Members of the Latinx community face unique complexities when it comes to their identity. Often times because the diversity of Latinx people is not recognized or acknowledged.
Portraits of Latinx Identities was a project done here at KU, to promote conversation about those issues and the diversity within the community. The project’s main medium was photography, taken by Chris Ortiz, and portraits of Latinx peoples were displayed at the Kansas Union Gallery.
The term Latinx is a gender neutral term, now being used to promote inclusivity within the community. Latinx incorporates all genders: male, female, and non binary. This inclusiveness is important for people of Latinx identity who don’t feel comfortable identifying with the gender specific vocabulary.
However, latinx (latino/latina) is a massive umbrella term, and for many outside the community it is difficult to understand just how much diversity there is within. This diversity is expressed through the wide range of geographical locations of Latin America as well as through particular customs and traditions. But still, the generality of terms like Latin/Latinx arguably contribute to the mass generalization of the peoples of these regions, hindering the fight for global recognition of their distinguished identities.
A panel discussion was held with staff and students of the university where they spoke about multiple issues they face in the community and on campus. Much of the discussion had to do with this generalization with one student stating how she is often assumed to be Mexican, when in fact she is Colombian. This student is also a part of the Student Senate where her Latinx identity is often misconstrued as a voice for the entire Latinx community. She often finds herself explaining to others that though she is part of the community, she is an individual voice and cannot speak on behalf of an entire people.
Another topic of discussion was how the lack of outsider knowledge about the Latinx community which can also be rooted in racism and prejudice. Both students and staff expressed micro- (and arguably macro-) aggressions here at the University of Kansas. For instance, one Latnix graduate student described how her legality was questioned in class by one of her students. This inherent disrespect only strengthens the deeply-rooted tones of racism here on campus, a topic rarely given much light.
Portraits of Latinx Identities seems to be a scream for respect and the acknowledgement of individual identity. For others to respect this community, they must be educated about what it is to exist within the realm of Latinx identity. They must recognize and understand the complexities of the identifier and as a community, KU must keep striving to push away from societal marginalization of minorities.
As a community KU must be a place where personal identities are respected and Portraits of Latinx Identities proved to be one step in the right direction.