Call 'Latinx' What It Is: Lexical Imperialism | Opinion

I've always found the the term "Latinx" irritating, and a new nationwide poll of Hispanic voters by Politico told me something I already knew: I'm not the only one from my community who does. The poll found that just 2 percent of Hispanics use the term "Latinx" to define themselves, while 40 percent found it offensive.

So why are we witnessing the ascendancy of a term loathed by 40 percent of the population it's purported to describe? Because its use has nothing to do with them to begin with. Those who employ it are speaking over us to someone else else entirely—specifically, to activists.

I, like 98 percent of other Latinos, didn't need a Politico survey to tell me this. I know it because the one thing that truly unites the gloriously diverse Hispanic community is our language. And Latinx is not part of that language.

It's true that there are many things that unite the myriad groups, cultures, and ethnicities that make up the Hispanic and Latin community. We have a lot of the food, religion, and music in common; but there's just as much food, religion, and music that we don't share. The one true common thread is the Spanish language itself—and it's all gendered. Nouns either end in "o" to indicate masculinity, or "a" to indicate femininity. Plural nouns of mixed genders take on the masculine form. That's how Spanish is structured, and it's the foundation of how our art manifests itself—from Gabriel Garcia Márquez to Frida Kahlo to Juan Luis Guerra.

The passion and poetry of the culture begins with that common tongue, giving multiple levels of meaning to the romance in "romance language." And activists violate that poetry with the term "Latinx."

Of course, the term is designed to do just that, to escape the gendered binary of romance languages. And I get why that would be important to some people who don't identify with either of the two genders represented in nouns in Spanish. But the fact that our community is so offended by this term tells you who this term is for, and it's not us.

Latinx for Black Lives Matter
MANHATTAN, NY - JUNE 02: A protester holds a sign that says, "LATiNXS FOR BLACK LiVES MATTER" among the large crowd in Foley Square. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

I call it lexical imperialism. However well-meaning it might be, it's actually imposing a foreign worldview on an entire people. It's telling them, in essence, "We're going to take your savage, backward language, force it to adhere to our superior gender norms, and impose this change upon you so that you can be good, right, and just—like us!"

So much for being anti-colonization, and not mislabeling others based on preconceived notions about their identity! As if bigotry can be eradicated by breaking a language. The gesture is as empty as it is insulting.

The key point is that the use of Latinx isn't an organic evolution happening from within, the way terminology shifted from within the Black community from "Negro" to "Black" to "African American" to "Black" over time. Neither is it a refinement of the English language to more accurately and effectively describe the group from without, as the Politico poll numbers clearly show.

No, the term "Latinx" is almost exclusively a way to indicate a particular ideological leaning, and proponents seem happy to not only force it upon an unwilling populace, but pervert the grammatical structure of their language in order to do it.

Nothing makes this clearer than the realization that, all this time we've been arguing over "Latinx," the word "Latin" has been sitting right there, genderless and grammatically correct, just waiting to be picked up and used to much greater effect. "Latin" is clear, concise, accurate, and unlikely to be objected to by anyone labeled as such. It also deftly sidesteps the entire issue of gendered language, satisfying the desires of people on either side of the divide.

So why don't we see that used instead?

Because accuracy isn't the goal. Proponents of "Latinx" aren't speaking to us or for us. They're speaking through us—to each other. Its use is purely about signaling—not to Latin people, but to other signalers.

And beneath the signal, there is hardly anything of substance at all. That's why there's no concern for the imposition of foreign grammatical norms on the Spanish language. It's why we aren't discussing the issues that really matter to Spanish-speaking voters. It's why other terms like "multi-racial whiteness" are used to excise people with "the wrong views" from this ideological taxonomy.

The problem with "Latinx" isn't just that it isn't Spanish; it's that it isn't English either. It's another form of communication entirely—a Fight Club-esque nod to those who know.

The vast collection of communities thrown under the umbrella of the term, with all their cultural and political and ideological diversity, are merely incidental. If anything, we're in the way; it may cost Democrats elections, it may offend nearly half of the people it describes, but if using "Latinx" sends the right message to the right people for the right people, it's apparently worth all the trouble.

Angel Eduardo is a writer, musician, and visual artist based in New York City. He is a staff writer and content creator for idealist.org, and a columnist for Center for Inquiry. Find him at angeleduardo.com.

The views in this article are the writer's own.