A piece in Politico titled “Democrats fall flat with ‘Latinx’ language” dropped yesterday, and as is always the case with such stories, activists and pundits took to Twitter to decry or defend “Latinx.” What was interesting this time around, however, is that some big-name progressives came out against the term.
Fernand Amandi, an MSNBC analyst and the principal at Bendixen & Amandi International, the polling outfit quoted in Politico, tweeted:
The use of Latinx, a term that didn’t exit until recently but has been embraced by @TheDemocrats to describe Hispanics + Latinos, may be doing more harm than good to Dem chances of winning, according to our new poll as @MarcACaputo describes in @politico.👇🏼https://t.co/Ekny4gd3vB
— Fernand Amandi (@AmandiOnAir) December 6, 2021
According to the poll, only 2 percent of Hispanics refer to themselves as Latinx; 68 percent prefer Hispanic and 21 percent identify as Latino/Latina.
These numbers aren’t surprising to Hispanics or anyone who spends considerable time around them, but to the white progressives who dominate the Democratic Party and whose obsession with race and gender is pathological at this point, the polling is certainly mystifying. Progressives, who signal status and show allegiance to their in-groups by immediately incorporating the latest woke words into their lexicon, fail to understand that this bureaucratic impulse does not comport with the sensibilities of working-class Hispanics.
Progressives are quick to submit to these language shifts due to their white guilt and conformism, but Hispanics, who, for the most part, have not penetrated the elite institutions that propagate such linguistic nonsense, will not be forced into submission.
As a Cuban American, my problem with Latinx is its deployment as a tool of domestication. Progressives have little interest in learning about the groups they hope to assimilate into their increasingly fractured political coalition. That’s why Latinx and the newly minted “BIPOC” are consistently used as domestication hammers. If we just keep hammering them with Latinx, they’ll eventually submit. If we just keep repeating it, like the kids from Oberlin and the Brooklyn HR lady do, Rodrigo the Mexican day laborer will eventually say it too.
So why the sudden pivot away from Latinx? A deeper look at the polling reveals that 40 percent of Hispanics are offended by the term and 30 percent are less likely to vote for a politician who uses it. That should make it clear what this sudden epiphany is all about — elections. With Hispanics already shifting to the right, Democrats can’t risk using a term that will alienate the demographic to such a degree that 30 percent will change their vote if they simply hear Latinx. The Politico piece is a signal to the activist class and the Democratic establishment that Latinx is toxic.
Yet even if progressives are able to break with this pathological obsession, the fact that they were committed to Latinx for so long shows they have a bigger problem with Hispanics.
That problem is that the Democrats’ entire racial project is flawed. It assumes that some imagined kinship exists between disparate Hispanic groups. That very phrase, “disparate Hispanic groups,” will no doubt surprise many progressives who assume that Hispanics, no matter their country of origin, are linked by the mere fact that they’re “people of color” and share a language.
Yet this lack of kinship is obvious to anyone who lives among Hispanics and has seen how they self-isolate and cling to their nation-specific neighborhoods. In Miami, as is the case in many cities in which Hispanics are highly concentrated, the Cubans live among other Cubans, the Dominicans with other Dominicans. Even if Democrats do drop Latinx and start using Hispanic, their orienting political principle, which demands the flattening of all Hispanics into an amorphous brown blob, will not ameliorate their growing problem with the demographic.
If Democrats, or Republicans for that matter, truly want to understand Hispanics, a successful poll wouldn’t frame the demographic question along the Latinx/Hispanic dichotomy. It would simply ask: where are you from? A Cuban would say he’s from Cuba, and a Mexican, unsurprisingly, would say he’s from Mexico. A Puerto Rican — you guessed it — is from Puerto Rico. In all these polls, Hispanics choose Hispanic over Latinx only because it is the least distasteful of the two words, though this choice betrays a deeper truth that all Hispanics know: disparate Hispanic groups, more often than not, merely tolerate each other.
There’s a common working-class sensibility and a social conservatism that connects many Hispanic groups. But call a Mexican a Dominican, or vice versa, and see what kind of reception you get. You’ll wish you’d said Latinx instead.