BY DR. AIDÉ ACOSTA, Ph. D, Chief College Officer at Noble Schools
In kicking off Latinx Heritage Month, I want to share with you this article about the emergence of “Latinx”: Who are you calling Latinx? It provides a concise summary of the different ethnic labels and highlights the importance of how ethnic labels are relative and contextual (our identities shift depending on the context). You can also listen to our Diálogo about the shifting meaning of ethnic labels within the Latinx community. As we continue to evolve as an anti-racist organization, we must continue to inspect these different labels through an intersectional lens, and most importantly, that we are engaging our diverse experiences through an inclusive approach.
While there is a long history of identifying, and of self-identifying, people of Latin American origin, here is a brief summary of the different ethnic labels, which are often used interchangeably:
Hispanic: umbrella ethic category created under the Nixon administration and used as a Census term to identify individuals from Spanish-Speaking Countries, including Spain.
Latina/Latino: geographical term to include people whose origins are from Latin America, but also includes those that do not speak Spanish or whose first language is not Spanish.
Latinx: is a gender-neutral term used in lieu of “Latino” or “Latina” to refer to a person of Latin American descent. Latinx is a gender-neutral alternative.
The terms to describe the communities in the U.S. have constantly evolved. “Latinos” gained popularity as a rejection of the word “Hispanic,” which many saw as an imposed government category and as assimilationist. Latinx has gained popularity as a rejection of binary gender politics. See more here: Latinx explained (USA Today) and Hispanic Heritage Month: A Time for Pride, Inclusion, and Learning.
The term “Latinx” is a fairly new category of self-identification and identifying communities with origins in Latin America. In choosing this term, we are not striving for accuracy given the complexity to identify a diverse group of people, but rather, we are striving for inclusivity. The borders of when and where Latin America begins and ends “es una herida abierta,” an open wound as the late Gloria Anzaldúa stated.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Aidé Acosta is Chief College Officer (CCO) for Noble Schools. As CCO, Dr. Acosta leads all college access and success strategies, and overlooks the following programs: Summer of a Lifetime, College Counseling, Alumni Supports, Alumni Career Office, Pritzker Access Scholarship (PAS), and Noble Forward. Dr. Acosta also serves as a leader in the national education community, collaborating with a national network of practitioners and sharing Noble’s practices towards improving college outcomes for underserved populations.
Dr. Acosta grew up in the border region of San Diego/Tijuana. Her parents arrived to the U.S. with a collective formal education of 8 years. She is a first-generation college student who, in spite of dropping out of high school in 10th grade, has earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate. Dr. Acosta earned a bachelor’s degree from UC-Riverside and a Master of Arts and Doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.