What Sarah Huckabee Sanders gets wrong with her ‘Latinx’ ban

In her first week as governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared the use of the word “Latinx” must be eliminated from official government document use. Her executive order “to respect the Latino community by eliminating culturally insensitive words from official use in government” is part of a thinly disguised “anti-woke” agenda adopted by a number of conservative Republicans.

For those who do use the term – or for those who object to its use – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the question that would warrant an oversimplified approach like Sanders’ order. What Sanders has characterized as “respect” is actually a patronizing attempt to shut down a debate among Latin American descended people in the US about how to name themselves.

The executive order banning “Latinx” was one of eight that she signed in the 48 hours since taking office. Some of the orders concern hiring freezes on government agencies. But the “Latinx” order, as well one prohibiting “indoctrination and critical race theory in schools,” represent a new brand of red meat in the Republican agenda.

Sanders isn’t alone – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order on his first day in office “to restore excellence in education by ending the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, in public education.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has become the anti-woke national leader, having successfully championed and signed into law the dystopian “Stop WOKE Act,” prohibiting teaching or instruction that “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” students or employees’ race-based thinking or analysis. The law is already creating uncertainty and anxiety among students and professors in Florida universities.

While Sanders’ move against “Latinx” is not explicitly calling out race-based thinking, it performs an interesting maneuver by asserting that the Latino/a community itself is hurt by the use of this term. The order cites a 2020 Pew Research report, which found that only 3% of Hispanics use the term nationwide, and that 76% had never even heard of the term. While the Pew Research Center is a well-respected source, repeated use of these findings to the exclusion of any other studies is disingenuous. For instance, more recently in March 2022, an Axios-Ipsos Latino poll found that 53% of Mexican Americans, 47% of Puerto Ricans and 42% of Cubans, long the three major Latino/a groups in the US, approve of the term. 

The second reference used in the executive order, that “The Real Academia Española, the Madrid-based institution which governs the Spanish language, has officially rejected the use of ‘x’ as an alternative to ‘o’ and ‘a’ in Spanish” is equally problematic. Latin Americans have always had a tricky relationship with their mother country. While Latin Americans share an appreciation of Iberian language and culture, there is also a strong need for independence from it. No Latin American country speaks Spanish the way it’s spoken in Spain – just as few Americans use the Queen’s English and Canadian French sounds completely different from the streets of Paris.

Read the rest here, at cnn.com


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