Latinx, Latino/a, Hispanic; race or ethnicity? – What do they mean and why does it matter? (Pt. 2 of Latinx Heritage Month edition)
You most likely have heard the term “Latinx” by now, you may also have some opinions on it. It has emerged into the lexicon over the last few years, popularized mainly by millennials.
It’s important to understand this new term, it’s intention, and the role it plays in the identity and representation of Latin American and Hispanic people, particularly in the U.S.
Latinx is an alternative to the most common terms used to describe people of Latin American origin such as:
Latino: People who are from, or are descended from Latin American countries.
Hispanic: People descendant from Spain or Spanish speaking countries
For a more detailed explanation, watch this video:
If you scrolled past it, here’s what you missed:
- Many people use Hispanic and Latin American interchangeably.
- Hispanic doesn’t acknowledge the Latin American countries that do NOT come from Spain (i.e. Brazil, Portugal)
- Latin American does not include people from Spain or other non-Spanish speaking, Latin American countries.
So what is Latinx?
Latinx: a person of Latin American origin or descent; used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino/Latina.
Latinx simply seeks to include those who do not identify with Latino or Latina, and the gender binary at all.
For a more comprehensive discussion, watch this video by popular YouTube channel, “Pero Like.”
Interestingly, only about 3% of Latino/Hispanics identify as Latinx, but that’s not the concern for me…
…the 76% of people that haven’t heard of Latinx at all, are.
Why Does This Matter?
It’s 2020, the old, simplistic, gender-binary of strictly male and female is gone. It’s time our language catches up with our reality.
I do not identify as Latinx, or Hispanic, I’m not going to assert what term anyone should use to identify themselves. However, I do believe that this term should at least be included, and if someone should choose to identify themselves as Latinx, they should be allowed to.
Many people are sensitive to the idea of a new “woke” term, that might make them feel alienated or wrong, for using an old term they are comfortable with. Without education and understanding, it may turn off people from accepting the usage of Latinx.
The Census and “Hispanics” are historically linked, and it continues to have a large impact on them today.
This year is a census year, and if you didn’t know, the census is actually really important. If you are unfamiliar with the census itself and its role, give a listen to my boy Stevie D.
If you scrolled past that, the takeaways are:
- The census determines how hundreds of billions of dollars will be allocated to hospitals, schools, businesses, and other public programs for the next 10 years.
- The census determines the number of seats each state will get in the House of Representatives.
- Filling it out is necessary to have yourself represented.
- It’s super easy, fill it out here.
The term “Hispanic,” was actually created by the census.
Before 1970, the US Census Bureau classified Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican immigrants as whites. Each community of Latin American origin would go by their nationality and by the region where they lived in the United States. But all that changed in the seventies, as activists began lobbying the US Census Bureau to create a broad, national category that included all these communities. The result was the creation of the term “Hispanic”, first introduced in the US Census in 1970.– latinousa.org
The problem is…
Hispanic is associated with the origins of Spanish colonialism in America. Aside from having their culture overtaken by the name of their colonizer; the term excludes indigenous, Brazilian and other non-Spanish-speaking groups.
Latin American, is a more inclusive word compared to Hispanic, although it still denies the individuality of cultures and their many differences.
Example: imagine the differences between Argentinian culture and Cuban, though both are considered Latin American.
Latinx isn’t perfect, but can be a useful addition to the identifying labels that is even more inclusive.
This lumping together of all Spanish and Latin American descended people, is a disservice to not just Latinx, but all minorities. The insistence of finding a label for yourself in the U.S., while only given options that you do not entirely identify with, can make many feel like an “other” in their own country.
That’s not the only detriment the Census has had on the Latinx community.
A citizenship question is unnecessary and has little historical precedent. It would discourage undocumented immigrants from responding out of fear, undercutting representation in states with large populations of undocumented people (AKA many blue states).
The Trump administration is now attempting to end the Census counting early this year.
And for no apparent reason, other than to keep Census workers from reaching minority communities and indigenous people living in reservations.
The Trump administration knows that communities of color have been among the hardest to reach amid the pandemic, [sic], and that by ending the census count early, many people in those communities simply won’t be counted at all.–Huffpost
The census also requires you to specify your RACE, and that leaves many Latinx people in the dark.
Technically, Latino/a and Hispanic are not races, they are ethnicities. When it comes to race, those people are left to choose between: white, black, or “other.”
Race vs. Ethnicity
Confused about race and ethnicity? Watch this explanation by “Crash Course Sociology.”
If you scrolled past it, the takeaways are:
Notice how race is is based on “biological traits that a society thinks are important.” Simply because many Latin Americans may have a similar shade of brown skin, we now classify them all as one.
As a Chinese and Japanese Asian American, I can relate to the feeling of being lumped into one category with all Koreans, Vietnamese, Thai, Laotians, Indians, etc. It can feel very belittling.
When we are literally asked to define ourselves on paper, especially at an Federal level, it can have a psychological effect on the way we see ourselves and others. But when we are not even recognized at all, what effect does that have on us and our identity?
So Latin Americans are left without a race. Where does that leave them? How does that make them feel and relate to other Latin Americans?
Why do we even continue to lump all these people from their individual and unique nations and cultures together?
What about the Boricuas of Puerto Rico, the Ticos and Ticas of Costa Rica, or the Mestizos who are mixed with European and Indigenous American descent?
What happens when we blur the distinctions between vibrant and unique Nations, and pave over the uniquely rich histories and cultures? Are Latin Americans experiencing an identity crisis?
In a simple way, Latinx solves at least one aspect of exclusion; the allowance of non-binary people into the Latin American community. It also reminds us that the world isn’t binary. Although one may identify as a cis-male Latino, it helps to include Latinx in your identity, as to normalize the inclusion of all gender identifications and sexualities on the fluid spectrum, that we all exist on.
We may not have all the answers, but the key is to keep the conversation going and inclusive for everyone.
- Disturbing news of ICE performing involuntary hysterectomies has surfaced, sign the petition here and write your elected leaders to officially abolish ICE.
- Breonna Taylor’s killers have NOT received justice. Attorney General, Daniel Jay Cameron, chose to not charge officer Brett Hankinson for murder. WE CAN NOT LET THIS STAND. Contact Kentucky State offices to remove Daniel Jay Cameron and VOTE this November for leaders who oppose the cruel agendas of people like him and his mentor, Mitch McConnell.
- COVID-19 is still here, please wear a mask.
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