What Does It Mean To Be Latino? The Kid Mero Talks Us Through It : Code Switch We've said it multiple times on the show: Latinos are the second largest demographic in the United States. But...what does that actually mean? Are Latinos a race? Ethnicity? Culture? We try (and fail) to answer some of these questions with Dominican American podcaster and entertainer the Kid Mero.

The Kid Mero Talks 'What It Means To Be Latino'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/991629761/1199265180" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I identify as a Latina.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Sorry. That's always really a hard question for me (laughter). What are you defining race as? Do we have to have a conversation about what race is?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yes, I'm Latinx. That's easy because I know my parents are both from Costa Rica. But for race, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I self-identify as a Latino and of the Black race.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Looking at me, I can't put white. I can't put Black. I put other sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: I like to fill out other, and I like to just write in Latino.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: I don't know where my African is. I'll never know because that information was taken from me.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: So this year, I guess I realized that I'm Indigenous.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: Mexican American, Indian - or Indigenous.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: I look white. That's how I came out (laughter). However, I was raised in a Dominican household.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #10: It just doesn't make sense.


I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.


I'm Gene Demby. And this is CODE SWITCH.

MERAJI: ...From NPR.

DEMBY: All right. So Latinos are the second-largest demographic in the U.S. That's, like, a thing we see all the time on this show.

MERAJI: It is.

DEMBY: It's a very weird data point because, you know, when we say that, Shereen, what are we talking about? Like our Latinos, the second-largest racial demographic in the United States?

MERAJI: Yeah, how does that work? How does that work if there are a bunch of different races that make up the Latino category, not...

DEMBY: Right.

MERAJI: ...To mention the fact that Latinos rep around two dozen countries of origin.

DEMBY: Right, right. But let's go back to the before times. In 2017, you interviewed Cristina Mora, who is a sociologist at UC Berkeley, and you talk to her about the creation of, you know, this Hispanic or Latino or Latinx...

MERAJI: Latine, actually.

DEMBY: Sorry. Oh, my bad, my bad - Latine category, how it came to be.

MERAJI: I did. And she wrote a book all about it. It's called "Making Hispanics: How Activists, Bureaucrats & Media Constructed A New American."


CRISTINA MORA: I would tell people, I'm writing this story about the development of the Latino category. And they would say, well, duh, they've always seen themselves as such.

MERAJI: Actually, no, we haven't. We've only been thinking about ourselves here in the United States as Hispanics or Latinos for maybe 50 years, not even. And if you want to know more about that recent history, you should check out that Cristina Mora episode. It's fascinating. But the entire time we've been saying Hispanic or Latino, it has been incredibly fraught. Case in point, November 2020 - the after times - when more Hispanics than expected voted for he who shall not be named.

DEMBY: (Breathing heavily).

MERAJI: (Laughter).


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #11: This may be the last election cycle where we talk about the Latino vote.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #12: A Cuban is not the same as a Puerto Rican is not the same as a Guatemalan.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #13: Is there such a thing as the Latino vote?

LUCAS RENGIFO-KELLER: It might be useful to get rid of the term altogether because...

MERAJI: Once again, mainstream English-language media realized Latinos are not the M-word.

DEMBY: Don't say it. Don't say the word.

MERAJI: That's M as in Mary (laughter).

DEMBY: And Marisol Meraji (laughter).

MERAJI: I refuse to say the M-word. But regardless, think pieces proliferated about whether Latino is a category with any meaning at all - because how on earth could so much of this group vote for a president who fueled his campaign and administration on racial animus? Here's historian Geraldo Cadava. He headlined our "Latinx Vote Comes Of Age" episode.

GERALDO CADAVA: I teach a class on Latino history at Northwestern. And we start with the question, who or what is a Latino anyway? And we never resolve that question. I mean, it kind of weaves its way through our story about the past 500 years, but we don't resolve it. And I don't think the point is to resolve it. I think the point is to keep having the question. And so in some ways, Latino group identity, all it is is an ongoing conversation about what it means to be Latino.


DEMBY: So we are about to start our ongoing conversation about what it means to be Latino.


DEMBY: We are going to talk to all kinds of interesting and smart people about the topic, including y'all, the listeners, because, you know, y'all have opinions that y'all let us know...

MERAJI: Ooh, you do have opinions.

DEMBY: ...Very freely.

