On September 29, Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s campaign sent out an email with the title, “Join our Latinx movement!”, marking the first official appearance of the term “Latinx” in the 2016 election. The term, which arose from the desire to find a non-binary, gender inclusive word to refer to our community, has been gaining traction since it first came into use online in October of 2014. Today, it’s increasingly common to see “Latinx” used in media headlines (including some of our own), academic texts and activist literature – but the word has not arrived on the scene without its fair share of controversy and resistance. In 2016 much ink has been spilled making cases for or against the term – and in the comments of Remezcla posts we frequently see our usage of the term hotly debated.
This isn’t entirely surprising, considering that there is still no consensus in our heterogenous community about what the best terms to label or describe ourselves are. The two most common terms used to group us – “Latino” and “Hispanic” – are also contentious. Some use them interchangeably, even though they are subtly different (“Latino” refers to any person of Latin American descent living in the United States, while “Hispanic” refers to people who share Spanish as a common language). Ask those of Latin American descent living in the United States what term best describes their identity, and you’ll surely get many different answers, with just as many reasons why people prefer one term over another.
The Census Bureau first introduced the term “Hispanic” in 1970, and a 2013 Pew Research Study found that half of our community of more than 50 million had no preference for either term. The other half favored the term Hispanic by a ratio of about 2-1. Still, there are those who associate the word Hispanic with Latin America’s colonizers, saying it erases the indigenous and African roots found in our heritage. Others feel it is a government-created word that has been imposed on us, and doesn’t properly define us. Still others shun both terms entirely, preferring to label themselves by their nationalities (i.e. Mexican, Mexican-American, etc.)
The uncertainty over what terminology to use seems to have unconsciously seeped into the 2016 presidential race. During the first debate, astute viewers pointed out that Donald Trump favors the term Hispanics (and occasionally “the Mexicans…). Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton prefers to use the term Latinos.
This observation is further supported by the candidates’ Twitter accounts. Trump has used both Latino and Hispanic in tweets, but he typically sticks with Hispanic. Clinton, on the other hand, almost strictly uses the term Latino. As a matter of fact, the only times she has used Hispanic on Twitter are for Hispanic Heritage Month.
So far, Stein seems to be the only candidate who has embraced Latinx, a term that goes a step beyond the gender inclusive Latin@ (which only defines masculine and feminine identities). “Anyone who pays attention to American politics knows the LatinX vote is a deciding factor factor in who wins the presidency,” her campaign email reads. “That’s why we’re excited to launch our LatinXs con Jill social media initiative.”
In addition to launching the LatinXs con Jill social media accounts, Stein is also encouraging voters to use the #TodxsConJill hashtag. Whether any other politicians will follow suit remains to be seen.