Op-ed

Gina Rodriguez and the battle of privilege

Photo by T. Chick McClure via Unsplash.

Gina Rodriguez is facing the consequences of her actions after a Monday Instagram Story went viral. The Jane the Virgin actress filmed herself singing along to The Fugees’ song “Ready or Not,” and did not stop herself from including the N-word in the verse. One ingenuine and one genuine apology later, the internet has almost moved on from it’s most recent catastrophe – almost.

It’s ironic and also perfect that I’m a white person writing about black struggle. I may not be able to offer the opinion of the black community but I can offer my own opinion of Gina Rodriguez’s actions. To summarize these feelings, I can only pose one question: Really?

The N-word was born from the belief that black people are lesser, something that is wholly wrong but was still believed and used to oppress black people for hundreds of years. The reclamation of the word by the black community is something that is incredibly important and powerful, but it is also just that; the black community’s.

My family tree doesn’t get cut off because my ancestors were enslaved. No one has ever assumed that I am less smart, less capable, or less articulate because of my race. These experiences are not my own, just as the N-word is not my own. Knowing these things, I and many non-black people understand what it means for us to censor ourselves.

Gina Rodriguez can argue that she grew up in a community that accepted her use of the word. It is not my or anyone else’s problem if that was how she was raised; what is an issue is that she continues these habits in the public eye, where many people from many backgrounds are watching. I or anyone else cannot and should not control what Ms. Rodriguez says in the company of her friends and family, but it is reasonable for the public to expect her respect.

Now that I’ve established I am wholly disgusted by Ms. Rodriguez’s carelessness, I will now dare to say that I sympathize with her. I cannot imagine the messages and comments that she received. Though the backlash was well deserved, some words cut deeper than others. Calling her derogatory and hateful names is neither constructive nor conducive to what the opposition is trying to achieve. Maybe I can understand why she would try to laugh it off in her initial apology.

I or anyone else cannot and should not control what Ms. Rodriguez says in the company of her friends and family, but it is reasonable for the public to expect her respect.

My sympathy simultaneously lessens and increases as I look back on her history in the spotlight. An old skit has resurfaced where she says the N-word. She was accused of making anti-black comments when she commended Black Panther for its African representation and then immediately tore it apart for lack of LatinX representation.

A history of carelessness shows not only her lack of support for other minority groups, but also an inability to learn. After being in the spotlight as long as she has, why not take responsibility and educate yourself? However, I sympathize with her because I think her heart was in the right place. If she hadn’t called out the lack of LatinX representation, would that community have felt let down? I believe that Ms. Rodriguez was walking a tightrope in that situation and tried to rush to the cliffside too quickly.

Gina Rodriguez did an inexcusable thing: so what have we learned from it?

Well, for starters, we learned that as it has happened before, it will happen again. Non-black celebrities will continue to throw around the N-word like it doesn’t have a hateful history, and we will continue to have to check their privilege. The world is changing and arguments about “back in the day” are losing validity by the second.

I would also hope we have learned to be educators, not opponents. Ms. Rodriguez will not suddenly change her ways because thousands of people have condemned her to social death. As frustrating as the campaign may be, it is our responsibility to pick up everyone who falls behind, not shove them deeper in the pack.

Caroline Helms is a first-year English major. CH923621@wcupa.edu

Leave a Comment