Controversy Erupts Over Governor Sanders' Ban of 'Latinx' in Arkansas Government

"Latinx" with the x in the color orange

Photo via Gov. Huckabee’s Official Facebook Page

By Pamela Acosta

In a move that has sparked controversy among civil rights groups and the Latinx community, newly sworn-in Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has issued an executive order prohibiting the use of the term “Latinx” throughout the state’s government. The order, which was issued on Sanders’ first day in office, requires all state agencies to replace the terms “Latinx, latinx, Latinxs, and latinxs” within existing official government documents with “Hispanics, Latino, Latinos, Latina, or Latinas.”

According to the executive order, the decision to ban the term was based on a 2020 Pew Research report that found that only 3% of American Hispanics use the word to describe themselves. Additionally, Sanders cited the Real Academia Española, a Madrid-based cultural institution that works to ensure the stability of the Spanish language, which officially rejected the use of “x” as an alternative to “o” or “a” when using the terms Latino or Latina.

“Ethnically insensitive and pejorative language has no place in official government documents or government employee titles,” the executive order stated. “The government has a responsibility to respect its citizens and use ethnically appropriate language, particularly when referring to ethnic minorities.”

The use of “Latinx” has been promoted in recent years as a gender-neutral alternative to the Spanish gender-specific words “Latino” or “Latina.” However, Sanders’ executive order claims that the term is not widely used among the Hispanic population and is not recognized by the Real Academia Española.

The decision to ban the term has been met with significant pushback from civil rights groups and members of the Latinx community, who argue that the move is an attack on their identity and an attempt to erase the experiences of non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals.

“Governor Sanders’ decision to ban the use of the term ‘Latinx’ is a clear attempt to deny the existence of non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals within the Latinx community,” said a spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to several news outlets. “This move is not only disrespectful, but it is also a violation of the rights of marginalized communities.”

The executive order gives state agencies 60 days to replace the terms in existing government documents. It is unclear at this time how the order will be enforced or what the consequences will be for individuals or agencies that do not comply.

Critics of the ban argue that it is a politically motivated decision that does not take into account the perspectives of the Latinx community. They also claim that it is a distraction from the more pressing issues facing the state, such as healthcare and education.

“Instead of focusing on the real problems facing our state, Governor Sanders has decided to launch a targeted attack on the Latinx community,” said a spokesperson for the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for several news outlets. “This executive order is a clear violation of our civil rights and will not be tolerated.”

The executive order has sparked widespread outrage and condemnation, with many calling for Governor Sanders to reconsider her decision and consult with members of the Latinx community before making any further decisions that affect their lives.