Saturday, March 2, 2024

Arkansas Governor’s ‘Latinx’ Ban Could Affect the Community’s Generational Rift

One of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ first acts as Arkansas governor was to ban most state agencies from using the term Latinx, bringing up a debate that has divided Latinos over generations.

Sanders called the word “culturally incentive,” and some critics viewed it as another attack by Republicans on the LGBTQ community. However, her move may have limited impact, given that the word does not appear to be widely used in the Arkansas government.

The Latinx prohibition gives agencies 60 days to revise written material to comply. It was among several orders Sanders, a former White House press secretary, signed within hours of taking office. Conservatives approved it and other charges, including restrictions on teaching critical race theory in public schools and banning TikTok on state devices.

“One of the things as governor that I will not permit is the government using culturally insensitive words,” Sanders said as she signed the order.

The term Latinx was coined as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino and Latina since all nouns in the Spanish language are gendered. Many in the LGBTQ Latino community have embraced the word, which is now widely used, with some Latino figures calling it unnecessary.

Sander’s order doesn’t apply to all the state’s higher education institutions or state agencies, such as the Arkansas Department of Transportation, which allows the governor to grant exemptions for the word’s use.

However, several state agencies said they were reviewing their forms to ensure they would comply. Meg Mirivel, a spokesperson from the Health Department, said two jobs had been unofficially called the Latinx public information coordinator, and the Latinx outreach coordinator will continue to work with the Latino community but will no longer include Latinx in their titles.

Critics of Sanders’ order have said that just because the term isn’t universal among Spanish speakers doesn’t mean it’s insensitive. Manuel Hernandez, head of the Latino LGBTQ group Association of Latinos/as/xs Motivating Action, calls Sanders’ order “an attempt to erase” the LGBTQ Latino community.

Sanders signed the order the day after Arkansas lawmakers began including newly proposed restrictions on the LGBTQ community. One bill would classify drag shows as adult-oriented businesses, while another would ban transgender people from using bathrooms at K-12 schools that align with their gender identity.

Sanders also said she would support legislation similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law — a law that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

AP News