‘Latinx’ not the language of election victory

IT’S BECOME A a popular new substitute, in some circles, for the term Latino, a gender-neutral word that is increasingly embraced in academia and among some progressive activists. But in the brass-tacks world of trying to win elections, making appeals to “Latinx” voters is a losing strategy, according to a new national poll of Latino voters. 

The term has come into vogue in the left-leaning world as an alternative to describing those of Latin American descent as “Latino,” which is the masculine form of the word in Spanish, where all nouns are gendered. 

But in the increasingly competitive battle for Latino votes, the term is not a way to win support. 

That’s the finding from a new national poll by ​​Bendixen & Amandi International, a top Democratic firm that specializes in Latino outreach. The survey of 800 Latino voters conducted last month showed that only 2 percent of Hispanic-Americans refer to themselves as “Latinx,” while 68 percent call themselves “Hispanic,” and 21 percent prefer “Latino” or “Latina,” the feminine form of the noun. 

What’s more, 40 percent of respondents said they are bothered by use of the term Latinx and 30 percent said they would be less likely to support a candidate or organization that employed the term. 

“The numbers suggest that using Latinx is a violation of the political Hippocratic Oath, which is to first do no electoral harm,” Fernand Amandi, a principal with the polling firm, told Politico.  “Why are we using a word that is preferred by only 2 percent, but offends as many as 40 percent of those voters we want to win?” asked Amandi, whose firm advised Barack Obama on his successful Latino outreach in his two presidential campaigns. 

Wilnelia Rivera, a Boston-based political strategist, said growing up in working-class Lawrence, she had “a natural averse reaction” to the emergence of “Latinx.” 

“I appreciate academia as much as the next person,” said Rivera, who is of Dominican and Puerto Rican background. Use of the term Latinx “has value in movement building spaces,” she said, noting that her firm, Rivera Consulting, does work with organizations using it. “But it doesn’t translate into politics,” she said.

State Rep. Andy Vargas of Haverhill, whose family is Dominican, said, “I use Latinx sometimes but mostly use Latino because that’s what I grew up with and is most commonly used in my community. Identity is messy, especially with a gendered language like Spanish. I have nothing against the term and feel that it is important to listen to folks who do feel more included by a non-gendered term.” But he said “bread and butter” issues of housing, income inequality, and health care are what people are most concerned with in his district. 

Marisol Negrón, director of the Latino Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said the debate points to a bigger issue – the use of any single term as a “catch-all” to describe people with varying backgrounds and why language to describe them has become “such contested ground.” 

Progressive political strategist Dan Cohen posted on Facebook in reaction to the Politico story and poll that he’s had “at least 100 conversations” on the topic in recent years. Cohen said he is always left with the same question when it comes to thinking about political campaigns: “Why would you ever use language that is even marginally alienating to some people when more common terms do the job better?” 

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, a progressive Democrat from Acton whose district includes a wide swath of Metro West communities, posted in response to Cohen: “When I go to working class Latino neighborhoods in Marlborough, if I used the term ‘Latinx’ it would be met with confusing looks by many voters.” 

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Tower dump: A defendant in a murder case is challenging the way police tracked him down by obtaining a “tower dump” of cellphone data in the areas where a series of robberies occurred and finding the cell phone number common to all of them. The defendant claims his right to privacy was violated. His case goes before the Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday. Read more.

Not enough drivers: The MBTA is paring back service on 31 bus routes and the Mattapan trolley because it doesn’t have enough drivers. In a tweet, the transit authority said it is looking to hire 300 new drivers. Read more.

New chief of streets: Boston Mayor Michelle Wu named Jascha Franklin-Hodge as her chief of streets, making him the city’s overseer of transportation and public works. Franklin-Hodge currently heads the Open Mobility Foundation and previously served as the city’s chief information officer under former mayor Marty Walsh. In an interview, he revealed no new policy initiatives and said no decision has been made on whether to pursue a previous Wu proposal to charge for residential parking permits. Read more.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

BEACON HILL

Advocates for victims of sexual assault seek to pass bills that, among other things, would tighten requirements regarding when allegations of assault must be reported. (Salem News)

Senators from central Massachusetts are generally in favor of legalizing sports betting. (Telegram & Gazette)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

The Pine Street Inn in Boston receives $15 million from the Yawkey Foundation to address homelessness. (WBUR)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

There were more than 11,300 new COVID-19 breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people last week. (WCVB)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Massachusetts has some of the worst labor shortages in the country. (USA Today)

The Norwood-based cannabis company MariMed bakes the world’s largest cannabis-infused brownie at its kitchen in New Bedford. It weighs 850 pounds, is three feet by three feet, and contains 20,000 milligrams of THC. (USA Today)

EDUCATION

Boston has made progress in its programming for English language learners in its schools, but half of its high school students in need of such services are still not being adequately served, according to a Department of Justice report. (Boston Herald

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The two main pillars of the state’s plan to eliminate carbon emissions have both fallen apart in recent weeks. (Boston Globe) State energy secretary Kathleen Theoharides says Massachusetts will look to the big federal infrastructure bill to help fund carbon-cutting initiatives. (Boston Globe

Residents, environmentalists, and politicians push for the closure of a “peaker” power plant in Pittsfield that runs on oil and natural gas and is used when demand for electricity is high. (Berkshire Eagle)

Jeremy White, a kayaker and fisherman from Agawam, pulls a 3-foot alligator from the Westfield River, rescuing it before the weather gets too cold for the animal. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Shootings and homicides are down this year in Boston, trends that go against the grain of national increases. (Boston Globe

James Lucien, after serving 27 years of a life sentence for murder and armed robbery, is released after a judge agrees he was the victim of an improper police investigation. (WCVB)

MEDIA

A group of 12 columnists for the Daily Hampshire Gazette vowed to stop writing their pieces until the newspaper signs a new contract with its union.“We have to write for a paper that we can believe and we believe in a paper that treats its workers fairly,” said Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, one of the columnists.