In the spring of 2003, CBC's Online Language Advisory Board reviewed concerns raised about the word "mulatto." Here is its ruling:
The term "mulatto" should not be used in news stories on CBC.ca unless we're quoting someone who prefers to be known by this term, are citing a literary passage, or are providing historical context e.g., referring to the wording of old legislation against interracial marriage.
There are two reasons:
- Mulatto, based on the word "mule," offends many people and is considered as inappropriate as now-discarded terms such as "half-caste" (which means "half pure") and "half breed."
- Old racial categories (e.g., mulatto, quadroon and octoroon) are dismissed by many experts as pseudo-scientific and misleading.
We're not the first news organization to adopt this stand. In its 1998 Style Book, for instance, the Globe and Mail warns: "We should not get into the game of measuring skin shade to declare that a person obviously of mixed race is either Caucasian or black, nor should we use such specific terms as mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, or half-breed."
CBC journalists are reminded to avoid including a person's skin colour in stories unless this detail is deemed relevant. Alternatives for "mulatto" include "mixed-race" or a specific description rather than a label. For example, in a child custody dispute largely based on race that was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2001, we simply reported that the boy's mother was white and his father was black.
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