Gina Rodriguez, the lead actress from "Jane The Virgin," posted an Instagram story on Oct. 15 where she was singing along to a song by The Fugees and sang the n-word.
Malaika Ngwana, a senior biology major, said, “I wasn’t surprised. However, it was particularly irritating at the way that she said it so comfortably, with such vindication and while looking straight into the camera.”
Ngwana stated that understanding who can say the n-word is “so simple; only black people are allowed to use the n-word. It’s not even in the sense that it’s right because there are plenty of black people who choose to not use it. [Whether it’s right or not], is a discussion for black people to have and [our] decision to make.”
Arturo Jacobo, a senior urban studies major, said that “[People] aren’t aware of the history behind the word and have only viewed the word in contemporary context in terms of how it’s used in slang, pop culture and music. For people who aren’t black and use the word, it’s just not their lived experiences.”
The problem with that use in pop culture is that when someone becomes comfortable saying the word in a song, what is to stop them from using it against a black person in the future out of hatred, anger or frustration?
In Rodriguez’ initial apology, she stated that “I'm sorry if I offended anyone by singing along to the Fugees, to a song that I love, that I grew up on. I love Lauryn Hill. And I really am sorry if I offended you.” The song is not the problem – the use of the word is, and she failed to apologize for that the first time around.
Jacobo, who is of black, Caribbean and Mexican ethnicity, spoke about navigating those spaces and witnessing a lot of the anti-blackness that exists in the Latinx community. “A lot of people in the Latinx community who are non-black grew up around black people and in spaces where black culture was a dominant culture so they feel entitled to say [the n-word].”
Although Rodriguez has issued a second apology where she recognised the legacy of hurt and pain attached to the word and apologized for carelessly using it, more work needs to be done by her and others in understanding the true impact that word has.
Rodriguez is a Lantinx actress who has found herself in hot water before concerning the black community especially around the time when "Black Panther" came out. Ngwana said that “as a black woman and an active member of black Twitter, I had already been aware of some of the harmful and racist micro-aggressions that she had already committed towards the black community and black representation." This is a reminder that when a minority is being correctly represented, it should be celebrated and not demeaned.
The n-word has such a history of hate and dehumanization, and that’s what needs to be remembered and understood.
“If we don’t live in a post-racial era, that word still has meaning, because there are real impacts for being a Black person in the United States," said Ngwana. It is more important to realize that even today, that work is still being used as a slur to refer to black people.
This is the opinion of Gloria Ndilula, a senior economics major from Windhoek, Namibia. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.