By E. Conley, PhD
June 3, 2016
Although the term “Politically Correct” seems to be losing its’ fizzle, there are other more important reasons than politics when it comes to the “correctness” of certain terms. For instance, embracing terms that are “humanely” proper and avoiding terms that are directly or indirectly nefarious and demeaning. Many people use language that unknowingly promulgates stereotypes, silent hateful connotations, and other ethically unsound propagations. Take, for example, the terms “Hispanic” and “Latin” for which I will focus on for this article. Do you really know what you are saying when you use those terms? Or are you just thoughtlessly repeating what a government entity or others have told you? Well, both terms are extremely offense and I will explain why.
Throughout history there have been many attempts to relabel people in order to steal their land, property, to minimize and dehumanize the “others”, and so on and so forth (the list can get lengthy). Recent attempts at explaining what “diversity” is has only caused more confusion and misrepresentation of underrepresented groups; especially, Native American Indians. The contemporary distortion of Native American Indian identity has come in the form of relabeling many Native American Indians as “Hispanics” or “Latins”; both labels come from socially constructed racist categorization of people that stems from a linguist group (Spanish) and religious indoctrinations (which happens to be Catholicism in this instance). These two terms are labeling and reinventing different people, of different races (biological makeup), and different ethnicities (socially constructed groups such as nationality, religion, language, etc.) into a new form of social disarray. This reinvention of people clearly stems from greed and other forms of social control to benefit those in control.
Ever wonder why Cristobal Colon (AKA Christopher Columbus) called the islands that he accidently landed on (and that were inhabited by the Native American Indians) “Hispaniola”? It means “Islas de los Españoles” or translated “Property Island of the Spaniard’s”. Colon referred to the Native American inhabitants as the “property of Spain” and he treated the Natives as “property”; hence, the term “Hispanic” is born. Colon, who was a known pirate and slave trader (human trafficker) during his days, was a Spaniard and a Christian (Geffen & Harney, 2004) and was no “discoverer”. How can anyone be a discoverer of any place when it is already inhabited? Colon, an egotistical criminal with delusions of grandiosity, had no boundaries when it came to committing heinous acts and he would claim other peoples’ lives, property, and land for himself (and Spain). The actual historical accounts of Colon and his actions towards the Native People are of carnage and nefarious acts; not the fanciful encounter as some historical events want to portray. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to call themselves or others “Hispanic”.
The term “Latin” also has the connotation of property belonging to another entity, in this case, the church from Rome who used the Latin language to conduct its practices, writings, and even sermons. The same church who signed the papal bull Inter Cetera in 1493 (Anti-Defamation League, 2005) that condoned the murder and enslavement of millions of Native American Indian people who would not “convert”; however, the people who would not convert (and those who did) were good enough to steal from and enslave. This decree came from the Catholic Church who condoned a systematic extermination, or conversion and enslavement, of Native People from the western hemisphere that included the areas we know today as Canada, North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. Although it would not be fair to blame everyone in the Catholic Church for what was done over 500 years ago, many of the reprehensible effects (such as seeing Natives as less than human) of the papal bull Inter Cetera of 1493 are still seen today in Indian Country (when I say Indian Country, I include all Natives from the western hemisphere as mentioned in the areas above). Taking history into account, I cannot see why anyone would want to call themselves or others “Latins”.
When you decide to label yourself or decide to label someone else because you were told that it is “politically correct” (or whatever else you were told), think and do some research. Is it humanely correct to promulgate morally offensive terms? Regardless of whether you came from a place where Spanish is spoken, whether you are Asian, American Indian, Black, or White, you are insulting yourself and others by using the labels “Hispanic” or “Latin”. No one should have to label themselves or others with terms that have such a dark history. Last but not least, I would hope that no one see themselves or anyone as anybody’s property. Food for thought.
Anti-Defamation League. (2005). The doctrine of discovery and the U.S. expansion. Retrieved from http://archive.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/doctrine_of_discovery.html.
Cohen, J.M. (Ed). (1969). Christopher Columbus: The four voyages. London: Penguin Group.
Geffen, A. (Producer). & Harney, L. (Director). (2004). Columbus: Secrets from the grave. [Documentary]. Distributed by Discovery Channel. United Kingdom: Atlantic Productions.
Dr. Enid Conley is a Native American educator who supports Native American Indian concerns, women’s issues, and public safety through education, teaching, and active research. The research interests include multidimensional approaches to education and social justice.