cross posted from my Media Justice column
“So if you want to really hurt me, talk badly about my language. Ethnic
identity is twin skin to linguistic identity—I am my language. Until I
can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself.”
Gloria Anzaldúa, “How To Tame The Wild Tongue” in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. 2007. pg. 59.
Earlier this week I created a post on The LatiNegr@s Project about
our use of the @ symbol. It stemmed from a question about if this was
an appropriate term and form to use in a academic paper by a student in
college. I was humbled and thankful to be asked this question and
responded by providing this statement so the student could have a
citation to support their use of the @ symbol.
Since writing that post many folks have had something to say and shared
an opinion. For those of you uncertain about how Tumblr works, you can
look to the bottom of the page and see who has responded and in what
way, sometimes clicking on a person who has “reblogged” the statement
can also show more input. I’ll get into some of their suggestions and
thoughts in a moment. Before that I want to make a few things clear: The
post I wrote was specific to LatiNegr@s. It discussed the code-switching
that occurs, as a first language for some of us, in our daily lives and
among LatiNegr@s. As a result, many comments and suggestions asked
about other ethnic and racial groups using the @ symbol. I think this is
The terms “Latino” and the use of the @ symbol in identifiers such as
Chican@, Xican@, Mestiz@, etc. are fairly new terms. This is something
that occurs when we speak for ourselves, from the spaces we occupy, and
when we claim new and more appropriate and representative
self-identifiers. I believe this is not something we need to be scared
of or find anger in. I think these are opportunities to be challenged
(much like challenging our use of ableist language), be more inclusive, and reflexive of how we use language to include, exclude, and create messages.
Language is at the core of media justice.
Language changes and that is something we may celebrate, especially when
it is changing in a way that recognizes and includes people who are
experiencing multiple oppressions. The @ symbol does just that by
challenging a gender binary and dichotomy that has been implemented to
privilege men, masculinity, and maleness especially in romance languages
such as Spanish. It is also inclusive of our transgender and gender
queer community who are often excluded and omitted on a regular basis.
When someone challenges and questions the use of the @ symbol, claims
this is a part of “rewriting language” and who do we think we are to do
that, those folks are not yet at a space to understand how language was
created and in that creation it can be changed (regardless of how long
ago it was created). In addition, these folks are also continuing to
erase and isolate people in our community that are the most in need of
our support. Finally, they are upholding the misogyny that is present in
language, especially in the Spanish language. The process of unlearning
can be a struggle for many and one that several may resist.
I ended my above post by stating: “The questions still exist of how to
actually speak the @ sign and this has yet to really be resolved. How
have others negotiated this?” This is where the most responses were
shared and presented. I really loved reading how so many folks
considered pronouncing and speaking the @ symbol. People shared some
really thoughtful and personal testimonios of using the @ sign and how
to speak it when in use.
There’s a lot of food for thought about this particular topic, and I
hope it continues. I’d love to hear how others are approaching the use
of language, code-switching and speaking new terms such as the @ symbol.
How have you negotiated these terms?