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On her first day in office, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders banned the term “Latinx.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the new governor of Arkansas, signed an executive order banning the term “Latinx” from official use in state government just hours after being sworn in.

According to Tabitha Bonilla, an associate professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University, this is one of the first, if not the first, executive orders of its kind.

It was one of seven orders signed by Sanders, a Republican, immediately following his inauguration. The others centred on preventing Arkansas schools from teaching critical race theory, budgeting and spending, and other government issues.

Except for the one prohibiting Latinx, a gender-neutral alternative to Hispanic or Latino, the majority of these executive orders are consistent with the rhetoric Sanders campaigned on.

“That was unlike anything I had ever seen from her before. As a result, it felt unexpected “According to Bonilla.

According to Ed Morales, author of “Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture,” the governor’s apparent sudden interest in banning the term Latinx — which is frequently derided by conservatives and debated among some Latinos — speaks to “this anti-woke agenda” that the Republican Party has increasingly adopted.

“It appears to be linked to things that they object to, which is really anything that prioritises marginalised people and marginalised points of view,” Morales explained.

What’s more surprising, according to Bonilla, is that Sanders signed such an executive order on her first day in office.

“That establishes the tone for the type of governance you want to enact, what you believe is the priority, and the types of decision-making you’ll do in an office,” Bonilla said.

Sanders cited a 2020 Pew Research study that found only 3% of the Hispanic population in the United States uses the term. She also mentioned the Real Academia Espaola, a cultural institution in Madrid dedicated to the linguistic regularisation of Spanish, which opposes the use of “x” as an alternative to “o” and “a.”

She used the findings of both institutions to eliminate what she considers “ethnically insensitive” and “pejorative language,” according to the executive order.

Sanders appears to have tried to use “the one Pew Hispanic report as evidence that people find it offensive or that they reject it,” according to Morales, without taking into account subsequent studies that show a slight increase in the use of the term and the emergence of other gender neutral alternatives such as “Latine.”

When citing the Pew report in the executive order, Sanders did not mention that the study also found that 76% of Hispanics had never heard of the term “Latinx,” according to Bonilla.

“She’s offering these justifications, and it just appears to me that she’s been portraying data and information in a way that really is about pandering,” Bonilla said.

According to Pew, Hispanics make up nearly 4% of Arkansas’s eligible voting population. However, “pandering” to Latino voters on cultural issues that may be divisive among some Hispanics could be on Sanders’ radar if she wants to run for vice president or president in the future, according to Bonilla.

The executive order also directs all state offices, departments, and agencies to submit written reviews of their current use of the term “Latinx” and to switch to “Latino,” “Latina,” or “Hispanic.”

“I doubt it would appear frequently in most government documents,” Bonilla said. “My main question is, who is the most affected by this?”

Sanders’ new executive order appears to be part of a growing number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures across the country, despite the fact that “Latinx” is often considered a more LGBTQ inclusive term. Republicans have introduced the vast majority of these bills.

“It’s really about transgender and nonbinary people,” Bonilla explained. “It’s also portrayed in the language as being about the Latino community.”

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