Not just a ‘beaner’

A look into the use of derogatory terms and who can use them

Paola Zapata , Reporter

The word “beaner” has a long history of being used as a derogatory term, but I’m not here to talk about what the word means or why it was/is used. I want to talk about how the word has affected many people in the past and the present.  

In the 20th century, “beaner” was a word that Mexican immigrants probably heard when they first came into the United States, along with other racial epithets and general ignorance. My dad, an immigrant, said “I heard rude things like ‘son of b***h’ and other things like that all the time when I was working in construction. I was even told by a white man that I was stupid.”  

My dad told me that he would ignore these ignorant comments and not let the white people feel like they were empowered by saying such rude things. He wanted them to see that he couldn’t be hurt by these things.  

Honestly, in my opinion, my dad is very strong for not letting these things get to him. After all he wasn’t in the United States to be friends with these white people, he was here to work and make a better life for his family.  

Daniel Clark, born in Honduras and adopted by a white family, said he didn’t even know that the word beaner was a derogatory term. Clark went to a predominantly white school growing up, but he said that he was never called any racial slurs for being brown. But even if he did, he said “I didn’t want something like that to bother me, because I don’t want to give someone that much power over me.” 

Which honestly, a little surprising to me, but if I think about it Clark was white-washed even if it wasn’t his choice. Clark was able to grow up with white people and not face as much racism.  

“When I think, honestly of insults for Hispanics, I would first go to ‘spic’ and then go to ‘wetback,” Clark said. “And like I said, I would consider wetback to being the worst of the three and from what I’ve heard in my life.”

Fast forward to the present where many Mexicans/Mexican-Americans took back this derogatory word and are using it however we want. We use the word “beaner” in many ways, but it’s important to note that just because we took it back, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a slur anymore. It’s not a word that just anyone can use because they feel like it.  

“I feel like the word ‘beaner’ should only be used by Latinx people, because it was used as a degrading term for us and its’s not okay,” said Liha Villanueva, who is of Mexican heritage. “Especially if we are in a culture of respect now, no one should be saying it, and the only people who should be saying it are Hispanic people. That’s our way of taking the word and making it into something positive, instead of something negative.” 

Mexican-American teens sometimes use the word “beaner” on social media, including me. It’s something that we use for fun. But there have been cases where we also see non-Latinx people using the slur.  

One case is when a white girl is show calling her Latinx boyfriend ‘her beaner.’ 

People online were not pleased by this situation:  

In my opinion, I wonder why this girl’s boyfriend even allowed her to use the slur. It’s not something that non-Latinx people can just go up and about saying. It is as if people do not realize that the word is a racial slur.

Another thing I’ve seen online are teens saying that they don’t care if someone who isn’t Latinx says “beaner.” And one of the main reasons that I think teens think this is because they have never actually been called “beaner” in a derogatory way. It’s not something that they have experienced like how older generations have.  

When I see teens online saying that they don’t care who says “beaner” it honestly makes me disappointed, because these teens should know that it’s not something you want to be called in a degrading way. It’s not fun or funny. It’s racist!  

Another thing I want to note is that giving “passes” to your friends who are POC does not make it okay for them to use. If you are not Mexican and/or Latinx you can’t be going around using the word “beaner!” It’s common sense.