MERAJI: (Laughter) Yep.

DEMBY: We're kicking this all off, though, with a dude you might have seen late night on Showtime if you watch "Desus & Mero."

THE KID MERO: I just want to - I want place the disclaimer that I have not done any type of collegiate studies of, like, racial identity or anything like that. So I'm shooting from the hip.

DEMBY: Or maybe you've heard his voice on the "Bodega Boys" podcast. It's been around for a minute, y'all. He co-hosts both of those with his partner in crime, Desus Nice. Oh, and a warning - there is definitely going to be some cussing, some salty language...

MERAJI: So much sazon.

DEMBY: ...This episode. And this time, it's not just you, Shereen, that's (unintelligible). All right, y'all. Let's Do this.

MERAJI: Unleash all your names.

THE KID MERO: It's The Kid Mero. Depending on which one of my tios you ask, it's Romero because that's what my father wanted to name me. And my mom was like, you thought. I gestated and birthed this child; his name is Joel...


THE KID MERO: ...Armogasto Martinez...

MERAJI: Wonderful.

THE KID MERO: ...Which is my father's - my father goes by Tito, but his government name is Armogasto, which is extremely Dominican.

MERAJI: I'm Puerto Rican...


MERAJI: ...And I have a cousin named Tito. But his name is Hector (ph).

THE KID MERO: (Laughter). Dominicans - I feel like Dominicans name their kids, they just spin a wheel. Like, yo, like, let's just spin a wheel - or yo, you know what? Who was, like, the 18th president of the United States? Let's name our kid that. Like, they'll name their kid. Like, yo...

MERAJI: I thought you were asking me that, and I got really nervous.

THE KID MERO: Yeah, no. Shout out to all my Dominicans because Dominicans will name their kids stuff like Winston and Franklin.

MERAJI: Also, pronunciation is always interesting.

THE KID MERO: Franklin.

MERAJI: (Speaking Spanish), Franklin.

THE KID MERO: (Speaking Spanish) Yonathan, which is spelled with a Y, by the way.

MERAJI: My name is Shereen, and they can't say it in Puerto Rico. So they call me Chireen (ph) - Chireenga (ph).

THE KID MERO: Chireen, Chireen.

MERAJI: I wish my mom had named me Marisol. It would have made things a lot easier since I don't know my Iranian...

THE KID MERO: (Laughter).

MERAJI: ...My Iranian family.

THE KID MERO: Like yo, why couldn't you just name me Yesenia and call it a day?

MERAJI: My brother is Mark Anthony (ph)...

THE KID MERO: (Laughter).

MERAJI: ...But yet - but yet.

THE KID MERO: (Laughter).

MERAJI: So anyway, you are here to talk about Latinidad, whatever that means to you. Before we get to that, how do you self-identify racially, ethnically?

THE KID MERO: Man, I'm I am Black Latino, cis het male from the Bronx or whatever order y'all want to put it in, you know what I'm saying? But like, I never thought I was anything other than, you know, like, a Black Latino. You know what I'm saying? Like (laughter)...


THE KID MERO: Like, you know what made me realize it very early on was going to - my mom pulled me out of public school, put me in a Catholic school that was a lot of Irish - there was a lot of Irish kids in.


THE KID MERO: And they used to be like, yo, you're Black. And I used to - you know, that's very confusing to, like, a 7-year-old. Like, being like, yes, but then it's like I'm also Dominican. I speak Spanish. English is my second language. I didn't even speak English until, you know, I started going to school, like, kindergarten and all that stuff. Like, I spoke Spanish exclusively at home. Like, I didn't speak any English at home. So you know, that's - it was - it's like a weird balance of, like, you know, your Blackness And your Latinidad, also, 'cause, like, a lot of it - for a lot of Latinos, like, it hinges on language, too. Like, that was like the big - I don't know. Listen, I don't want to age you...


THE KID MERO: ...Or - I'm going to age myself. But I know I'm from when, like, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, they didn't really, like, super get along, you know what I mean? It wasn't like "Kumbaya." Now it's like "Kumbaya." Like, shout out to Bad Bunny and El Alfa and everybody, like, crossing genres. And everybody's, like, shaking hands and, like, hugging. But before, it was just like power struggle - New York City. Like, who is the biggest Latino group in New York City? Is it Puerto Ricans or Dominicans? We'll find out at 11. You know what I'm saying? So that era of like - and what Dominicans used to say to Puerto Ricans is like, ah, y'all don't even speak Spanish.

MERAJI: Yeah, that's exactly right.

THE KID MERO: You know what I mean? Like, aha, you not no Latino; you don't even speak Spanish. You know what I mean? So it's just like, you know, like, you grow. And you're like knowing the colonizer's language is not all that matters. Like, that doesn't make or break your, you know, identity as a Latino, Latine.

MERAJI: Oh, yeah. Let's talk about that. So is it Latino, Latinx, Latine, Hispanic?

THE KID MERO: I'm too washed. Like, yeah, I don't know. I'm too washed, and there's too many terms out there. Like, I use Latino, Latina, like, with, you know, cis het people. If you're like, I'm Shereen; my pronouns are she and her, then I'm like, OK, Shereen, is a Latina. You know what I'm saying? But like, if it's, you know, somebody who's, like, nonbinary or identifies differently, I'll just use Latine because Latinx sounds like porno to me.


THE KID MERO: I'm ain't even go - I'm not going to lie. When I first heard Latinx, I was like, oh, Vanessa del Rio's back? Let's go.

MERAJI: (Sighing) Ay.

THE KID MERO: You know what I'm saying? Like - but it's just weird. And then, like - I actually had a conversation with this - like, in a digital short for the show, "Desus & Mero" on Showtime, No. 1 show on late night. And it was just like, how do you pronounce that? Because I've seen it written...


THE KID MERO: ...But I've never heard it said. Right? Like, I've said - I think I heard one person, and they said Latin-ex (ph). And I was just like...

MERAJI: Oh, Latin-ex, yeah.

THE KID MERO: But then I heard somebody else say Latine. And I was just like, that makes more sense because it flows better. It sounds right in Spanish because, like, what are you going to - and if you say it in Spanish it's like Latine-ke (ph).

MERAJI: Latine-equis (ph).

THE KID MERO: Latine-equis - like, you know what I mean? Like, (laughter), that sounds like a dembow group. (Speaking Spanish). Like, that sounds like a merengue group.

MERAJI: But I feel like Latine may bridge the gap.

THE KID MERO: 'Cause it's - 'cause you can say it in Spanish, you know what I'm saying? I think that's all that matters.

MERAJI: Because you can say it in Spanish, yeah.

THE KID MERO: That's why - I have four children.


THE KID MERO: And my eldest son, his name is Adrian. But like, you know, when my mom comes, she's like every, Adrian (speaking Spanish). You know what I'm saying? So it's just like - I was very careful. I have one son named Avery, who I feel terrible for because it's just like Abery (ph), A-berry (ph), Ivory soap? Like, you know what I'm saying? I'm just like, just call him No. 2.

MERAJI: Yeah. Well, your wife is Heather. Is your wife Latina?

THE KID MERO: No. She's a German Jewish woman from New Jersey. Like, you know what I mean? You cannot get - and it's wild, too, because like I never - like, this is going to sound weird. But like I don't know if it's just, like, the community and the population, the demographics of my neighborhoods, I have only ever dated Black women and Latinas and Black Latinas. She had black hair. And she was working in the same school that I worked where there was literally not a single white student.


THE KID MERO: And you know, when we started talking, she was just like, yeah, I've been living here for, like, 20 years and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I'm like, so you've been living in the Bronx for 20 years; you work in the school. And I just made assumptions, you know what I'm saying, 'cause you never want to ask somebody, like, what are you?

MERAJI: Oh, definitely not.

THE KID MERO: It's kind of like a - it's like a weird kind of, like, jarring, rude question to ask. So I was just like, you know I mean, like I just made assumptions. I found out when she was just like, hey, my mom's having Passover. I was like, what's that?


THE KID MERO: 'Cause we're both, like, very, like, kind of like not religious, you know what I mean? So, like, that never really came up. But yeah, no. So like, you know, she got the - I got the first one. She got the second one. I got the third one. She got the fourth one. And like that, you know what I mean.

MERAJI: As far as naming.


MERAJI: Exactly. My dad got me. He's Iranian, so I got Shereen. And my mom got my brother. So we understand - I understand this very well.

THE KID MERO: There you go (laughter).

MERAJI: So how are you talking to your kids about their identity?

THE KID MERO: Yeah, no, I tell them all the time. Yeah. Like, to me it's just like - there's Dominican flags all over the house. Like I'm like Captain Domini (ph) - Dominican Republic. Like - I was going to say Captain Dominica, but like - to play off Captain America. But Dominica actually exists, so shout out to Dominica, you know what I'm saying, all of those Dominicans.

MERAJI: That's right.

THE KID MERO: But yeah, no. Like, they just know. Like, the music is always playing. Like, I'm always talking. I even - like, I talk to them - like, they don't - they're not fluent in Spanish, but they understand it. It was kind of my fault 'cause like Heather tried to - Heather, my wife - she was really all about it. She was just like, to, they need to really understand, like, you know, their roots, their background, their heritage and all that stuff. And, you know, part of that is the language. And also being bilingual is an asset.

MERAJI: It is.

THE KID MERO: You know what I'm saying? So - but it killed me 'cause, like, I - she would - she was like, you know, my sister is married to a Dominican man. So my nephew, Romero (ph) - shout out to Romero, Romerito (speaking Spanish) - you know, he's just immersed in it.

MERAJI: Mmm hmm.

THE KID MERO: And, you know, when - I'm sure you know, like to learn a language, you kind of have to be, like, immersed in it.

MERAJI: You have to.

THE KID MERO: It's easier to learn that way. Yeah. And so we were trying to do that, but like, I couldn't speak to her in Spanish 'cause, like, first of all, I'm Dominican, so (speaking Spanish). We're making up words.

MERAJI: She was not understanding a word of it.

THE KID MERO: At all. So then like she's - and then she's talking, she's like Adrian (speaking Spanish)? And like, I would just explode laughing. And she would just get mad red in the face and be embarrassed or whatever. And I like basically embarrassed her into, like, never speaking Spanish again, which was very bad.

MERAJI: Ah, that's terrible.

THE KID MERO: But it's just like, yo - it's like, yo, I'm in New York City public school kid. I'm like Roast McDaniel over here. Like, this is what I do. Like, I just roast people. Like, I'm sorry you're my wife, and I love you. But I got a roast you 'cause you sound like, you know, a tourist on her all-inclusive resort. (Speaking Spanish).

MERAJI: Yeah. Well, your kids are going to be receptive bilinguals, so - meaning they're going to understand Spanish, but they just won't have the vocabulary to speak back, quote-unquote "fluently." I learned that later in life.

THE KID MERO: Well, you know, my oldest is 9, yeah. So I feel like if I ship them off to DR now for, like, two years or three years straight...


THE KID MERO: ...One of two things could happen. They're going to either learn Spanish perfectly, or they're going to learn Spanish perfectly and start a little, like, reggaeton dembow group, which I can then promote...


THE KID MERO: ...And become rich...

MERAJI: That's a beautiful idea.

THE KID MERO: ...And rest on my laurels.

MERAJI: I love it.

THE KID MERO: Because that's part of Latinidad right there.

MERAJI: (Laughter) That's Latinidad.

THE KID MERO: Like, yo, your parents being like, yo, I took care of you; now you take care of me.


MERAJI: Yes. And I love how you just like circled back to the topic of Latinidad. One thing that people have been saying to us - and this is something that you may have seen because it's been all over Twitter - is that we should cancel Latinidad that because Latinidad erases Indigeneity, it erases Blackness. It really is all about talking about the mestizo, talking about the Latine person who looks like Selena Gomez or looks like J.Lo, you know, and that's all there is when you talk about Latinidad. What do you think of that?

THE KID MERO: Yeah, no. I mean, in my opinion - and like, it's, you know - or in my experience, rather, you know what I mean, like, it depends on where I am, you know what I mean? Like, if I'm on the East Coast, I'm Latino. If I'm on the West Coast, it's like, what are you? Yeah. You look like Will Smith with diabetes. You know what I'm saying? Like, are you, you know what I'm saying? And you know - and like island Spanish, Mexican Spanish - like, you know...

MERAJI: Very different.

THE KID MERO: ...It's not a monolith. You feel me? Like - I feel like people expect it to be that way. I wish I could, like, you know, give, like, a super eloquent response. But at the end of the day, it's just like we all fall under this kind of like main umbrella, but we're all different.

MERAJI: But what is the umbrella? Like, what is it that unites it?

THE KID MERO: Man, that's also like a wild - you know, 'cause to me, like I said, like growing up in New York City, the Latin - like, you know, the community was, you know, Colombians, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Hondurans, like a handful. You know what I mean? And some Mexicans, you know, here and there. But we all kind of we're just like New Yorkers, you know what I mean? So it was just - it was just like, what is the dominant, like, nationality at this time?


THE KID MERO: Like, is it cool to be Puerto Rican? Is reggaeton popping right now? OK. So now we're all going to talk like this. Like, is - you know, like, now Dominicans are cool. Like, dembow's popping? OK, now we're all going to do this, you know what I mean? So man, I don't even know. Like, maybe it's the language. Like - but again, like, I wouldn't let that define me, you know what I mean? So I feel like it's like - it's just so nebulous, you know what I mean. Like, Latinidad's such like a nebulous term.

MERAJI: It is.

THE KID MERO: And it's just like - it is what you make it, you know what I mean? Like - 'cause somebody asked me about this, like, about masculinity. And I was just like, masculinity is what what you make it. Like, you know? Like, to me, masculinity is who I am. Like, you know, I'm not afraid to cry in public. Like, some people will be like, that's not masculine. Like, I'm like, well, I consider myself a man. So, you know, who are you to tell me that I can't cry in Target 'cause I thought about my uncle that passed away or something, you know what I mean? Like - so in terms of, like, Latinidad, I'm just like, you know, it just - it's a case - to me, it's like a case-by-case basis. 'Cause like you said, like you're Iranian and Puerto Rican.


THE KID MERO: (Speaking Spanish)?


THE KID MERO: You know what I'm saying? So and my kids are German Dominican, you know, Catholic Jews - but also Latino (laughter). You know what I'm saying? So it's (laughter) - I was going to say it's anything but, like, the - what's her name? - Jessica Krug or whatever. You know what I mean? Like...

MERAJI: Oh, right. Yeah, yeah.

THE KID MERO: Like, if you're not doing like a Rachel Dolezal type of thing...


THE KID MERO: Like, yo, (speaking Spanish). Like, no, you're not. Like, you're Italian. Like, you're just tanned. You know what I'm saying? Like, don't cosplay.


DEMBY: After the break, the Dominican kid from the Bronx grows up and moves his family across the Hudson to the Garden State.

THE KID MERO: OK. We're going to move to Jersey because we don't have that much money, and we want to have a house that can accommodate four children and all the shit that four children brings.

MERAJI: Mero talks about how where you live can change who you think you are.

THE KID MERO: I made the move. But I was just like, I can't be too far or else I start to lose my powers.

DEMBY: Stay with us.


DEMBY: Gene.

MERAJI: Shereen.

DEMBY: CODE SWITCH. And more of your conversation, Shereen, with The Kid Mero.

MERAJI: I'm assuming you live in the suburbs in New Jersey. Where do you live, like, Montclair? You don't have to tell people where you live. But...

THE KID MERO: No, no, no. I'm cool. I'm in Fair Lawn. I'm right next to Paterson.

MERAJI: So many Dominicans in Paterson.

THE KID MERO: Oh, you already know. Yeah. No. I go over there - shout out to La Morena Restaurant, you know what I'm saying, the most fire rabo you can get. I needed that because, like, I needed to be like (speaking Spanish). And I couldn't go from the Bronx to, like, Montclair. I couldn't do it. Like - I was just like, yo, OK. We're going to move to Jersey because we don't have that much money, and we want to have a house that can accommodate four children and all the shit that for children brings.


THE KID MERO: My dream was to provide a green space for my kids. You know what I mean? Because my grandmother - or my great aunt, who I call my grandmother - rest in peace, (unintelligible), I love you - she busted her ass to be able to get a house, you know. And when we moved out of an apartment, like, all this - you know, it was like a revolving door. There was like 40 of us in one house. But that house had a yard. So you know, all my friends, you know, were playing in the parks and stuff like that. I was like, yo, we can play in my yard, yo. And it was just like - it was like world-shattering. Like, yo, this is wild. Like, we don't got to - this is private. Like, nobody's - like the police isn't going to roll up on us and tell us to get out. And yo, this is wild.

