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June 9, 2009


Philip B. Corbett, NY Times - The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court prompted discussion about our use of "Hispanic," "Latino" and related terms. It's not a simple issue, and I consulted with a number of reporters and editors here who offered good counsel.

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

= While both "Latino" and "Hispanic" are generally acceptable, some people have a strong preference. We should respect those preferences as much as possible in referring to individuals and groups; reporters and editors should routinely ask.

- Specific references like "Puerto Rican" or "Mexican-American" or "Guatemalan immigrant" are often best.

- Judge Sotomayor clearly uses "Latina" for herself, and we should respect that preference whenever feasible. In more detailed references, we can note that her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. Once again, remember: they were not immigrants.

- In describing one distinction she would attain if confirmed, I think we have to say she would be "the first Hispanic justice," despite her own use of "Latina." Calling her "the first Latina justice" isn't quite what we mean, and several people I consulted agreed that calling her "the first Latino justice," while perhaps grammatically defensible, seems awkward or wrong.

- I will adjust the current entry in The Times's stylebook to clarify that "Latina," like "Latino," can be used as an adjective as well as a noun. We should be aware, though, that for many English speakers the use of inflected adjectives may still be unfamiliar.

- As always, references to ethnicity should be used only when they are pertinent, and the pertinence is clear to readers. One reporter pointed out that many second- and third-generation Latinos regard themselves as simply "American" or "Texan" or whatever. If ancestry is relevant, phrases like "a lawyer of Mexican descent" or "a New York native of Puerto Rican descent" might serve.

- Our stylebook defines "Hispanic" as "descended from a Spanish-speaking land or culture." But be aware that opinions vary on how broadly to apply these terms. Can "Hispanic immigrants" describe a group that includes Brazilians or other Portuguese speakers? Can "Hispanic" describe immigrants from Spain itself? Once again, being specific will help minimize confusion or ambiguity. . .

A brief report from the Pew Hispanic Center offers some interesting background. Here's one section:

Q. How do Hispanics themselves feel about the labels "Hispanic" and "Latino"?

A. The labels are not universally embraced by the community that has been labeled. A 2006 survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 48% of Latino adults generally describe themselves by their country of origin first; 26% generally use the terms Latino or Hispanic first; and 24% generally call themselves American on first reference. As for a preference between "Hispanic" and "Latino", a 2008 Center survey found that 36% of respondents prefer the term "Hispanic," 21% prefer the term "Latino" and the rest have no preference.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

“To hear that a judge who put procedure over innocence could be moving to a higher court is very upsetting to me.”
Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
That’s a quote from Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 16 years for a rape and murder he didn’t commit. He was finally exonerated by DNA testing.

When Deskovic appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, Judge Sonia Sotomayor co-wrote a two-page opinion that refused to even consider the evidence of Deskovic’s innocence because his lawyer was four days late filing the petition. So Deskovic spent an extra six years in prison awaiting a DNA test.

I personally don't care what tag she prefers or if she considers Latina women to be wise or not. I am concerned re her record of siding with police and prosecutors who already have too much power and her penchant for flopping on tthe letter of the law when it suits her. We already have a bench full of those imposters . We don't need another.

June 10, 2009 3:29 PM  

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