Bloggers' Roundtable: What's in a Name? Hispanic or Latino? What is the preferred term? On this week's bloggers roundtable, Farai Chideya talks racial identity with bloggers Ambra Nykol, Jim Collier, and Liza Sabater. They also take up the latest developments in Marion Jones' steroid scandal.
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Bloggers' Roundtable: What's in a Name?

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Bloggers' Roundtable: What's in a Name?

Bloggers' Roundtable: What's in a Name?

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Now, onto our Bloggers' Roundtable.

Marion Jones returns her Olympic medals, and to get hit with financial penalties, too. And are white kids happier than blacks and Hispanics?

With us is freelance writer Ambra Nykol of the blog "," Jim Collier writes the blog "Acting White," and we also have cultural commentator Liza Sabater, she publishes the community blog "Culture Kitchen." So welcome, everybody.

Ms. LIZA SABATER (Cultural Commentator, "Culture Kitchen"): Hello.

Ms. AMBRA NYKOL (Freelance writer, ""): Hello, hello.

MR. JIM COLLIER (Writer, "Acting White"): Hi, Farai.

CHIDEYA: So we've got Marion Jones, she's admitted to using steroids before the 2000 Olympics. Last week, she pled guilty to lying to federal investigators.

Here's what she said last Friday outside the federal courthouse in White Plains, New York.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

Ms. MARION JONES (Former American Athlete, Track and Field) I have let them down, I have let my country down, and I have let myself down. I recognize that by saying that I'm deeply sorry, it might not be enough and sufficient to address the pain and the hurt that I have caused you. Therefore, I want to ask for your forgiveness for my actions. And I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

CHIDEYA: Now, on Monday, Jones gave up the five medals that she won at the Sydney Olympics. She's going to be sentenced in January, could get up to six months in jail. There is also a chance that she'll have to return millions of dollars in prize money.

Jim, is she getting what she deserves or is she getting spanked a little too hard?

MR. COLLIER: Well, I mean, I'm not - I really can't sit in judgment of sort of her particular case. I think that she is on sort of a leading edge of drama where our supposed rules and laws sort of come back to bite us.

I mean, we put these people up on a pedestal, we push them, we reward them, we give them praise, and then we turn around and drag them through the mud when they turn out to be human. And we don't realize that, literally, we set them up for that.

I mean, the drugs that athletes take, most of them are not detectable because if they're state-of-the-art and if they're sort of doing their homework, then, you know, they're taking things that are going to push their performance. And that's what we all scream and yell at in the stands, and then we turn around and catch them on the back end, and we, you know, and we blast them.

What really hurts me here is your last statement, though, about the millions, and that is that she doesn't have the millions to give back. And I just wonder how is it that a person makes all these money and ends up broke, and now she's facing, you know, a tough future going ahead.

CHIDEYA: Liza, do you think that she's paying for a collective outrage that has been building over doping? There has been doping in pro cycling on the Tour de France.

Ms. SABATER: Right.

CHIDEYA: There's been doping in baseball. Is this a part of…

Ms. SABATER: I wonder if her being, you know, a woman has something to do in terms of how hard they're coming down on her. I mean, you know, it's interesting because my father actually was an Olympic athlete. He was in first - a group to go up from Puerto Rico in 1948, and…

CHIDEYA: Well, what's his sport?

Ms. SABATER: He was a 400 meter hurdles.

CHIDEYA: Oh, wow.

MS. SABATER: Yeah. And he actually - he didn't win on '48, but in the Central Americans on '52 I think he won. He won a bronze medal.

And, you know, the - back then - even 30, 40 years ago in the sports - Olympic sports were really about putting out the best of a country and really being representatives of the people of that country. Nowadays, it's a multi-billion dollar industry.

And, you know, when it comes - especially all the construction and urban development that goes around just building Olympic towns in order to bring, you know, all of the sports to China or to whichever country is hosting them, there's a lot of money involved in that. And so, to me, it's - I mean, she's a casualty of the craziness, the greed that is, you know, that has taken over sports in general.

CHIDEYA: Ambra, before we get to you, I want to play a little bit more tape. There's a phrase from politics, it's not the lie, it's the cover-up.

