When It Isn't As Simple As Black & White

Hello, my name is Jordan Washington, and I’m Mulatto. 

I’m sure some of you may already have an idea of where this potentially could be going.

“What does Mulatto mean?”

“Mulatto is such an outdated term.”

“Mulatto is an offensive term. I prefer mixed, biracial, etc. (enter descriptive word to point out mixed heritage)”

The cut and dried definition is, “A person of mixed white and black ancestry, especially a person with one white and one black parent.” The google dictionary lists that word under the categories “dated” and “offensive”.

Whatever your reaction to that word and its historical and cultural connotations, I readily identify with my mixed black and white heritage. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a period in my life when I would have told you I was black and left it at that. But God had a journey of racial discovery in mind for me.

So, let me take you on a quest not quite as old or as epic as Bilbo’s in The Hobbit, but fraught with peril and self-discovery nonetheless. I hope that I may shed some light on what it’s like being stuck between two worlds. 

I was raised in a traditional, conservative Christian home. I have two loving, born-again parents who raised my four siblings and I in the fear and admiration of the Lord. My father is black and my mother is white. In my 26 years of life, I have lived in neighborhoods that cops feared to enter. I have lived in cushy suburbs where crime is something that happens on the news. I have lived in a border city in Mexico known for violence. I have lived in Spain as a college exchange student. These experiences tie into my cultural and spiritual identity as they all had a unique influence on my journey. 

I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska during the 90s when Omaha’s violent crime rate was running rampant. I was raised in a Crip set, which for those unfamiliar with gang terminology is slang for a gang controlled neighborhood. All my memories prior to moving from Omaha in 2005 were of our neighborhood. I grew up around black people in an environment where your racial identity consisted of light skinned vs dark skinned jokes, but everyone understood that you were part of the community. My racial identity was never in question. 

That all changed when my family moved to Shorewood, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, in August 2005. We went from living around all black faces, regular gunshots, gang violence, and other forms of mayhem, to white picket fence suburbia. I had never been more uncomfortable in my entire life. I instinctively didn’t trust the safety of white suburbia in Wisconsin. But my greatest challenge was the newfound pressure to identify myself as one neat, racial category that can be checked on a census box.

For the first time, I was faced with the reality that I didn’t know what my racial identity was. I resented the people who had forced me to put myself into a box. I didn’t like the fact that my physical appearance made me racially ambiguous. That also made me resent God for creating me so light skinned. Why out of three boys was I the only one with hazel eyes, slightly curly brown hair, and skin color that more resembled a tanned, Cali surfer bro than my black relatives? I was at war internally. 

I’d love to say that I came to grips with my identity crisis immediately, but it would be years of struggle, resentful prayers, and seeking validation before I came to see myself how God sees me. 

Through my inner turmoil, my parents continuously encouraged me that God did not make a mistake in how He created me. Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” 

God makes no mistakes. The physical image He so meticulously crafted was no mistake. He knew that creating me this way and allowing me to struggle with this identity crisis would make me appreciate the craftsmanship of God. I praise Him because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I can say now that I embrace who and how God created me. I have a greater appreciation for both of my respective cultures, and I find that I can learn and adapt to new cultures very quickly. Living in Spain and Mexico helped with that ability tremendously, and I now enjoy the guessing games people have when guessing my ethnicity. It’s entertaining hearing what race people think I am. I’ve heard Puerto Rican, Dominican, Turkish, Egyptian and Moroccan most frequently. 

I have the Lord to thank for allowing me to struggle before coming into an appreciation of how He created me. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I relish the conversations I will have with my children one day about their racial identity. My fiancée is Mexican and Guatemalan, and I look forward to explaining to my kids that they are Black, White and Latino and watching their faces as they process what that means. 

I have one final piece of advice. Allow God to stretch you, and don’t be afraid to embrace the hard questions that dig at the core of who you are. They will inevitably lead to new truths about yourself and a greater understanding of exactly how creative God is and just how much He loves you. 


Jordan Washington

Jordan was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2013, Jordan graduated from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point with a triple major in Political Science, International Studies, and Spanish. He is passionate about cultural and ethnic diversity in the church body due to being raised in a mixed-race family. He is a self-styled social and cultural chameleon. His favorite hobbies include playing/watching futbol (soccer), playing video games and other nerdy pursuits, watching movies, and traveling the globe. He currently lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin