Sunday, January 17, 2021

Mutts like me

August 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Food Revolution, Self Esteem

This post introduces Contributor Miss Lori to WeAreTheRealDeal, we are thrilled to have such an inspiring mom, musician and multi-talented individual join us! Read more about Miss Lori here


It is time to have this conversation, and it is not going to be a quick one, or an easy one either. Last year in regards to his family’s search for a new dog, the then President elect proclaimed himself a mutt on National TV. I too am a mutt…or as I have been called over the years, even by strangers; oreo, reverse-oreo, zebra, mixed, mulatto, half breed, high yella. And let’s not forget that very special box on government forms and the like…”Other”.

You know why we call animals a mutt, it’s because they have a mixture of breeds that prevent them from being specifically designated one breed over another. Funny, with people, particularly people with African American Ancestry, we still hold true to the vestiges of segregation: if 1/32nd of your blood is black in heritage then you are BLACK. Case in point, though President Barack Obama’s heritage is made up equally of Caucasian and African ancestry the World designate’s him Black. Think about it. However, in Hawaii, where President Obama was raised, things are different. When I visited the islands 9 years ago I was so touched by how the children I encountered proudly celebrated all of their heritage. They would excitedly tell me, to the fraction, what cultures were represented within them. I was very jealous that I didn’t possess the same knowledge to the tenth about myself as I am adopted and only know part of my story.

I have spent most of my life facing a somewhat caustic question from people of all races “What are you?” My answer has always been, “Human”. When I say that Black people claim I am “tryin’ to be white”, White people give me a dismissive smirk, and Latina people start chastising me in Spanish. I don’t feel that embracing all of my heritage in any way shows that I am negating one culture or another. I could no more choose one of my children over another, they are all a part of me and share equally in my love.

It felt to me that on the campaign trail that question, “What are you?” was hanging in the air, unsaid. But equally unsaid, in my opinion, was President Obama’s answer in the form of his actions, “I am Human”. But now, now he is silent no more. His off-hand remark last year tells a deeper story. President Barack Obama designates himself as a mut. The way I look at it, we can all claim him as family, he is a part of us all. And that gives THIS mutt hope.
Come Unite Together in COMMUNITY!



38 Responses to “Mutts like me”
  1. missincognegro says:

    I don’t like the term, “mut”. Perhaps he was trying to add humor to a very complex and complicated issue -being bi/multiracial. But, is the moniker, “mut” proactive?

    As much as I like President Obama, I really believe he just doesn’t think sometimes about what it is he needs to say. Which is problematic. Which is why his using a tele prompter is a good thing; it keeps his words in check.

  2. lissa10279 says:

    We’re so glad you’re here, Miss Lori!!

  3. missincognegro says:

    @greenbunny78 I think that, for POC anyway, there is a strong need to identify beyond, “I am a human being.” That’s obvious. I think that for those of us who are part of a fractured racial/ethnic diaspora, there is a need for a greater connection. That said, I think that white people need to move beyond, “I am a human being” as well. White is not a homogeneous default. BTW: I don’t consider myself a “mutt.” I am a Black American. 🙂

    @McLauren84 The fact that both Black Americans and White Americans associate black with evil and white with good is a part of social conditioning, and the social constructions re: race. As far as race being steeped in the black/white dichotomy, this is due in large part to the historic ramifications of slavery, and subsequently Jim Crow segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. I think the one dichotomy most Americans have yet to to deal in an honest way is the black/white dichotomy, which is why so much attention is paid to it.

    • greenbunny78 says:

      I appreciate the insight- but I really, truly am annoyed by mankind’s quest to split itself into groups in order to be “different”- then whine about how unfair it is that we aren’t treated the same as the “normal” people. I am so tired of people trying to shove me into a jar and label me as any one thing. And that includes race. I don’t befriend people because of race- don’t avoid people because of race. Someone’s race (or sexual orientation, or size, since these have also been brought up)- does not surmise what anyone IS. Its a PART of you that makes up the whole. But in the end, we are all HUMAN. I make friends with someone because I like them as a person- being gay, being black, being fat- those things are not WHO you are as a person- its only a part of the whole. I realize the world does not really see things this way- but I think it would be a better place if it did. And my friends like me because I am me- not because of what color my skin is, what size my clothes are, what language I speak, or what gender my significan other is.

      • missincognegro says:

        @greenbunny78 I, as a Black woman, don’t consciously select my friends on the basis of race, and I think that the people who choose to associate with me do so in accordance to a similar mindset. I was raised in a predominately White community, and have resided in such communities throughout my adult life, attended school K through graduate school in predominately White settings, and have worked in predominately white settings. So, my orientation for much of my life – past and present – has been in White, homogeneous settings, and I have met both good and bad people along the way.

