This week Gina Rodriguez stepped into a proverbial pile of poo (once again) by casually sharing a video of herself singing the n-word. And seriously y’all…. I’m tired.
Tuesday afternoon the Jane The Virgin actress posted a questionable clip on Instagram of her rapping Lauryn Hill’s verse on Ready or Not. Much to everyone’s chagrin, it shows her looking directly into the camera, as she says, “fronting n*ggas give me heebie-jeebies.”
Mind you, this is the same person who was dragged all up and down Al Gore’s internet this time last year for a series of “All Lives Matter”-esque micro-aggressions that didn’t sit well with Black Twitter, and swore she’d learned her lesson.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone (except for maybe Gina herself) that this post would not go over well and would only open up a whole new can of worms. Which is exactly what it did.
To make matters worse, initially, rather than show any real remorse, she made one of those condescending, “I’m sorry if I offended” apologies that are dripping with so much ego they only make things worse.
“I am sorry if I offended anyone by singing along to The Fugees, to a song I love that I grew up on,” she said in the post I’m sure her publicist has since begged her to take down.
When she realized that her critics had an emotional I.Q. and weren’t going to accept a backhanded dismissal, then — and only then — did she stop patronizing us and actually apologize.
But just like in the case of Kevin Hart, when you talk down to people first, and have to literally get spanked by the public before taking real accountability, it’s impossible to unring that bell and it also makes us wonder if you even really believe what you did was wrong.
That’s not how apologies work
Wednesday, Rodriguez updated her Instagram with a message in which she admits that she “thoughtlessly sang along” and that “whatever consequences I face for my actions today, none will be more hurtful than the personal remorse I feel.”
“The word I sang carries with it a legacy of hurt and pain that I cannot even imagine,” she further concedes. Then concluded that this is “a much deserved lesson … I have some serious learning and growing to do and I am so deeply sorry for the pain I have caused.”
While I appreciate this rare moment of introspection, I can’t help remembering back in January when Rodriguez appeared on the Sway in the Morning radio show. During that softball interview she took zero accountability for falling out of favor with the public and then tearfully explained that we all just misunderstood her.
She even went as far as to describe her father as ”dark-skinned,” despite the fact that he’s barely the complexion of undercooked toast.
Then, for the rest of the segment, she basically repeated over and over again how she’s fundamentally a good person, how Black actresses reached out to her to agree that the backlash was silly, and how if she in any way triggered our frayed sensibilities, she was sorry. But still, we all got it wrong. Sorry though.
So basically, what we’re seeing here is a pattern where:
1. Gina Rodriguez shows a racial blind spot, which is understandable because society is designed to ingrain those in us.
2. Black Twitter tells her to cut that s**t out.
3. She gives a backhanded apology that makes it sound like she thinks we’re all really just too dumb to understand she’s above reproach simply because she’s a “good person” who grew up around Black people. Oh and yeah she’s Latina so that should count for something cause everyone knows there’s no racism in Latin America, right?
4. When all else fails, cry. Extra points if you cry to a Black man who is taught to find you sympathetic. Triple points if you also manage to mention how your Black female friends forgave you, cause apparently they get to speak on behalf of the rest of us.
Got it. The Rodriguez Apology Tour itinerary is pretty clear at this point.
What’s sad is, it took something as egregious as the flippin N-WORD to get her to even stop long enough to consider that maybe — just maybe — she’s actually be part of the problem.
The girl who cried wolf
“So are we just gonna keep writing pieces pitting Black women against Latina women?” my fellow Afro-Latina colleague asked me bluntly one day. “Because who does that really serve?”
She said this at the top of the year, in response to finding out that I was going to be penning an op-ed about Rodriguez’s emotional appearance on Sway in the Morning.
And you know what? That inquiry hit me between the eyes because I’ve written countless articles about the Oppression Olympics and how many of our spaces are both Black and Brown, therefore making it against our own best interests to constantly fight amongst each other while white supremacy is left off the hook.
I also have a deep personal aversion to having my sharp intellect used as a tool to bring down other women. Because trust and believe, as a writer there have been several times when potential employers have tried to finesse me into using my pen as a sword, as if I was some sort of literary goon or hitman commissioned to torpedo someone’s career.
I’ve worked really hard to side-step all of these traps and so on that day 9 months ago, instead of going for the jugular in my piece — I showed Rodriguez some grace. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I also prayed all those “Black actress” friends she keeps mentioning encouraged her to spend less time shedding white woman tears and more time learning about her glaring blindspots.
For those who are asking: “Wait, are you implying that Gina Rodriguez is a white woman?” — let me make this clear for the umpteenth time. Race is as much about optics as it is about genetics and culture.
You can pull out your Ancestry.com results and be as ethnic and proud about being 9% Black as you want. But the fact remains that your VISUAL proximity to whiteness — be you fair, racially ambiguous, or a white presenting Latina — will afford you privileges that it would be intellectually dishonest not to acknowledge.
So much in the same way when a white woman weaponizes her tears it usually brings society (even judges in high profile murder trials) to their knees, thanks to centuries of race based conditioning, when Rodriguez was in that Sway interview sobbing about how much we hurt her feelings in January… many of those same “white women tears” dynamics were at play when the host, the audience, and even I all found ourselves feeling a little guilty for how much pain we’d caused her.
She was dead ass wrong and yet somehow we’re the ones who felt bad, simply because she cried. Sound familiar?
As a result of that coddling (which I now regret), sis got so comfortable around us again, she felt empowered to post a video of her saying the n-word. In 2019. During the Trump administration. Despite having a Netflix password and therefore access to dozens of documentaries that essentially explain, “So, yeah. Let’s not ever do that Gina.”
So what have I learned from all this as not just a journalist but also as a critically thinking Black woman in America?
Welp! The next time I lovingly put my foot on someone’s neck and ask them to be accountable, as long as I’m being fair and factual, I’m not gonna let y’all gaslight me into pulling punches.
I love uplifting women, I love uplifting my community and I still take no pleasure in ever dragging anyone (especially when the facts alone can do that). But stroking people’s egos to the point where they’re allowed to constantly play victim serves no one.
Rodriguez is probably a really lovely person, in fact I’m almost convinced she is. But she apparently has a lot of maturing to do before she can even ever confidently stand on that soap box she keeps reaching for. Until she stops playing victim and really owns how she has consistently contributed to this ongoing PR nightmare, this probably won’t be her last time issuing an apology to us. Tears and all.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric