The Simultaneous Effectivity and Harmfulness of Labels

The growing number of terms used to refer to Latinx groups has been reaching a wide range of identities, but we have yet to achieve full inclusivity in our diction and language. Firstly, the terms Latino/a and Chicano/a are used to refer only to (usually cisgender) men and women, and thereby fail to include people whose gender identity does not fall within the gender binary. Now, many use words like Latine, Latinx, and Chicanx to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary people.

However, that is not to say that these words are perfect. Any variation of a label used to reference a Latin-language based America asserts the dominance of a colonizing language and culture, undermining rightful Indigenous ownership of the land.

Additionally, the term “La Raza” is extremely harmful and not inclusive at all. The phrase comes from José Vasconcelos’ essay “La Raza Cósmica” which held that Mexico could create the (perfect) fifth race by combining all the present races in the country; the closer to being white, the better. To this day, the term is a call for solidarity among “one race” further perpetuating colorism, orientalism, anti-blackness, anti-indigeneity, and white supremacy.

“We recognize that it is not fair that people like the Chinese, who, under the saintly guidance of Confucian morality multiply like mice, should come to degrade the human condition precisely at the moment when we begin to understand that intelligence serves to refrain and regulate the lower zoological instincts, which are contrary to a truly religious conception of life.”

José Vasconcelos, La Raza Cósmica

I, personally, refer to myself as Latina, occasionally Latinx, and Hispanic/Hispana based on the context and situation I find myself in. All in all, the multifaceted labeling of Latinx people shows heterogeneity among Latin Americans, but the fact that many labels remain colonial, binary, and racially exclusive shows the necessity of collective introspection and critique of these terms.

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