As if society couldn’t be any more censorious about things that aren’t hurtful, have a look at this HuffPo article about a “thoughtless use of a racial slur”. That could be bad, but when you read what actor Gina Rodriguez actually did, it’s ridiculous to cast opprobrium on her. (Click on the screenshot.) Rodriguez, by the way, is the American daughter of two parents who immigrated from Puerto Rico.
According to the Deeply Offender author Janel Martinez, here’s Rodriguez’s sin:
Actor Gina Rodriguez is no stranger to being taken to task for her anti-Black remarks. In an Instagram Story video on Tuesday, the “Jane the Virgin” star was seen getting her hair done while singing along to the Fugees song “Ready or Not.”
“I can do what you do … believe me,” Rodriguez rhymes along with Lauryn Hill’s lyrics. But instead of pausing while Hill says “nigga,” which is expected of non-Black hip-hop fans, Rodriguez goes for it.
Yes, that’s it. She sang a version of the “n-word,” because it was in the lyrics to the song. And she didn’t omit the word, an omission apparently “expected of non-Black hop-hop fans.”
I’m sorry, but chewing someone out for this is ridiculous. The word is in the lyrics, as it is in many hip-hop lyrics, and non-Blacks are supposed to pause rather than sing a lyric? I’m sorry, but I’m not having it, though I don’t sing along with hip-hop songs anyway. If the lyrics are offensive when a white person sings them, as part of a song meant to be sung, then they are offensive when a black person sings them, too.
I’m reminded here of what Grania often told me: if Blacks wanted the “n-word” gone, they should stop using it themselves. If they don’t, then I won’t take complaints seriously when a non-Black person says The Forbidden Word when singing along to hip-hop or rap. (Of course I don’t recommend that the word be used by anyone, especially non-Blacks, in normal discourse.)
Rodriguez even apologized for what she said—twice. But that wasn’t good enough. Her apology wasn’t accepted, and Martinez calls her out for other and equally risible attempts to “erase” Black Culture:
However, Rodriguez is no stranger to this education. In a September 2018 interview with her “Smallfoot” co-star Yara Shahidi, Rodriguez interrupted the interviewer, who was discussing Shahidi’s status as a role model for other young Black women, to say that Shahidi is an inspiration to “so many women,” not just Black women — minimizing Shahidi’s race. While Rodriguez emerged in this industry championing diversity, it’s clear that she prefers diverse narratives and roles that align with her own identity, rather than overall diversity.
This was not an “all lives matter” moment: Rodriguez was saying that a Black woman could inspire everyone. But that wasn’t good enough for the author, either: by saying that, Rodriguez was presumably favoring Hispanic diversity above “overall diversity”. What is meant here, of course, is the diversity of having more Black people, not ethnic diversity of all sorts.
But wait! There’s still more offense:
[Rodriguez] favors white and mestizo (or mixed) representation in Latinx roles, at the expense of Black actors. When promotion for “Black Panther” began in 2017, Rodriguez tweeted, “Marvel and DC are killing it in inclusion and women, but where are the Latinos?! Asking for a friend…”
Not only did she call into question the significance of the first superhero movie featuring Black actors in all the leading roles, she ignored the two Afro Latinas who have starred in Marvel films: Tessa Thompson, who played Valkyrie in “Thor” and Zoe Saldana in “Guardians of The Galaxy.” Both also appeared in 2019′s box-office hit “Avengers: Endgame.” (Rodriguez has also not publicly recognized the groundbreaking character of Miles Morales, the Afro Latino Spider-Man in the award-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”)
Yet if an African-American said the same thing about a Latina/o/x movie, saying “where are the Black people?” that presumably would be okay.
Yes, we do have racial problems, and racial discrimination in this country. But if you constantly police people like this for racism, calling them out for their “anti-Blackness” when they’re either singing rap lyrics or promoting their own minority culture, it trivializes the real problems of inequity and of the legacy of slavery that still denies many people the opportunities they deserve.
The only good thing about this article is that, for once, the usually Woke readers of PuffHo struck back, calling out Martinez in various ways for her eagerness to find racism in every corner. There are many critical comments: here are four:
How did we get to this point in our culture where the color of a person’s skin matters not just more than their character, but is the main thing one has to consider? I’m pretty sure that if Dr. King were still alive, and was asked about something like this, he’d use expletives.
In the end, Rodriguez did no damage to anyone. But that’s never taken into account when demonizing the impure. There are a lot of Big Brothers out there, watching all the time.