'Latino' V. 'Hispanic' Debate Stirs Listeners

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Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback to recent conversations heard on the program. This week, the audience has their say on the debate over whether the term "Hispanic" should be retired in favor of "Latino." Also, one woman tells how a recent discussion about young, gay teenagers coming out of the closet left her wanting to know more.


And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me, as always. Hi, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, well, is it Hispanic or Latino? Michel, that is the question we posed to last week's group of guys in the TELL ME MORE Barbershop. We're just about in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, but there are some who say the term Hispanic just doesn't cut it. Here's activist Roland Roebuck in last week's Barbershop.

Mr. ROLAND ROEBUCK (Activist): If I'm going to use the term Latino, it would be Afro-Latino because I want to acknowledge my Africaness(ph), and I also want to recognize my cultural background, which is Puerto Rican. For me, Hispanic refers to white, Spanish-speaking individuals. So the whiter you are, the more inclined you will be to identify yourself as Hispanic.

MARTIN: Well, Lee, after that conversation, we heard from blogger Chris(ph). He writes: The reality is that different groups of Latinos have different background stories and, just like everyone else, different prejudices. I have always called myself an American of Mexican descent, and I want to emphasize that once in this country, we are all Americans. Well, thank you Chris.

And Lee, moving ahead to this week, another conversation that had people buzzing was our report on gay students coming out of the closet in middle school. Here's a portion of our conversation with 15-year-old Alex Bucholtz(ph). He decided to make his sexual orientation known at age 13.

Mr. ALEX BUCHOLTZ: When I came out to my friends and stuff, it was pretty well-received by the people I was already friends with. The people I wasn't friends with probably weren't friends with me because they already thought I was gay at the beginning. So everyone just kind of shut up talking to me for a while, but after a little bit of adjusting, which was like a week, people started to just act like everything was fine.

HILL: And Michel, in that conversation, we heard from Alex' mom, Nadia, along with John Cepek, who is the current president of PFLAG, a support group for parents, friends and relatives of gays. But later we caught up with blogger Algery(ph) who says she wanted to hear from another voice.

ALGERY (Blogger): I would have also liked to have heard a perspective from the black community. No disrespect, but it seems a lot easier for a white person to come out than it is for a black person. The black community still keeps its head buried in the sand on this topic and doesn't want to talk about it in the same comfort zone as they do about racism.

MARTIN: Thank you, Algery, Lee, any updates?

HILL: Well, Michel, you remember back in May, we explored the collapse of the auto industry. And at that time, the future of GM's Saturn brand was up in the air. Well, not any more. This week came news that Saturn faces almost a certain end after the sale of the brand to Penske Automotive Group fell through. GM plans to stop producing Saturn cars at the end of 2011.

Also, we reported this week on the alarming death of Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old Chicago teenager fatally beaten on the city's South Side. Now, the violent act captured on videotape has drawn a lot of attention, so much that since our broadcast, we learned that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Arne Duncan, the former head of Chicago Public Schools, who is now secretary of education, will travel to Chicago next week to meet with school and community leaders about the issue.

MARTIN: And Lee, we should also mention that since Derrion's death, a 14-year-old on the North Side was beaten, in Chicago, and would appear to be a gang-related attack. He's undergone surgery, and he's expected to survive, and once again, we want to express our condolences to the families involved. Thank you for the updates, Lee.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log on to our new Web site, where you can read more from fellow listeners and enjoy a simpler social-networking experience. Go to npr.org. Click on programs and then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Coming up, the Barbershop guys weigh in on the news of the week, including David Lettermen's confession of having affairs with members of the staff.

Mr. DAVID LETTERMAN (Television Host): Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would, especially for the women.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: The Barbershop is next on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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