I know and have known a lot of white people, having grown up white and lived as a white person for almost 50 years. I don’t know anyone who has ever put on blackface or who would ever not find that wildly offensive. Within this group of white people I have known, some of them have enjoyed tanning, but not even one of them thought that by tanning they were somehow changing their race or participating in another race’s culture. They just thought they would look better with a tan than not. I’d venture to say that most of my family, friends, and acquaintances who happen to be white are not into tanning, given all the scares about skin cancer over the last 30 years. Some of them don’t tan at all and just burn.

I have also known many white people, including myself, who don’t like casseroles, some who like tennis and some who don’t, and next to none, if any, whose ancestors were Founding Fathers.

We white people are not a monolith, any more than any other race is. Where “Tennis, casseroles and descended from founding fathers” does not sum up white people as a group any more than “Soccer, empanadas and descended from Conquistadors” would be a way to generalize Latinos.

Lastly, the New York Times crossword did not publish the slur “beaner” in their puzzle. They published the even older expression from baseball “beaner” that is an informal version of “beanball: a pitch thrown at a batter’s head,” first used circa 1905. That some people were unfamiliar with the baseball term and therefore leapt immediately to a racial interpretation is a symptom of the decline of cultural memory in our society. I.e., no one under 40 is familiar with any terms or cultural events that happened more than say, 30 years ago. As you can see, the racial slur “beaner” would make no sense in this context.

Linguist, philosopher, lover of history, wordhound, 21 year New Yorker, searching for meaning in the universe

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