        However, as I have gotten older, I have found that I do tend to share more in common with other Black people, and other Black women in particular. This was not a choice I had during my childhood and adolescence, and for much of my adult life – professional or personal. It just so happens at the present time, I am working at a school where there is a critical mass of people of color, including Black people, and, when I socialize, I tend to socialize more with them.

        Actually, I have never had the sense that someone is trying to “shove me into a box”. So, I find it interesting that this has been and is your feeling.

        While I don’t subscribe to a colorblind approach to life, I do believe that if we could free ourselves, as a society, from the social constructions designed to separate people, life would certainly be far more enriching and far less stressful.

  4. I don't get it says:

    Miss Lori, please run now before this blog pull your credibility down the drain. There are other blogs out there that promote positivity and this blog is clearly not one of them. They will be using you to fix their fuck-ups in here. Ok not fix. More like COVER. Don’t allow these folks to USE you.

    • MissLori says:

      I truly appreciate your concern for my well being, but if I shy away from a difficult venture that needs help, then I am not the person I profess myself to be. I challenged this blog to be more diverse with its panel and now it’s my turn to put my writing on the line for my beliefs. I hope that you will take a moment’s pause and allow evolution to take place. We are all working very hard to BE MORE.

      That said I would really appreciate hearing your comments about my post itself.

      SMILE On!


      • I don't get it says:

        That’s a lot of covering up.

        While I’d like to concentrate on your posting, hard to get all into it with the bad vibes surrounding it. You’re article is sort of like make-up in a really hot and humid day. It melts and fades away. Thanks to your co-authors here in the site.

  5. Diana says:

    What is with people? The bashing and negativity of the posters lately is exhausting. Stuff went down and no one handled it well. While I’m not agreeing with any of it, it’d be awesome to focus on the post at hand!! Give the authors involved with this blog a chance to redeem the site and everything good that can be done and said here. Especially if they weren’t involved with the other controversy. Please.


    I can understand how you feel, although given that I’m caucasion I’m sure some would say that I can’t. I always called it heinz 57, but mutt may be more appropriate.
    It’s strange to me to have this race/ethnicity talk…I’ve always had friends from different backgrounds and learned when I was young that they all equally could be great or terrible. We’re all just people. None of us were given an option of our background before coming into this world. But, it does give for a great, different perspective on the issues at hand given the different backgrounds. Welcome! I’m glad to get a chance to read your point of view on subjects here!

    • Miss Lori says:

      Heinz 57, I like that. Where did that come from in your life? When I was little, amongst a group of us mixed, adopted children, we referred to ourselves as “Zebra Children”. Very NOT PC, but it felt right at the time. That’s a very important point, it’s about what feels right to you.

      SMILE On!


    • abodycreated says:

      Diana, I like what you said about none of us getting to choose what ethnic background we come from. I, too, am caucasion, (we always called it Heinz 57, but that’s what we called a mutt of unknown breed also so there’s no difference! I guess I’ll be an animal too!) and I see no difference between our ancestors coming from Italy or Russia or China or Africa or anywhere else where cultures are different. Like you said, we are all just people and are either good or bad.

      I always wished I could have been one or the other–my grandmother was Italian and married a half German, half Irish, man. My mother, in turn, married a man who was English, Scottish, Irish, Blackfoot Indian, and Lord knows what else. But, now, I’m proud to be such a mix, because I can embrace so many different cultures and claim them as my own. How cool is that?!

  6. Bekka says:

    🙂 All I had to say is that I’m thrilled you’re here, and in the least offensive possible way, it’s mutt and it bothered my OCD tendencies the whole way through the article. I’m a terrible person. But I’m excited to read what you bring to the table!

  7. greenbunny78 says:

    I don’t understand the need that most Americans seem to have with listing all their heritage. I think “I am a human” pretty much covers it. Not to mention the fact that, especially in this day and age- we are ALL mutts. Or at least, most of us.

    I look forward to hearing more from you, Miss Lori- I like your style!

    • Grace says:

      “I am human” doesn’t cover it in a society where racial backgrounds affect the experiences, lives, and opportunities of people of color daily. While I understand that the attempt to look past race is a natural response for someone who doesn’t feel affected by it, it really trivializes the barriers that people of color face daily. Take a look at the HUGE disparity gaps between races in the US about education, income, and employment. Take a look at the recent Supreme Court hearings or any of the statements by Birther advocates. Even at the highest and most public levels of office in our country race is still a huge issue. People have questioned Sotomayor’s demonstrated qualifications to serve as a Supreme Court justice because she is Latina. Our society continuously assaults President Obama and questions his ability to serve as president because he is black, because he is suspected of being Moslem. We do not live in a post-racial society.

