An Aside On “LatinX”

Opinion

I wish to preface this with the only opinion that matters: Mine.

Which is to say, My opinion about what other people call me is the only one that matters, and I don’t happen to identify as LatinX.

So why am I opining on the topic? You may well ask.

Here’s the thing: My understanding is that something like 97% of the people that might possibly be classed by someone else as “LatinX” might even object to being so defined, as the Spanish language has two genders built in. Pew Research did a study; apparently it’s just young female Twitter users — loosely defined and with some exceptions; after all, who am I to tell someone they’re female?

Which is the point, as I see it: If someone wishes to be identified as thus-and-such, that should be all I need to know. It’s only polite for me to refer to people as they wish to be addressed. If I can do it for Emperor Norton, why not for my neighbor?

(Sadly, it took me years to learn this.)

So that’s fine, so far as it goes; I’ll refer to people as they wish. However, that works only with individuals; for groups, it seems there’s rarely consensus. I can call one group of people Black (note capitalization) with no difficulty, but if I use White I look like a neo-Nazi, and that’s just not fashionable these days. And yet, if I attempt to use “black”, I’d best not be referring to that specific tightly-defined group — which, last time I checked, refers to only those identifiable as Americans directly of African origin, either with markedly dark skin or choosing to identify with such an heritage, and preferably the descendants of former slaves — but not Caribbean slaves, unless (and this is key!) the individual declines to make the distinction. Thus, some Haitians are black but citizens of the Dominican Republic with similar bloodlines might be Indio, and none qualify as Black unless they so choose.

I think that’s correct, anyway.

Because words are the components of language, and language is a tool for communication, so it’s 100% about consensus — and consensus, in turn, is about being 100%. Lacking consensus, there can be no rules, thus no right and wrong. Ergo, I can attempt politeness, but if I should fail from time to time, patience and gentle correction are in order by anyone who is offended.

And so those 3% on Twitter, I’ll gladly call LatinX, and because it’s Twitter I’ll never actually need to pronounce the word. Which is a good thing, because I have no Earthly idea how. La-tinks? Lat-inch? Lat-inh? Latin-the-Tenth? I can say Ixtaccíhuatl correctly, and even see the sleeping woman in the mountain — because there’s consensus. But there is none for LatinX.

The only thing I know for sure is “LatinEcks” is not a sound I can spell in Mexican Spanish, so that can’t be right. Or if it is, it’s bloody insensitive.

Anyway — that’s my opinion. Tell me if I’m wrong, will you?


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