Should 60 million Americans call themselves Latinx?

ABC News’ Stephanie Ramos speaks to Dr. Jose Medina, a linguist and educational advocate, about confusion and contention surrounding use of the term Latinx.
6:34 | 01/15/22

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Transcript for Should 60 million Americans call themselves Latinx?
- What is in a name. Well, a lot. And when it comes to the Hispanic, Latino, Latinx community, knowing what name applies is a point of confusion and even contention. Recently, the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the US said they would no longer be using the term Latinx. And so did a top Latino Congressman. But people and groups who support the term say it makes the community more inclusive. So what are 16 million people in the US supposed to call themselves? That is the question we're hoping language researcher, author and-- let's not forget TikTok sensation-- Dr. Jose Medina can help answer for us. Dr. Medina, thank you so much for being here. Let's jump right in. Where did the term Latinx originate from, and who created it? - Absolutely. So there is no definite beginning to the term Latinx here in the United States. Some people feel like it's started to appear in academia-- specifically Latinx writers-- around 2004. But the truth is that there are others that point to scholars and researchers in Puerto Rico, in Central America, South America, and other parts of the Caribbean that were actually using the X, and also the at sign to be more inclusive in their studies and in their work-- their writing work. - In your opinion, do you think they were trying to modernize the terms, like Hispanic and Latino? - Look, as an openly queer Latinx, Latine, Spanglish-speaking language researcher of the world, to me, that intersectionality is really, really important. Sometimes I identify as Chicano and pocho. Sometimes I identify as Mexican-American. But I also, specifically in queer communities, identify as a member of the Latinx community. And the reason why that's so important is that no one really gets to choose how somebody self-identifies. STEPHANIE RAMOS: And doctor, this controversy is so interesting because the term is so multilayered. It doesn't just define its members in the US, but also across all of Latin America. That's nearly two dozen countries. It's an intersection of language, multiculturalism, gender identity, and feminism. Is it possible to even find a common ground? - Look I don't think that we need to. I think that any time that we are trying to police language, and that are specifically seeking a way to tell folks how they need to view themselves, we continue cycles of oppression. Now there are a lot of folks that actually are saying that the Latinx term should not be used because it cannot be conjugated in Espanol. But the truth is that if we really stop to think about it, we were colonized from the moment that the Spaniards came to the Americas and took away Indigenous tongues. And so all of these attacks on really utilizing and leveraging linguistic liberation as a way to value intersectionality is something that each and every one of us should defend, not oppose. - Right. And that begs the question-- why create this umbrella, right? Everyone-- like you said, you could identify as Chicano, or Dominican, and Puerto Rican, and that's it, right? But you touched on a really important point. The community here in the US is very bilingual. And grammatically speaking, some argue that term is US-centric. Latinx-- it doesn't translate into Spanish. And it doesn't fit in with the Spanish language and its rules. How can it work with words like amigos or friends? - So this is not just something that is utilized in the United States. I think that a lot of folks with racial privilege have tried to politicize the term [INAUDIBLE], when in reality, somebody with racial privilege should not be telling me or any other queer Latinx, Latine, Chicano, Mexicano, pocho individual how we get to identify those intersections that make us beautiful as participants in this democracy in the United States. - I want you to look at this graphic of a Gallup poll. While only 4% say they identify as Latinx, a point Gallup made, which I found interesting, is that 57% of those polled say it doesn't matter what they're called. Why do you think such a big chunk of the community is indifferent about what they're called? - Absolutely. Look, Stephanie, the truth is that many of us, specifically Black, Indigenous communities of color, have been marginalized for so long, including from the moment that we entered into the schooling building, that we've been conditioned to try to fit into this mold. I mean, even what we say-- you know, the United States is a melting pot. It's something that we usually see as something of pride, the truth is that all that we are saying when we say that we are a melting pot is that somehow, we need to amalgamate into this one thing. STEPHANIE RAMOS: And what do you think will happen, within the next couple of years, when it comes to this term? Do you think it's something that's going to go away? JOSE MEDINA: Definitely. If you go deeper into those polls that you're referencing, it seems to be folks that are a little bit older that are not familiar, or that, perhaps, are not interested, in really valuing that intersectionality that younger folks are wanting to value. STEPHANIE RAMOS: And before I let you go, I'd love for you to hit on a big picture point for us, with this infighting over what we call ourselves. How much harder does it make it to really fight for causes that propel the entire community forward? - It's difficult, Stephanie. I mean, at the end of the day, all of us are a hot mess. I mean, I don't know if somebody's told you today, Stephanie, but you're a hot mess. And I'm-- STEPHANIE RAMOS: (LAUGHING) I'm trying not to be. OK? - --a bigger mess. I'm the biggest mess of all. - I'm trying to keep it together, OK? - I know. But all of us-- all of us bring bias and prejudice into any space. And when we say, no, I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body, the truth is, first of all, [SPEAKING SPANISH]-- liar, liar, pants on fire. But second of all, we need to work on being more inclusive. And at the end of the day, that's all that the Latinx term is really about. It's about creating a safe space. STEPHANIE RAMOS: Creating a safe space for absolutely everyone-- completely agree. - [SPEAKING SPANISH] -- that is exactly it. - [SPEAKING SPANISH] -- got that in there too. I appreciate it. - [SPEAKING SPANISH] - Dr. Medina, thank you so much for your honesty and your insight, and of course, your time. Always a pleasure to have you on ABC News Live. Thank you so much. - Thank you, Stephanie. Adios. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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