So I wanted to provide that for my kids. And like - you know buying a house in New York is like, unless you're like a multimillionaire, is like close to impossible. So I made the move. But I was just like, I can't be too far or else I start to lose my powers.

MERAJI: Exactly. That's what I was wondering. How do you keep your kids connected if you - but you're saying that, no, you didn't move them to a place where they...

THE KID MERO: Right, so they know.

MERAJI: Yeah, so they know.

THE KID MERO: And they're - and you know, shout out to my mom, shout out to my wife, also, 'cause she's like - she's fully like - it's funny 'cause she assimilated, like, to Dominican culture 'cause like my mom took her under the wing and was just like, (speaking Spanish). Like when, you know, she would make rice and beans and like, you know, be like, yo, I'm going to make some pollo guisado or whatever. And she would - literally, she would literally ask my mom, be like, you know, what's the recipe for this? And my mom would be like, (laughter). You wrote a recipe on paper. Is that what you people do? Is that what the white people do? I'm not - this is news to me. And she was like, no, no, no - bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. And it was just like, you know, trial by fire. Like, you just, you know, watch me do what I do...


THE KID MERO: ...And you're going to be able to eyeball everything. And now I have...

MERAJI: She's got it.

THE KID MERO: She's got it.

THE KID MERO: She's eyeballing everything. She's like, I don't got to break up the teaspoonful for the adobo and the oregano. And everything that's going into the food is eyeballed. She's just pinching and (speaking Spanish).

MERAJI: I'm going to throw something else out there. So we got a letter from somebody who was like, I've really been thinking about this. You know, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, they share an island. So why can't Haitians also be Latino? We have much more in common with other Latinos in the Caribbean, for example, than we do with, say, African Americans. So why can't I claim being Latino even though I'm Haitian? I don't know. It was just like a really interesting thing that made us all go hmm.

THE KID MERO: You know, personally, I think that language barrier is like the line of demarcation, I feel like, for most people. Like, it's an easy way out to kind of like, you know, sidestep a topic that is worth discussing, you know I mean? I'm from the Cibao region, like bordering on Haiti. Who knows, like, what my family ancestry is. My great-grandfather could very well be a Haitian that crossed the border. And it's - like you said, like it's an island. We share a same landmass. There's no way you can tell me that there's - there hasn't been crossover of like, you know, DNA and bodily fluids across the border. You feel me? Like, that's a super interesting take about Latinidad.

MERAJI: I thought so, too. And then it made me feel like, OK, then why don't we just keep it incredibly specific? It's just easier for me to say I'm Puerto Rican and Iranian. I will say Latina if I'm, like, checking a box on something or if there's, like, a broader conversation. But I feel like it's much better to be specific.

THE KID MERO: Yeah. It's just - it gets complicated when you just start to like, you know - and identity is like - is such a deep dive, especially for somebody like - you know, somebody like you who's, like, from two very different cultures. Like...

MERAJI: It is.

THE KID MERO: ...Who do I lean more into? And am I allowed to claim this culture based on how I look if I don't speak the language or whatever. 'Cause my kids, they are Black Latinos. But they look like - half of them look exactly like their mom. So, like, you know, can you go in a room and say, I'm Black when you look like - you know, when you have blond hair? It's tricky. We live in strange times, Shereen.

We're in this weird kind of space where it's just like, what are you? Like, you must have a definitive answer at once. If somebody was to ask my dad or, like, one of my uncles, like are you Black in English? They'd be like, no, I am Dominican. And you could see like the process going on in their head, like, no, I'm not African American. That's what Black means, right? Guys? Yes? You don't know either? Fuck. Like...


THE KID MERO: ...And that's - like that is - I saw so many of my uncles just be totally - filling out the census, just, like, mad confused. Like, I'm not white, but I'm not African American. So what do I do here? You know what I'm saying? Like, that's a very real sentiment. Not to - and I'm not downplaying the racism and the colorism at all because that shit is real, and that really exists. But a lot of times, you just get people that are just from the campo, bro. And they don't - they literally know no - they don't know no better.

MERAJI: There are academics out there who are trying to make the argument that it's also a race. Latinos are racialized, so that is also a race. It's an ethnicity, but it's also a race. What do you think of that?

THE KID MERO: That's high-level academia shit right there. Like, (laughter) I'm going to keep it funky. That is not a conversation that would come up if I'm just enjoying a Newport 100 in front of the bodega with my friends.

