Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Embracing Term Latinx

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What do former Massachusetts state senator Ben Downing (D-Pittsfield), current state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), and Harvard professor Danielle Allen have in common?

A lot, probably. They’re all Democrats running to be the next governor of Massachusetts. However, they’re all embracing a term used by progressives to describe Latinos:  “Latinx.”

There are a pair of frequently used Spanish language terms to describe people from Latin America or of Latin American descent: Latino and Latina. Latino is the masculine version of the word; it’s used to describe a male or men and women together; the plural form, Latinos, would describe either a group of men or a group of men and women. Meanwhile, Latina is the feminine version to describe a female; Latinas is the plural version of the term.

The Spanish language does not include the term Latinx, In the Spanish language, nouns have gender — and it only uses two genders:  masculine and feminine.

The term “Latinx” (usually pronounced “latin ex”) is not commonly used by Latinos. About three-in-four Latino adults have never heard the term, according to Pew Research. Only 3 percent of them use the term Latinx. 

However, when Downing, Chang-Diaz, and Allen speak about this group of people, “Latinx” is the term they use.

Downing and Chang-Diaz have made their use of the term Latinx known on social media.

Downing tweeted on October 14 “Massachusetts has the highest disparities in incarceration for Latinx individuals in the country.” It was the sixth time he had tweeted the term since June 30, 2021.

He also used the term in an op-ed for CommonWealth Magazine last year. In it, he wrote:  “Massachusetts’ failure to act with urgency on racial justice has left the black poverty rate 215 percent higher and the Latinx poverty rate 303 percent higher than that of their white neighbors. The wealth of the median white family in Greater Boston is $247,500, a Latinx family is $3,000, and an African American family is $8.”

While the web site for Chang-Diaz says that she is the first Latina elected to the Massachusetts state Senate, she also uses the term Latinx.

Her first use of the term Latinx on Twitter came in September 2018. She tweeted “Excited @MA_BLLC is hosting a special event for #HispanicHeritageMonth honoring #Latinx leaders in our communities! Please join us for it here at the State House #mapoli.” It’s one of 14 times she has tweeted the term.

She also used the term when endorsing U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Malden) in the 2020 Democratic primary. In a press release issued by Markey’s campaign, Chang-Diaz said “I’m proud to support Senator Markey for re-election because he has never let the Massachusetts’ Latinx community fight alone.”

And while Allen doesn’t use the term as much as the other two candidates, it appears in a book she published with Rohini Somanathan that was released last year. In the book Difference Without Domination:  Pursuing Justice in Diverse Democracies the term “Latinx” appears twice on page 6. It says “If, for instance, Latinx Americans constitute 15 percent of the American population, we should expect to see every church, school, school board, and political assembly in the country consist of a membership that is 15 percent Latinx.”

The campaigns for Downing, Chang-Diaz, and Allen could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.


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