And for years, Jones said that she had not used steroids. In 2004, she even called for a public hearing to clear her name. Here's a snip of that.

Ms. JONES: The truth is my friend and transparency my ally in this matter, and this is why I want this process to be as transparent, open and fair as possible, so that everyone can see for themselves what I've been saying all along: That I have never ever used performance-enhancing drugs, and that I have accomplished what I've accomplished because of my God-given abilities and hard work.

CHIDEYA: All right. Ambra, did that just kind of put the nail on the coffin once this came out?

Ms. NYKOL: Pretty much. Yeah. That's sort of embarrassing to listen to, actually. I think - I don't know, I think we're - it seems that we're in a strong season of people being under the microscope, particularly black athletes. And, you know, it's a tough situation that Marion Jones has to be made an example.

But I sort of am curious to see - I think that the standard needs to be applied, you know, openly. I don't think anybody was shocked when they heard about, you know, all of this. But I do think the issue - to me that raises red flags is, you know, is she being singled out, and is that standard going to be applied broadly? Because every one knows, you know, steroid use and performance-enhancing drugs is common among professional athletes. And so - I don't know it's a little bit disconcerting to me that she is a black woman, and I do think, to some degree, that she's definitely being made an example.

CHIDEYA: I want to move on to another topic. And, Liza, I know this is close to your heart, Hispanic Heritage Month. Now, first of all, this is the first month that I've heard about that actually kind of goes from the 15th to the 15th. We can discuss that some other time. But it's like mid-September to mid-October. Tell me about your blog post, "Why I Hate Hispanic Heritage Month," and it's not about the fact that it kind of straddles two months, is it?

Ms. SABATER: No, it doesn't. The point of that post is that the word Hispanic glamorizes or, you know, kind of evokes with nostalgia, a European common ancestry to Latin Americans. And a lot of us don't necessarily - and by European, I mean white. Because, of course, you know, the - when it comes to Spain, you know, God forbid that, you know, this being (unintelligible) is akin to America where either Muslim, Jewish or (unintelligible) a gypsy. So not necessarily, you know, blonde and blued eyed.

And so, you know, as a national Puerto Rican woman, the word Hispanic really brings up, not only cultural cliches, but also political ones. Because by using that word - it is interesting, I actually was looking at some documents and that article I linked to a document from the Census where it said that before the 1970s, any, you know, minority - Latin-American minority here in the United States that would say, you know, either Cuban or Puerto Rican or Jamaican, what-not and then in race would mark other, they were counted by the Census as white.


Ms. SABATER: You know, it just absolutely infuriates me.

CHIDEYA: Well, here - let me ask you something, though, because I've traveled around the country, interviewing a lot of people about race at different times in my career. Some people love Hispanic, the word. Some people use Spanish. Some people use Latino. Some people just use their specific national ethnicity. So I mean, maybe you vote for something else. But, you know…

Ms. SABATER: Yeah. I just don't think…

CHIDEYA: …is there going to be like caucus on what to call this month?

Ms. NYKOL: Right.

Ms. SABATER: No. I mean, on every day use(ph) - people different use different things especially here in New York City. You would never hear somebody say, I'm Hispanic or Latino. I mean, usually, people say I'm Puerto Rican, I'm Dominican, I'm Mexican or whatever. And even they get granular in terms of, you know, no, I'm from Guadalajara, I'm from Pueblo, you know, that kind of - those kinds of distinctions.

But, you know, as a political blogger, is says a lot where you coming from when you choose between Latino and Hispanic. And so you know, as somebody who considers herself left of center and more - and not a liberal but actually a progressive and that, you know, comes from a family history of social justice advocacy. Latino, really, is an important distinction for me because I am not excluding indigenous peoples. I'm not obviously trying to whitewash my race. And also I'm not even excluding people who don't speak Spanish.

CHIDEYA: Well, let me…

Mr. COLLIER: Jim Belisa(ph). If I can just break in here. I mean, I really appreciate what you're saying. But I think, Farai has a good ID here. And that is that the rest of us - meaning, you know, whether it's white America or black America, we're clueless as to all this stuff that you're talking about. I mean, it's so…

Ms. SABATER: But you know what? That's the problem. That's the problem. We need education.

