Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed an executive order this week banning the use of the term “Latinx” and its derivatives from all official Arkansas government communications.
The former Trump White House press secretary signed seven orders on her first day as governor on Tuesday, generally focused on red-meat issues like “Latinx,” the use of TikTok on government devices and a review on the teaching of critical race theory in schools.
Sanders’s order to ban Latinx is titled Executive Order to Respect the Latino Community by Eliminating Culturally Insensitive words from Official Use in Government.
The term Latinx is a gender-neutral form of “Latino” or “Latina” that gained some traction among progressive circles as an inclusive term.
Though it failed to catch on as a term to describe the entire U.S. Hispanic community, it’s still popular among groups who seek to promote further LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Since its inception, though, the term has been criticized for being unpronounceable in Spanish, and some have said it diminishes Spanish language inclusion.
Sanders’s executive order made reference to that criticism, by citing the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (RAE), the unofficial arbiter of Spanish-language usage rules worldwide.
“The Real Academia Española, the Madrid-based institution which governs the Spanish language, has officially rejected the use of ‘x’ as an alternative to ‘o’ and ‘a’ in Spanish,” reads the order.
But the Arkansas order went further, saying “one can no more easily remove gender from Spanish and other romance languages than one can remove vowels and verbs from English.”
Throughout the Spanish-speaking world, efforts have been made to de-gender and sometimes to re-gender neutral words.
For instance, the neutral word presidente, or president, is now more commonly used as presidenta when referring to female presidents.
And progressives in the Spanish-speaking world, including in the United States, often use the term “Latine” as a replacement for Latinx that is both gender- and language-inclusive.
The RAE has also rejected the use of an “e” to replace the gendered “o” or “a” endings, as the male “o” ending also indicates gender-neutral or plural subjects in traditional Spanish usage.
Sanders’s office did not reply to a question on why her executive order did not include Latine in the list of banned terms.
Still, the executive order states that “it is the policy of the Governor’s administration to prohibit the use of culturally insensitive words for official state government business.”
The governor’s office did not respond to whether that included other terms disavowed by the Latino community, like “illegal alien” or “illegal immigrant,” or whether the term Latinx had ever been used in official Arkansas communications in the past.
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