Arts & Life, Features

“Latinx” brings approval and criticism from campus community

A banner drop that read “Do you know the difference between Chicano, Hispanic and Latinx?” adorned the bookstore lawn at Cal State Long Beach at Latino Week of Welcome.

For many students, this was their first time seeing the term “Latinx.” The term used to describe the Latino/a community has picked up traction since 2014, according to a 2016 Complex article.

The word has created some discourse among the Latino community and on campus. While it is a push for inclusivity, some articles have argued that the word comes with a sense of privilege and highlights the gap between Latinos who are college educated and who are not.

People have also argued that the word is mainly only used in America, and has not been widely accepted or used by many Latino communities.

University alumnus and former Latino Student Union President Emelyne Camacho said the banner was made to bring awareness to the campus about the fact that the words “Chicano,” “Hispanic” and “Latinx” shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

“People don’t understand the difference between Latino, Chicano and Hispanic,” Camacho said. “How are they going to understand Latinx? It’s a very heavy word to use. The ‘x’ was brought in by La Raza and people that want to make [the label] more inclusive.”

“Latinx” was born from the lack of inclusivity for gender nonconforming individuals and the masculine nature of the Spanish language. Another factor is that the word “Hispanic” is historically a census-imposed term aims to group all Spanish-speaking countries together, but leaves out Latin American countries such as Brazil and Belize.

“If you go out to the Midwest or the East Coast, they use Hispanic,” Christian Lozano, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs said. “They don’t even use Latino/a and ultimately, the government terminology is Hispanic too.”

Lozano identifies as Latinx and agrees that the term should be used around campus in order to create a more inclusive environment.

“[Research] started over the summer because we had Latinx Heritage Month in September, but we started doing a lot of the planning in the summer,” Lozano said. “Many people in the initial stages thought, ‘Is that a typo, I thought that was a typo’ so even that lets us know that there’s some education that needs to go along with this term.”

Although the term is widely accepted by the Latinx organizations on campus and staff such as Lozano, there are some students who don’t agree with its use.

Third year sociology and chicano and latino studies major Rosa Rodriguez conducted a survey on the effects that hunger has on academic achievement for her quantitative research methods class.

For the purpose of her survey, she created a chart with different racial preferences and asked students to choose the one with which they identify, one of them being Latinx.

One anonymous student deleted the word Latinx and wrote “Latino, stupid…”

“I’d ask them why they were so offended if the term is supposed to be more inclusive,” Rodriguez said.

Some people question how inclusive this word is for non-educated individuals. While it does make an effort to include members of the community, the word itself comes with a lot of privilege and education, as it’s mainly used in academic settings, according to Lozano.

“That terminology comes with privilege, and the resources and access to it comes in education,” Lozano said. “Outside of [an educational setting], people aren’t hearing about [Latinx], so we can’t expect folks in the community to be up to date or know all of this because it comes with education and access to resources.”

For other students, the term has brought a new sense of belonging to the Latinx community.

First year psychology major Sierra Santaolaya said she didn’t always feel included in the Latinx community. Santaolaya said she felt she was too “whitewashed” to consider herself Latinx.

Now, as she makes an effort to learn Spanish and embrace her heritage, Santaolaya likes that she doesn’t have to conform to being a Latina, as the gender binary would suggest she should. Santaolaya prefers identifying with the term Latinx.

“I like that I don’t have to stick to one thing,” Santaolaya said. “That ‘X’ can stand for anything you want it to.”

Linguistics professor Alexandra Jaffe said the movement towards Latinx started out as a way to make male-gendered terms more neutral.

Latinx is an effort at another kind of inclusion,” Jaffe said. “Not everyone agrees [with] or uses this form, but it’s now part of the visuals we see in writing that reminds us of issues of equity and inclusion.”

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