Do Not Call Us Latinx
15 October 2021
Please do not use Latinx. I will take offense. As will the rest of my family. And my Latino friends. There is no term that screams vapid, empty liberalism quite like Latinx. I would even go so far as to say that the term reeks of whiteness. Most Hispanic or Latino (or Latina or Latin or Chicano or please just any other word) Americans have never heard of the term, let alone use it. I would suspect those numbers are even smaller on an international scale. This effortless and tone-deaf attempt at being inclusive has caused confusion at best and indignation at worst. It is yet another instance of where liberalism does more to increase its own power and cause more political damage in its own purported efforts to promote values of inclusivity and community. First of all, let’s examine “Latinx” from a linguistic point of view. The term’s pronunciation isn’t obvious in English, let alone Spanish. Out of context, I wouldn’t blame someone for trying to pronounce it as “lah-TEENcks,” which makes sense because that’s how English phonetics usually work. This is not the case with Latinx; it is pronounced “lah-teen-ECKS,” with the x meant to modify and replace only the o/a sound in Latino/a.
If that sounds bizarre in English, it is twice as so in Spanish. The letter x is about as uncommon as it is in English if not more so. When it is used, the phonetics are similar to those in English; Indeed, most words that use x are etymologically similar in English: xilofono, explicar or, one etymologically dissimilar case, conexion. Ending an adjective in x is highly unusual, as most adjectives end in a vowel in order to change based on the gender of the noun it modifies. Furthermore, it’s pronunciation would be incredibly inorganic. It would be pronounced “lah-teen-ECK-ees,” (eck-EES being how the letter “x” is fully sounded out in Spanish), which sounds even sillier than “lah-teen-ECKS.” Latinx is not only absurd but antithetical to the logic of the Spanish language itself. In English, there are few gendered words, but in Romance languages, such as Spanish, most nouns are gendered. The people who take offense to this fact is approximately zero, and the words themselves are certainly not offended at being labeled. “Latino” is a term used by all Latino people regardless of gender. Sometimes a woman or group of women will refer to themselves as “Latina,” because that’s how the language works. The term “Latino” as it is exported into use as an adjective in English is widely accepted to the point that its “gender” is basically meaningless–Latino music, Latino culture, Latino people, etc. Indeed, the use of “Latino” as an adjective in a gender-neutral language has already done all of the of the work of ungendering that “Latinx” supposedly intends to do. In fact, to use “Latinx” is to misconstrue “Latino” as exclusive, undoing its historical work of and now accepted inclusive power.
Even if gender inclusivity still remains a concern here–which it shouldn’t be–there exists for the extremely cautious an inherently gender-neutral term. Hispanic! My Latino friends and family and I are happy to be referred to as Hispanic. For years, the weeks between 15 September and 15 October have been referred to as “Hispanic Heritage month.”
Yet this year it seems that the month has been referred to more and more as “Latinx” heritage month for no reason in particular. Companies and magazines and advertisements are all of a sudden throwing around “Latinx” as if it were an accepted part of our lexicon. This brings me to my next point–have you ever heard a person, an actual human being, say “Latinx?” For one, it’s not a very acoustically pleasing word to pronounce or hear, as examined above. More importantly, the divisiveness of the term is not unknown. In 2020 the Sanders Campaign explicitly rejected the term in favor of the historically used Latino.1 It seems that “Latinx” is a term employed only by faceless organizations, usually corporations, to whom the individual cannot respond. Why use Latinx? To be gender-inclusive? Latino already is, Hispanic, more so. Is it to be performative, showing again that “progressiveness” is only skin deep? Is it so they won’t get defamed by the five people on twitter–who may not be Latino themselves–trying to cancel them?
Maybe. But the point is that there is no good reason for the term. Organizations in this country have created for themselves an unnecessary binary between gender inclusivity (again, Latino and Hispanic are inclusive terms) and needing to exclude Spain (we don’t care and neither do the Spanish).
Yet for sake of doing both, organizations, companies, and corporations elect to use an offensive term to which we cannot reply because its users have no face. It seems our consultation and feelings don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, only selectively, so that PR departments can ensure the response most agreeable to good press and therefore good profits. Even then it is a poor calculation. The bad PR from the people who incorrectly believe that Latino is somehow offensive or exclusive, or from the even fewer people who, for lack of being able to understanding the most basic context, don’t want to be lumped in with Spanish Imperialists (all of whom are dead), is evidently worse than that from the Latinos who are offended by Latinx and the rest of them who will never use it. And still further, bad PR in general, no matter who it’s from, is hardly enough to make a significant impact on profits for thirty days. Not only is it the case that less profits still profit, still making money, but the amount of bad PR such that it cannot be suppressed to insignificance to profits is not only majoritarian but absolutely titanic in size. There are few forces as powerful as a business, and of course power scales with size. With social media so individualized, and so many major businesses using Latinx, there is little to be done except with all power available to us castigate Latinx as a slur–which I encourage all Latinos to do.
If the linguistic absurdity and the consequent division it produces is not enough, and you think I am somehow defending tradition–as if tradition is somehow inherently bad all the time–Latinx, which seems at first an ill-conceived attempt at appeasement, signifies something which is much more sinister, whether today’s organizations intended it or not. It reveals the power of such organizations to impose a social norm without an actual social element, undemocratically, without any discussion, regardless of whom it may concern. Of course there are limits. I do not think that companies could go back to referring to the Black community as “Negroes” for example. “Latinx” draws power from its novelty and a smokescreen of a false narrative of inclusivity; that it has become so widespread in the business and corporate world but not at a genuinely social or individual level is rather terrifying in a society that has become so undemocratically and impersonally integrated from the top down. At best, Latinx is transparent performativity. At worst it is linguistic imperialism.
To all non-Latinos: Do not call us “Latinx.” Latino/a and Hispanic are perfectly fine. If someone really, really insists on being referred to as Latinx, I can’t really do anything about that. But it’s weird. Very, very weird.
To my fellow Latinos: I want “Latinx” to die. I am not a fan of getting “triggered” in general, but I think its appropriate to take offense. It’s not Spanish for one, and for another I believe almost everyone is capable of seeing through and piercing this PR veil to expose the larger danger it presents.
To those vapid, faceless, pandering organizations: Vete al diablo.
This Huffington Post article incorrectly claims that Latinx “is favored by young progressives” to contrast Chuck Rocha’s, one of Sanders’ senior campaign advisers, (correct) claim that “Latino is used more broadly." Hilariously, to back up that claim, the article deconfirms its own by referencing a poll oriented towards progressives that finds 98% of Latinos do not identify with “Latinx” ↩︎