The new Arkansas governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, issued a series of executive orders following her inauguration that sought to ban critical race theory (CRT) and terms such as “Latinx” from government institutions.
Sanders, who previously served as former President Donald Trump’s press secretary, successfully won the recent election by nearly 28 points, replacing Asa Hutchinson, who had reached his term limit.
In her inaugural address, Sanders said, “No matter where you come from, no matter your race or color or creed, no matter who you voted for, my pledge to you is this: from this day forward, you will have an advocate, a reformer, a friend, and a fighter at the highest levels of your state government.”
“All I ask in return,” the governor continued, “are your heartfelt prayers, that God will help me be the leader you deserve.”
After the inauguration, Sanders signed several executive orders targeting hot-button political issues concerning race.
“[CRT] is antithetical to the traditional American values of neutrality, equality, and fairness,” the order stated. “It emphasizes skin color as a person’s primary characteristic, thereby resurrecting segregationist values, which America has fought so hard to reject.”
Sanders instructed her state’s newly appointed secretary of the Department of Education, Jacob Oliva, to “identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone.”
Addressing fears, the order clarifies, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the discussion of ideas and history of the concepts described … or shall be construed to prohibit the discussion of public policy issues of the day and related ideas that individuals may find unwelcome, disagreeable or offensive.”
But some groups, like the Little Rock Education Association, have denounced the CRT ban.
The organization claimed that the order “panders to the fears of Arkansans who are unaware of the curriculum taught in Arkansas’ schools. Critical Race Theory does not ‘conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law’ as stated in Governor Sanders’ executive order.”
A previously released report from PEN America, a free-speech advocacy group, called policies similar to Sanders’ “educational gag orders” and an effort to “silence race- or gender-based critiques of US society and history.”
In another executive order, Sanders banned the use of Latinx or related words in official government documents, asserting, “Ethnically insensitive and pejorative language has no place in official government documents.”
Defending her stance on the phrase, Sanders pointed to a Pew Research poll showing that only 3% of American Latinos and Hispanics use the word Latinx.
Additionally, the order identified that “the Real Academica Española, the Madrid-based institution which governs the Spanish language, has officially rejected the use of ‘x’ as an alternative to ‘o’ and ‘a’ in Spanish.”
Others have previously theorized that different demographics within the Hispanic population feel differently about the word Latinx, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Kristian Ramos, a voter strategist whose focus is Latino outreach, claims views on the term diverge based on age.
“Young activists very much identify as Latinx, and then you have your general population that has no idea what that word means and finds it sort of mystifying and ridiculous,” he said.
Nathalie Rayes, president and CEO of the group Latino Victory Project, has said that using the term is an attempt to acknowledge the diversity within the Hispanic community.
“[I]t’s not one fell swoop across the Latino community,” Rayes explained, claiming some communities prefer to use Latinx.
Still, Sanders declares that her directives are to Arkansans’ benefit.
“In Arkansas, we will not tolerate indoctrination or CRT,” Sanders tweeted after signing the orders. “On day one, we set the tone for an administration that will empower Arkansans and defend our freedom at every turn.”