What the progressive culture elite wants, it usually gets. Single- sex bathrooms changing overnight to all-gender or non-gender bathrooms? Done. Illegal immigrants becoming known as undocumented persons? But of course.
So, when it was decided in the precincts of fashionable opinion that the term “Latino” would be retired in favor of “Latinx,” one could have been forgiven for thinking that this hideous neologism would, like so much else in American life, go from a fringe cause to mainstream soon enough.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Latinx ascendancy — Latinos have rejected the term, at the same time that a big swing toward the GOP among these voters has highlighted the perils of high-handed cultural politics for the Democrats.
Latinx may end up being a woke experiment that failed, showing the vast gap between the identity-politics- obsessed progressives earnestly talking to one another in seminar rooms and on social media and the Hispanics in whose name they presume to speak.
Latinx is a project cut from the same cloth as the endless extension of LGBTQ, which, as of this writing, is now more properly and comprehensively rendered as LGBTQQIP2SAA.
The alleged problem that Latinx was invented to fix is that is Spanish has gendered nouns. This means that using the male Latino as an adjective to describe men and women of Latin American ancestry, let alone transgender and non-binary people, is supposedly exclusionary, hateful and downright dangerous. As a handbook on the terminology by a Princeton scholar explains, “To default to the masculine gender promotes interpersonal violence against women and non-binary individuals.”
Latinx rose from the ashes of its predecessor neologism Latin@, an attempted amalgamation of the -o at the end of the Latino and the -a at the end of Latina. But no one knew how to pronounce the word.
It was deemed insufficiently woke because the “o” was supposedly graphically dominating the “a” (yes, this is how some people think).
And it caused confusion on social media where the at sign is used to tag someone.
Enter Latinx, which is only slightly less ridiculous.
As Giancarlo Sopo of The Daily Wire, who has been on a one-man crusade against the rise of the term, points out, Latinx is incomprehensible to any Spanish speaker without some knowledge of English.
Most Spanish-speakers don’t think there is something desperately flawed about their language, or that Spanish grammar is a proto- hate crime. The Real Academia Espanola, Spain’s official institution charged with maintaining the integrity of the language, has ruled against the -x appendage.
Out in the real world, “Latinx” polls even more poorly than Joe Biden does. A Politico poll found that only 2% of Hispanics prefer the term, while 68% opt for Hispanic and 21% favor Latino or Latina. The term is considered offensive to 40% of respondents and 30% said that they are less likely to support a politician or group using it.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, tweeted in reaction to the poll that he forbids his staff from using Latinx in official communications. “When Latino politicos use the term, it is largely to appease white rich progressives who think that is the term we use,” he wrote. “It is a vicious circle of confirmation bias.”
Still, elite media outlets and other institutions susceptible to progressive influence, as well as many elected Democrats, have dutifully defaulted to the term. It’s one thing if an individual prefers to be called Latinx (or, the even more cutting-edge Latina/o/x or Xicanx), it’s another thing to apply the term to a large group of people who have no interest in being called a name that makes no sense to them.
The pushback is a heartening sign of the limits of elite cultural power, and of the lack of interest of most Latinos in being pawns in the ever more strained and obscure progressive politics of perpetual victimology.
Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.