In recognition of Latinx Heritage Month, the VCU Office of Multicultural Student Affairs hosted Shifting Identities ― a forum to explore attitudes about identity, language and core values surrounding the Latinx community on Sept. 29.
OMSA invited VCU students from all backgrounds to join a roundtable discussion on cultural and gender diversity. The group in attendance was small, but the ideas discussed at the meeting were as varied as the identities present.
The attendees self-identified as Afro-Latina, Black, Korean, Latin-American or White. Topics of discussion dealt with issues such as race, income, graduation rates, grade school education and social media.
One goal for OMSA was to introduce the term “Latinx” to students who may have not heard it, or those unfamiliar with its correct usage.
“I’m new to the whole, like use of the word Latinx, it’s one of the few times I’ve heard it,” said VCU Student Andrea. “I see it more as like a description kind of, but I haven’t encountered it as like, someone saying ‘I’m Latinx.”
The meeting kicked off with a short video from the Huffington Post. The video discussed the difference between the terms Hispanic, Latino and Latinx; words commonly used interchangeably.
According to the Huffington Post video, Hispanic is a term used for a person who descended from a Spanish speaking country. Latinx is a gender neutral alternative to Latino or Latina and refers to someone of Latin-American descent.
Latinx is a term based on regional descent, compared to the word Hispanic, which is language based.
Some of the issues discussed were applied to other minority communities as well. As the conversation developed, attendees commented on some of the similarities.
“I think one of the issues that I have seen is probably the graduation rates for Latino males,” said OMSA Assistant Director Reginald Stroble. “I know it’s kind of very similar to African American males.”
Stroble also said developing a mentorship program at VCU may be a solution to help increase minority graduation rates.
OMSA strives to educate and inform the student body on issues of diversity and inclusion. However, some students commented they thought they needed a specific reason to visit OMSA.
“Maybe we should be OMSA, ‘You don’t need a reason to be here’…I’ll put that as our tagline.” Avent also suggested a name change may be in order for OMSA, to avoid misconceptions,” said OMSA Director Yolanda Avent.
Shifting Identities was a part of a larger calendar of events scheduled to celebrate Latinx heritage Month. From September 15 to October 15 multiple events will take place on VCU’s campus. A flyer and complete list of events and locations can be found on the OMSA webpage.