      • Linda says:

        Grace, I definitely agree. Ignoring race is impractical in a society whose institutions are racist.

      • greenbunny78 says:

        I find the assumption that my opinions on race and privilege are mine because I am a privileged white person who doesn’t have to worry about these things, therefor I have no idea what its like to be discriminated against, and can’t possibly have anything to say on the subject. I guess its easy to assume something when you disagree with what someone has to say.

        I think that people should be proud of their differnces because they are THEMSELVES, and not constantly shouting out about what group of different people they belong to. And I think people within a certain group should stop judging members of its group for not being “fill in the blank” enough. (white enough, black enough, gay enough- someone is always going to judge you). I stopped reacting to people’s judgements of me. People are gonna think what they think- I am not going to worry about what privilege I do or don’t have based on my surroundings, or what ANY one group of peope thinks of me- whether I belong to it or not. I am guided by my own moral compass- not some jumped up idea of what others think I should be.

      • Caitlin says:

        greenbunny78, that’s nice in theory, but what do you do when every institution and interaction in your society reinforces daily where you stand based on “what group of different people [you] belong to”? People don’t actually have the choice to opt out, is the problem, when it’s society doing the deciding for you.

    • Miss Lori says:

      I wish “I am human” was enough. Unfortunately we live in a society of categories and little boxes on forms, none of which have a box titled “human”.

      Thanks for your support and encouragement.

      SMILE On!


  8. clairemysko says:

    I didn’t take offense when Barack Obama referred to himself as a mutt, but I would probably feel a lot differently if I heard someone describe one of my friends or family members using that term.

    Your observation about kids in Hawaii proudly giving specifics about their cultural heritage is interesting, particularly compared to other contexts, where the question of “what are you?” can be so loaded with accusation and expectation.

  9. McLauren84 says:


    Race is certainly a touchy issue. I generally feel we should respect however someone else identifies themselves, and also respect their right to choose to not identify with any particular race. When it comes down to it, the question “What are you?” is actually fairly offensive. Not only is it steeped in judgmental implications, it implies race is always “black and white”, so to speak.

    If anyone had read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, he points to some interesting research on racial stereotypes that shows almost all participants, even Black Americans, associate Black faces with evil and White faces with good. I appreciate any further discussion of racial issues–too often, the topic is swept under the rug in an effort to make some people more comfortable.

  10. Kat says:

    I’m white, but a self-described mutt (even caucasians get asked the “What are you?” question, and listing upwards of 20 European nationalities just makes people go cross-eyed.) This is a wonderful post, and I think it will become even more relevant as the ethnic makeup of the world, and more particularly the US, becomes less homogeneous.

    However, I believe that Barack Obama took the lead in discussions of his heritage by self-identifying as black (not biracial) throughout his campaign — the media followed his lead. (More info can be found href=”″>here, if you’re interested.)

  11. laprofe63 says:

    Things do get divided into black and white in the discourse of the national media and popular culture. But it should be spoken of in terms of white and non-white. That’s how you get treated, like a white human, or a non-white person, and sometimes (maybe even often) treated as something slightly less than fully human when it’s convenient.

    Racialized difference (and the inequities that come with it) has a function within another, greater power game going on, one intimately connected to the sex divide.

    I’m the mother of a biracial child, and I’m not sure if I would want him to consider himself a “mutt” because I’m not sure that it’s a term free of negative connotations. He can decide how to see himself and what to call himself when he’s older.

    If you have chosen “mutt” that’s fine with me, so long as we all know that there are evolutionary advantages to being a “mutt” and significant genetic disadvantages to being of “pure blood.” The aim is to use terminology that expresses there is nothing wrong, bad, or otherwise “less than” associated with being of mixed racial/ethnic lineage, since in fact there isn’t.

  12. MizFit says:

    McLauren84 pointed out what I was going to add about Blink (interesting read!).

    So I will just leave it that Im thrilled Miss Lori is here to join us and move our conversation forward.

  13. jln says:

    Maybe this is just a little thing, but when I read “the World designate’s him Black”, my first thought is that that is *not* the world, that’s the USA.

    Most of “the world” does not buy into that all-or-nothing/one-drop-rule thinking. During the US election there were all kinds or non-American media (I remember ones from Canada, the UK, France and South Africa, but I don’t doubt that there were even more) having to explain that very American way of identity-building to the rest their audiences because it’s so very foreign.

  14. Nikki says:

    I think there’s a lot of space on the spectrum between knowing your ethnicity down to the specific percentage and just saying “I am human.”

