WATKINS: “Latin-what?” Why UNC should abandon the term ‘Latinx’

View of the main quad area at UNC Chapel Hill.

By now, most people who have attended a wealthy college — or those who tuned into the Democratic presidential debates — have likely heard or seen the word “Latinx.” The anglicized Spanish term is the latest attempt of gender activists to impose their perverse ideology on the rest of the culture — and on Spanish speakers in particular. 

What is so significant about adding the letter “x” to the word “Latino?” To activists, it solves a confounding problem: There is no “gender-neutral” way to refer to individuals in the Spanish language. Someone, for example, may be described as a “Latino” writer (if a man) or a “Latina” writer (if a woman), but there is no phrasing for those who don’t consider themselves male or female.

But in the early 2000s, activists came up with a solution: Replace the “o” in masculine words like “Latino” and the “a” in feminine words like “Latina” with a gender-neutral “x” to create the inclusive term “Latinx.”

For a while, “Latinx” remained a niche term secluded to small circles of academics and activists. But not for long. Around 2014, eager to appear “inclusive,” colleges and universities started to adopt the term.

As a result, institutions such as Harvard University, Yale University, New York University, and the University of Florida began to re-label. For example, “Hispanic heritage month” became “Latinx heritage month,” and “Latino Studies” was changed to “Latinx studies.”

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is no exception to this trend. Although UNC-Chapel Hill administrators and faculty have used the term for the last few years, the label “Latinx” gained a new level of formal recognition in October when the university officially established the Carolina “Latinx” Center.

Of the sixteen UNC universities, Chapel Hill and the four following UNC institutions use the word “Latinx” in an official capacity:

  • North Carolina State University has a Latinx Alumni Network; the Poole College of Management hosts a “Latinx Heritage Month Display”
  • UNC Charlotte has a Latinx/Hispanic Faculty and Staff Caucus
  • Western Carolina University hosted the inaugural Southeastern Latinx Student Leadership Conference
  • UNC Greensboro has the Afro-Latin American/Latinx Studies Project

Given the growing popularity of “Latinx,” it is likely only a matter of time until the remaining UNC schools follow. Nevertheless, they should resist jumping on the bandwagon, and the institutions that have already adopted the confused term should swiftly abandon it, for several reasons.

For one, according to a 2019 study by a progressive-leaning marketing firm, the overwhelming majority of Hispanics in the United States do not want to be referred to as “Latinx.” According to Mario Carrasco, co-owner of the firm ThinkNow Research, “98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity.”

Secondly, and most importantly, the word “Latinx” embodies a gender ideology completely unmoored from reality. Absurd in its premise, it denies the fact that, apart from rare medical disorders of sex development, there are only men and women — male human beings and female human beings.

While the change from “o” to “x” might seem minor to some, it is in fact an attempt by ideologues to impose a highly questionable theory of gender by distorting and policing language. On a practical level, university administrators’ recent relabeling assists gender radicals in adding “Latinx” to the lexicon of politically correct terms and removes the obvious truth that there are only two genders from the list of officially approved opinions.

Although academics, activists, and progressive politicians often claim that they want to empower minorities, to give a voice to the voiceless, this attempt to pervert the Spanish language is just another example of how out of touch they are with the very people they claim to serve.

Elite academics are clearly less concerned about cultural sensitivity than promoting their currently fashionable — but highly confused — outlook on gender. Universities should refuse to endorse this incoherent ideology and discard the term “Latinx” altogether.

Shannon Watkins is senior writer with the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.