Recently elected Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) has started her tenure off with controversy, getting backlash for banning the use of the term gender-neutral term ‘LatinX’ in state government.
According to the former Trump WH press secretary, the term is “culturally insensitive.”
“One of the things as governor that I will not permit is the government using culturally insensitive words,” she said.
State agencies will have two months to update written materials to reflect Gov. Sanders’ mandate.
The term-LatinX rose to prominence in the past few years, with many members of the Latino LGBTQ community embracing the term that neutralizes the male/female associated term, but some prominent members of the Latino community have openly rejected the moniker.
“When Latino politicos use the term it is largely to appease white rich progressives who think that is the term we use,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), current congressman and Democratic primary challenger to newly turned Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2024.
Though some have praised Gov. Sanders’ action, banning the word can be seen as dismissive to those who have embraced the term.
“Language is constantly evolving,” head of the Latino LGBTQ group Association of Lationos/as/xs Motivating Action, Manuel Hernandez said. “We don’t speak Old English. I’ve never met someone who says ‘thy.”
Hernandez also accuses the governor’s directive of “an attempt to erase” LGBTQ members of the Latino community.
The daughter of former Republican Arkansas Governor and failed presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, Sanders has vocalized support of legislation modeled after Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Use of LatinX falls along generational lines.
A 2020 Pew research poll revealed that despite 25% of Latinos having heard the phrase – only 3% of the Hispanic population uses it.
Latinos between the ages of 18-29 are more than six times as likely as those over the age of 65 to be familiar with the term.
Arkansas state government is not a known bastion of “wokeness” and use of the term there is virtually nonexistent.
University of Arkansas student Angel Castillo Reyes, who goes by the pronouns they/them, uses LatinX and Latine (another gender neutral term used by some members of the LGBTQ community).
“I appreciate those terms because I know it doesn’t come from a sense of wanting to divide,” the 21 year old said. “It comes from the sense of wanting to unite.”
Though Castillo Reyes acknowledges that older generations have yet to embrace the word, they believe that Sanders’ mandate is unnecessary.
But culture wars are the Republicans’ main narrative these days, and the Arkansas Governor is playing the GOP’s frivolous legislative game, targeting non-issues while ignoring the actual problems facing Americans – particularly in Red states.
The formerly nicknamed “Bear State” falls in the bottom 10 states in education, economy, infrastructure and healthcare.
Gov. Sanders’ focusing on gender-neutrality and Black history in education rather than giving Arkansans the tools they need to be successful and include their quality of life is on brand with the GOP agenda.
“Now that I know Spanish can be used in a way that is inclusive, it’s like ‘Wow, I never thought this was possible,'” Castillo Reyes said.
Original reporting by the Andrew DeMillo and Claire Savage at AP News.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick