In the article “What ‘Latinx’ Doesn’t Include,” ethnohistorian and author Kurly Tlapoyawa explains the term’s lack of intersectionality. Although proponents of using “Latinx” have intended it to be an inclusive term, “terms like ‘Latin,’ ‘Latino,’ ‘Latina,’ and ‘Latin’ represent a racist-colonialist mindset that actively erases people of indigenous and African origin,” Tlapoyawa wrote. (Originally developed by Black feminists, the concept of intersectionality is now used by activists and scholars to describe how different categories of inequality—including race, class, and gender—intersect to shape the lives of groups and individuals.)
Despite the intentions of those who promote “Latinx,” efforts to be more progressive and inclusive continue to leave out important marginalized peoples, Tlapoyawa noted. In trying to decolonize language and thought, some unintentionally further the oppression and exclusion of indigenous people and those of African origins. Historically, Tlapoyawa noted, “The very idea of a ‘Latin America’ and ‘Latin’ people comes from the French intellectual Michel Chevalier, who sought in the late 1800s to create an umbrella term that would unite colonial subjects under a generic ‘Latin’ identity.”
There is not much detailed coverage of this debate, outside academia or activist circles. The continued use of the term in its current context is in a way understandably inclusive, but in the eyes of those who truly want to acknowledge the historical impacts of colonization on marginalized populations, Tlapoyawa advised we put the word to rest—or, at least address collectively how the term ignores critical issues of oppression.
Sources: Kurly Tlapoyawa, “Can We Please Stop Using ‘Latinx’? Thanx,” Medium.com, October 2, 2019, https://humanparts.medium.com/can-we-please-stop-using-latinx-thanx-423ac92a87dc; republished as “What ‘Latinx’ Doesn’t Include,” YES! Magazine, November 22, 2019, https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2019/11/22/latinx-indigenous-history-heritage/.
Student Researcher: Daniel Manzo (Diablo Valley College
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)