MERAJI: (Laughter).

THE KID MERO: You know what I'm saying? Like (laughter) - yo, I don't know.

MERAJI: Can it be both? Can it be an ethnicity and a race? Like, these are things that I keep thinking about because we talk about race. And every time we get into Latino issues - Latine issues, you have to be more specific. There is anti-Blackness. Like, who are we talking about here? People have light skin privilege. There's - and then all of these things are true. And then also what's true is there are people who are not fitting into the specific Asian, white, Black or Native American, Indigenous categories. And those people are also discriminated against. So like...

THE KID MERO: It's wild, man.

MERAJI: ...You know? It's just the...

THE KID MERO: It's very confusing (laughter).

MERAJI: I don't know what to say. Hispanic, Latino, Latine, Latinx...

THE KID MERO: I don't even know.

MERAJI: ...We're arguing about that for the first five minutes before we can even get into the rest of the conversation. I'm yelling right now.

THE KID MERO: Uh-huh, yeah. No. And that's the thing. It's just like - it's - can we take a - can we make a poll? Like, yo, if you consider yourself to be a part of the Latino, Latina, Latine community, chime in in the comments and let us know if we should cancel it or not. And we will stop this at 150 comments, and then we'll decide. And that will be the rule of law going forward (laughter).


MERAJI: That's The Kid Mero, aka Joel Armogasto Martinez. He has a new book out with his co-host, Desus Nice. It's called "God-Level Knowledge Darts: Life Lessons From The Bronx."

I'm hoping his next book is going to be "Garden State-Level Knowledge Darts: Raising Dominican German Jewish Catholic American Kids In Fair Lawn, New Jersey." I'm really looking forward to that read, Gene.

DEMBY: That strikes me as real specific, Shereen. I don't know how big the audience for that is.

MERAJI: You can find the universal in the specific, Gene.

DEMBY: True, true.

MERAJI: You know this. We've done it here on CODE SWITCH. Anyway, it's been a while since we've done something that our audience loves. It's called Songs Giving Us Life.

DEMBY: It has been a minute.

MERAJI: I know. Don't you miss it?

DEMBY: Very much so.

MERAJI: I miss it, too. So I used this opportunity to ask Mero, what are you listening to? And mostly because I really need to update my playlists - it's like 1998 up in there.

THE KID MERO: A lot of what people like to call musica urbana - Haraca Kiko, Ceky Viciny, El Cherry Scom, (speaking Spanish), Tokischa, Yomel, Leo RD, Yailin la Mas Viral. I think I said Ceky Viciny. Bulin 47 - I love Bulin 47. Bulin 47 is one of my favorite because he's an entertainer. That's kind of, like, a Dominican trait. Like, (speaking Spanish).


BULIN 47: (Rapping in Spanish).

MERAJI: So I've started listening to Bulin 47, and he's giving me life and making me want to dance again. But unfortunately, that's our show.

DEMBY: I wish we could hear some more, though - hating-ass lawyers.


BULIN 47: (Rapping in Spanish).

DEMBY: This episode was produced by you, Shereen, and Kumari Devarajan with help from Summer Thomad. It was edited by Leah Donnella.

MERAJI: And a big shout-out to the rest of the CS crew - Steve Drummond, Karen Grigsby Bates, Alyssa Jeong Perry, Natalie Escobar, Jess Kung and LA Johnson. Our artwork this week is by Krystal Quiles.

And I almost forgot. I have to say, a big, big thank-you to our listeners who you heard at the very top of the episode.

JASMINE RIBAUD: Jasmine Ribaud (ph).

CLAUDIA VASQUEZ: Claudia Vasquez (ph).

RYAN MELARANO: Ryan Melarano (ph).

DAMARIS RAYMONDI: Damaris Raymondi (ph).

BRANDON MOGROVEJO: Brandon Mogrovejo (ph).

DORA PRIETO: Dora Prieto (ph).

CAITLIN DAUGHERTY: Caitlin Daugherty (ph).

TORI ASHLEY MATOS: Tori Ashley Matos (ph).

EDGAR QUINTERO: Edgar Quintero (ph).

MERAJI: And there will be more from you, our listeners, throughout the series.

DEMBY: I'm Gene Demby.

MERAJI: And I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: Be easy, y'all.

MERAJI: Peace.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.