Just when you though that we have moved past the whole “Latino,” “Hispanic,” and “Latinx” debate (seriously, where was everyone four years ago about this topic), a November 1 Medium post written by Mario Carrasco of ThinkNow Research published the results of a poll which asked 508 U.S. Latinos how they prefer to self-identify. According to Carrasco and his team, here were the results:
As Carrasco writes: “We presented our respondents with seven of the most common terms used to describe Latinos and asked them to select the one that best describes them. When it came to “Latinx,” there was near unanimity. Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2% of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos.”
(FYI, the poll has a ± 5% margin of error with a 95% confidence interval, meaning that the 2% can be -5% or 7%. It also said that it has age breakdowns The post also said this: Only 3% of 18–34 year-old respondents in our poll selected the term as their preferred ethnic label. This was roughly the same as the 2% of 35–49 year-olds. No respondents over 50 selected the term. In other words, 97% of millennial and Gen-Z Latinos prefer to be called something other than “Latinx.” Meanwhile, only 3% of women and 1% of men selected the term as their preferred ethnic identifier.)
Now, it seems everyone —especially people in the right-wing media and conservative non-Latino New York Times columnists— are taking this new data (a rare poll conducted by a marketing agency in the interest of making money for clients) as the gospel truth that American progressives are so out of touch with the U.S. Latino community.
That is the wrong question to ask here.
In fact, if people were really interested in this debate (like REALLY interested), they would note that it has a history, one that is organic and real, and which stems from the very same community that companies and politicians and non-Latino pundits claim to be experts of.
For those who embrace the term, there are those who reject it. And some will reject it for reasons you might not expect. There is some myth out there that the use of Latinx is a massive imposition coming from outside activist forces descending on a unsuspecting populace. It’s quite the opposite. The term is supposed to challenge your conventional thinking, raising the issues of inclusion and not exclusion. It is supposed to question how messy self-identification within the U.S. Latino community really is. And, more importantly, while we as community allow ourselves to get sucked into a debate that will just divide and conquer us, there are bigger issues to address. It’s pretty clear that in the end, those who cry “political correctness” and the “liberal police” will want us to focus on this debate and completely ignore the harsh realities of living under a white supremacist administration that continues to disparage, demean and detain Latinos.
What we should be applauding is how people in our community have continued a legacy of questioning what is in front of them right now. And if you don’t want to self-identify as such, just don’t. Nobody is stopping you. (Just take the case of our own site’s name: Just because we call ourselves Latino Rebels doesn’t mean that we will blindly ignore and diminish how someone wants to self-identify.) What really needs to stop, however, is this notion that a term grounded in Latin American linguistic history is suddenly a political affront to the U.S. Latino community. We would argue that a term like “Hispanic” was truly imposed on our communities, more so than any other one. And if we were to follow the current poll cited above, it looks like the federal government and Spanish-language networks of the early 80s did a fantastic job forcing that one on us all.
In addition, taking one poll and listing it is a gold standard is also a mistake. A poll of 508 Latinos broken down by age isn’t that big of a poll, so maybe this is an opportunity to expand the research on this before sweeping conclusions get made. (How about a poll of 508 Latinos under 30?) We have always told any political campaign or company interested that they should know their audience: the use of “Latinx” skews young and urban and college-educated and politically engaged. Those aren’t traits you should just dismiss, but at the same time, understand the complexities. Because trust us, if you say “Hispanic” these days, you are stuck in 1982.
So spare us the conservative think pieces and hot takes suddenly sprouting out now because a couple of Democratic candidates have used the term “Latinx” once or twice. At least they are acknowledging that identity in the U.S. Latino community is complex and messy as hell. But our connected community knew that already, and keeping this debate simplistic and solely tied to brands, political campaigns and conservative skeptics, as much as U.S. media wants it to be like that, will never be the outcome.
We the community will own the narrative, not those who want to enable it for their own interests.
UPDATE, November 5, 10:05 a.m. ET
We were able to download the official report from ThinkNow to determine age breakdown and here is what the survey listed.
About 102 participants were listed 18-24. In addition, the poll skews more Spanish-speaking and leans way more West and South. It is also more foreign-born.