Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders bans use of ‘Latinx’ on first day in office

‘She’s been trying to portray data and information in a way that really is about pandering’

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 12 January 2023 17:28 GMT
Related video: Sarah Huckabee Sanders announces her run for governor of Arkansas
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Sarah Huckabee Sanders banned the state government from using the word “Latinx” in an executive order on her first day as governor of Arkansas.

The former Trump White House press secretary and daughter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee signed the order directly after taking the oath of office on Tuesday.

Associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, Dr Tabitha Bonilla, told NBC News that it’s possibly the first executive order of this type.

Ms Huckabee Sanders signed six other orders after she was sworn in. Among them was an order banning schools from teaching critical race theory – a law school subject employed by conservatives to refer to almost anything regarding race issues. The new governor also signed orders related to budgeting, spending and other issues.

With the exception of “Latinx”, the executive orders hewed closely to Ms Huckabee Sanders’ campaign talking points. Latinx is a gender-neutral term used by some instead of Hispanic or Latino.

“That was nothing that I had seen from her until then. So, it felt surprising,” Dr Bonilla said told NBC.

Ed Morales wrote the book Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture. He told the outlet that the order was part of “this anti-woke agenda” that the Republican Party is pushing.

“It is something that seems to be tied to things that they object to, which is really anything that prioritizes marginalized people and marginalized points of view,” Mr Morales said.

Dr Bonilla told NBC that it was surprising that Latinx made it into the first orders signed by the governor.

“That sets the tone for the type of governance that you want to enact, of what you think is the priority, and the types of decision-making you’ll do at an office,” she said.

The term has been mocked by those on the right its use is debated among a small number of Latinos.

Ms Huckabee Sanders pointed to a report by Pew Research from 2020 that found that only three per cent of US Latinos used the word.

She also noted that Real Academia Española, a cultural institution in the Spanish capital, has rejected the use of the letter “x” instead of “o” and “a”.

The executive order states that it aims to remove “ethnically insensitive” and “pejorative language”.

Mr Morales said Ms Huckabee Sanders seems to be using the Pew report to claim that “people find it offensive or that they reject it” and disregarding that later studies have noted a small rise in the word’s usage as well as other gender-neutral words, including “Latine”.

Dr Bonilla noted that the order doesn’t state that the Pew report revealed that 76 per cent of Hispanics hadn’t heard the term Latinx before.

“She’s offering these justifications, and it just seems to me like she’s been trying to portray data and information in a way that really is about pandering,” Dr Bonilla said of the governor.

Pew states that almost four per cent of those eligible to vote in Arkansas are Hispanic.

“I can’t think that it would show up very frequently in most government documents,” Dr Bonilla added. “My biggest question is: Who does this affect the most?”

The term Latinx often refers to Hispanic people who don’t identify as male or female.

“It’s really about transgender individuals and nonbinary individuals,” Dr Bonilla told NBC. “And in the language, it’s also portrayed as being about the Latino community.”

The Independent has reached out to the office of the governor for comment.

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