It’s Latinx Heritage Month, which is a time to celebrate our Latinx friends and colleagues and the contributions and accomplishments of the Latinx community around the world. While I am by no means an expert on Latinx inclusion, it is an effort that is important to me, and I’d like to share some steps I am working on in hopes that they inspire you to work on them as well.
Learn Your Vocab
You have probably heard many terms that refer to all or part of the Latinx community. Some common ones might include Hispanic, Latino/a, and Latinx. It’s important to note that all these terms have different historical connotations and meanings today. One important step you can take is educating yourself on the differences between these terms and their history. A good starting place might be this Remezcla article by Yara Simón, and I’d encourage you to continue your research beyond this piece as well.
As you grow more comfortable with your understanding of these terms, it’s important to remember that you will never be an expert on someone else’s identity. You should never assume which term an individual or group uses no matter how much research you have done. Any one individual might have no preference at all, a strong affinity towards one of the terms, or use something else entirely. If you aren’t sure what a friend or colleague uses and you are in a situation where that information is important, ask them. A simple question can go a long way.
Note: I have chosen to use Latinx in this post because that is the term used by the UConn Puerto Rican Latin American Cultural Center and is a gender-inclusive term.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Diving deeper into the idea of assumptions, there are many others that harmfully impact the Latinx community. Though these assumptions may or may not be malicious in nature, they can often lead to conscious or unconscious microaggressions against the Latinx community that can impact mental health, performance, and retention.
For example, a common assumption about the Latinx community is that everyone, or most individuals, speak Spanish. However, many studies show that a large portion of the Latinx community does not speak Spanish for a variety of reasons. I won’t dive into the reasons here because the main takeaway is to avoid this common assumption and allow your colleagues to share with you the language(s) they speak and prefer.
As a quick aside, learning some Spanish phrases that are particularly useful in the workplace setting can’t hurt as an effort to be more inclusive of any Spanish-speaking colleague, client, patient, or friend.
Get Involved with Latinx Organizations
Whether you identify as Latinx yourself or not, there are many Latinx advocacy and community groups that you could learn more about or become a part of. What you learn from being involved with these groups will help you be more informed on issues impacting the Latinx community and help you be a better advocate for your Latinx colleagues and friends.
If you’re a student at UConn, I encourage you to check out our Latinx student organizations and groups. There are some groups associated with the Puerto Rican Latin American Cultural Center, such as the METAS Peer Mentoring Program and the Latinx Student Leadership Council. There are also many cultural-based student organizations, cultural-based Greek organizations, and special interest student organizations related to Latinx culture. A full list can be found here.
There are also some options on the national and state levels. One example is UnidosUS, an organization that leads research, policy analysis, state and national advocacy efforts, and community programs nationwide that support the Latinx community. Consider following their accounts on social media to stay up-to-date on the issues they are advocating for and/or visiting the ways to give page on their website to find out more about how you can get involved. I encourage you to also do some of your own research to find other groups to follow in your area or whose work you support on a larger level.
Working towards a more inclusive culture for Latinx members of our community is important to prioritize not just during Latinx Heritage Month, but year-round. If you have other suggestions or ideas you would like to share, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.