my grandmother was Italian, and my mom's mother was half-Chinese. And of course dogs can be mixed-breed. But if for some reason you wanted to talk about race, it would be possible to say "Half the students at my son's high school are bi-racial" where you wouldn't use the word "mixed." Well, at least I wouldn't.
     
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