I named my project LatinxIcons precisely because there’s been push back against the term “Latinx” and the younger generation that identifies with it. Let me make something clear: our community does not need to pick one identity label so that others can more easily Google us. Society must profoundly imagine us more.
The tragedy is that all the bickering about our identity labels can be addressed by taking just one Ethnic Studies course.
When I teach Mexican American Literature, I dedicate only one week to two dozen of the possible identity terms. More exist and so many more will exist. The rest of the semester, we profoundly examine the manifestations of those terms generation by generation through the poetry, plays, essays, corridos, and other works our community created to navigate a system that some days ignored us and other days actively tried to erase us.
I have an affinity for the term “Latinx” because it is organic to our community. Our youth coined it. Additionally, all the pushback against the term gives me an insight into the pushback against the youth who first identified with the term “Chicano” during the Civil Rights Movement.
This is dramatized in the play Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez when the main character Henry Reyna is criticized for and warned against hanging out with, belonging to, or acting like a “Chicano.”
I, like all Mexican Americans, was not born Chicano. My parents were migrant workers in Texas who then settled in Chicago. They handed down to me rich cultural traditions and values, but I had to discover our role in history on my own, through books that crossed my paths, through research I had to struggle to find and understand.
I chose to be Chicano after immersing myself in our history, art, culture and understanding the role of self-empowerment.
It is unethical for community organizers to sabotage a person’s path to self-empowerment.
Community disorganizers revel in the bickering over identity they produce or recycle as clickbait.
Our culture is worthy of more than merely clickbait.
Every publication that posts a piece on this-term-vs-that-term should also publish 10 pieces about Ethnic Studies and figures important to our history, written by our intellectuals profoundly navigating the terms our identity is built upon.
Identity labels are the tip of the pyramid. We must unearth our community’s culture and history.
That is the role of writers and other artists. We must clear the dust to re-invent language so that we can find ourselves.