    I teach at a school where there are kids from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and China. There are also many Hmong children (the Hmong do not have a home country.) It is infuriating to me to call all these children “Asian.” The cultures are so different, the languages are different, the PEOPLE are different, and they all deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated SEPARATELY instead of viewed as the exact same group of people.

    …this was in response to Greenbunny78 above, but the “reply” option was not available. I’m still not sure what the most efficient way to respond to comments on this site is. :/

    • abodycreated says:

      But, Nikki, can you understand why people would do that? I had two very good friends in high school. One was Vietnamese and one was Cambodian. I could not tell which one was which until they told me. Just like no one can tell my heritage until I tell them. I’m caucasion–a name given to people who are not black, Asian, Indian, etc.–and my ancestors come from many different cultures that are very different. You’ll never hear me say “I’m an Italian, Irish, German, Scottish, Blackfoot Indian American”. I’m simply white. That doesn’t take away from the importance of celebrating each aspect of my make-up. And when someone learns “what” I am, then they can celebrate that specifically. And that’s ok.

  15. Tempe Wick says:

    I find the question “What are you?” to be inappropriate and “I’m a human being” a perfectly good rejoinder to that question. It’s the use of the word ‘what’ that rubs me the wrong way. As if the person being asked is some strange thing the questioner never saw before.

    • abodycreated says:

      To me it’s just all semantics and perspective. I know if someone were to ask me “What are you?” I would understand what they are asking about and wouldn’t be offended. But, yeah, there are other ways of asking, such as “What is your cultural background?” or “Where are your ancestors from?” that would be less harsh sounding.

      • Emily S. says:

        So I was standing in line at a work even watching a young intern who appeared to be of Asian descent with no distinctive accent whatsoever and an older white man who had been working at the company a long time.

        The older man asks “SO where are you from?”

        The intern says “Austin”.

        The older man says “NO, where are you FROM, where were you ORIGINALLY from?”

        The intern says “California”.

        The old man says “NO, where are your ANCESTORS FROM?”, looking increasingly frustrated.

        The intern sighs, gives up, and says “Korea”.

        The old man goes on to talk about how he fought in Vietnam and spills out a bunch of stereotypes based on a country that the intern has no connection with, except for that, in the older man’s mind, they looked enough alike to be categorized together.

        It’s never about just the words you choose. Why was it so important for him to know where the intern’s ancestors are from? How is that relevant? And certainly after the question has been answered, no matter how unsatisfactory the answer is to you, drop it already!

  16. FatNSassy says:

    I so agree with you that we should be allowed to celebrate all our heritages. I am part Cherokee, but did not know my biological father. I am very fair, so when I mention it, white people laugh. I think I am coming off to many Native Americans as just another white person playing Indian. And many white people did jump on the “trend” to claim NA ancestry, especially Cherokee, having no clue as to how Native Americans suffered. Others have tried to cash in on government funds. So I can understand caution on the part of Native Americans. I stopped telling people what I am, but continued to learn about Native culture. Ironically, I have been asked by some NA if I am Native because while my skin is pale, my features are Native. Then it looked as if I was trying to deny my heritage, which was more deeply embarrassing to me than the Cherokee cliche. My ancestors were who they were and I want to be able to proudly claim all of them.

  17. Miriam Heddy says:

    mutt: 1901, “stupid or foolish person,” probably a shortening of muttonhead (1803); meaning “a dog,” especially “a mongrel” is from 1904, originally simply a term of contempt.

    I’m all in favor of reclaiming words as a means of taking the sting out of them, but I think it’s worth thinking about the origins of those words when we use them.

    I post this because the Wikipedia link Miss Lori used here for “mutt” actually links to the word “mut,” and though you can click on “disambiguation” to get to the “mixed breed dog” entry, that entry doesn’t describe the word’s origins or the reasons it might be especially insulting when used to describe a human being, and why reclaiming it means grappling not only with the “mixed” sense but also with “stupid” sense of the word.

    • MissLori says:

      Thank you Miriam for all of your research. I agree, knowing the genesis of a word is very beneficial. I should point out I am not trying to reclaim any words. I have used the term mutt in my life time, but not nearly as much as mixed or multi-racial. Nonetheless, It was just a great starting point for our conversation because of President Obama’s reference to it.

      SMILE On!


  18. Patty says:

    I know this is a really old post that I’m commenting on, but I’m doing some catching up. All I want to ask is why can’t we, or rather when will we be able to simply call ourselves American, and not Italian American, or Irish American, or African American? My ancestry is a mixed bag, just as most people whose families have been here for several generations are. So how many generations will it take to simply answer I am American?

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