Mr. COLLIER: We need you to get together and tell us what to call you. I mean, if you get together and tell us what to call you, then we'll be happy to call you that. But in the meantime, you know…


Mr. COLLIER: …we don't want to be back here tripping over ourselves, wondering like, well, do I say this? Do I say that? You know, am I going to say to somebody.

CHIDEYA: Well, Jim…

Ms. SABATER: Well, actually…

CHIDEYA: Jim, let me jump in here. There's the black versus African-American debate. Is this reminding you of that?

Ms. : Right.

Mr. COLLIER: Weak.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SABATER: It is reminding me of that. That's - yeah - and…

Mr. COLLIER: That is why I'm really glad that we actually used both of those because…


Mr. COLLIER: …then people, you know, can just use them without fear that they're going to say the wrong thing right out of the gate. And that's the worst.

Ms. SABATER: But actually, during the '80s, there was an issue with the Census, really treating Hispanic as white. And this was a big (unintelligible). Remember in - back in the days when there was - there was not even AOL. People were actually, you know, discussing this on BBSs, on - in Uunets - you know, over the Internet. And, you know, it wasn't - it is a big issue especially when it comes to how, you know, the makers of, you know, official - the official history of the United States consider everybody that comes from south of the border, you know, whether Hispanic or Latino. I mean, I do think that it really says something when the Census says that people who define themselves as Hispanic or white when that's not true.

Ms. NYKOL: Well, can I jump in here?

CHIDEYA: Absolutely.

Ms. NYKOL:I think - I mean, I think race is a social construct. So I think that it becomes very difficult when we start limiting things to race versus culture. But I guess for me, and I hope this doesn't change things in the conversation, but for me, I think the bigger issue is the fact that we relegate the study of certain cultures too much. To me, that's disturbing.

Ms. SABATER: Come on. That's absolutely - I…

Mr. COLLIER: Because I think the bigger picture here is the fact that it's almost like it's - I understand the origin. I understand the Black History Month, you know, (unintelligible), which I understand that there was a time and a place for the origin of why those things came about.

But I think that in the day that we're in now, I think it has become a compensation for a lack in our educational system. And I think it's - it compartmentalizes it to the point where people don't think that it's their history. They think that it's your history. And I think that when we do that, that is very - I mean, I think that is not something that's going to bring us where we need to be as a (unintelligible).

CHIDEYA: Ambra, let me…

Mr. COLLIER: I won't go even further and say that it's a lack of sophistication from the U.S. Department of Education. I mean, when you basically are saying that you need to create these artificial ways of looking at the history of a country, you know, if they are - if they don't even know what is that happened - you know, what is the history of Latin America, they shouldn't be writing education policy. And a lot of the people that are involved in that, you know, just don't have the educational sophistication in order to make those decisions. And that's why you have the crappy (unintelligible) that they teach in public school.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know, does anyone - we've got 30 seconds left.

Jim, any final thoughts? Abolished Black History Month, stopping putting labels on anyone? Any great announcement?

Mr. COLLIER: Well, I mean, I think that I would be happy if people told me sort of what to call people, otherwise, I've just perfected this trick of listening to people and I just used the words - if the group is Hispanic, I use the word Hispanic. If it's Latino, I use Latino.

Ms. NYKOL: Right.

Mr. COLLIER: I call people what they want to be called because I feel like they have the right to be called what they want to be called. In this particular case, it's just very, very confusing. I mean, I think that the whole black issue…

CHIDEYA: Hey you all always works. Hey you.

Mr. COLLIER: A black…

CHIDEYA: All right. We're going to have end it right there. We've been talking with Ambra Nykola of the blog, She's at member station KUOW in Seattle, Washington. Cultural commentator Liza Sabater. She publishes the community blog, Culture Kitchen at or New York Studios. And Jim Collier writes the blog, Acting White. He was at UC Berkley's Graduate School of Journalism. You can find links to their blogs and ours at

And the conversation doesn't stop here. Our online series, Speak Your Mind gives you a chance to sound off on the issues you care about. To find out how, go to our blog, and click on Speak Your Mind.

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