Gina Rodriguez is making headlines again, and not in a good way. After appearing on the SiriusXM radio show, “Sway In The Morning,” earlier this week, the 34-year-old actor addressed several past controversial comments, which lead to even more backlash from users on social media. In the process of addressing her statements—many of which have justifiably been labelled anti-Black—Rodriguez struggled to hold back tears and noted that her quotes were “misinterpreted” by the Black community. And while her tearful plea may have seemed heartwarming to some, to me it appeared to be nothing more than a performative attempt to win back lost fans.
My first impression of Gina Rodriguez, back in 2016, was nothing short of amazing. Her hit CW series Jane The Virgin quickly became my guilty pleasure. But while Rodriguez’s on-screen character had me hooked, her off-screen commentary began leaving a bitter taste in my mouth, and eventually made me abandon the series all together.
Marvel and DC are killing it in inclusion and women but where are the Latinos?! Asking for a friend…
— Gina Rodriguez (@HereIsGina) July 23, 2017
It all began in 2017, after Rodriguez fired off a tweet in response to the superhero flick Black Panther, which features a stunning cast of Black actors. In it, she questioned Marvel and DC’s lack of Latinx representation in their films—diminishing this particular film’s immense significance for the Black community.
Rodriguez’s loaded statements went downhill from there, and she’s been called out many times since, including when she rudely interrupted an interviewer who noted that Smallfoot co-star Yara Shahidi was “goals” for so many Black women. (Rodriguez replied, “For so many women! Women. Yeah. Yeah.”) And then there were her now infamous comments on Latinx actors and pay equity in Hollywood, made during last year’s “Women In Television” roundtable for Net-a-Porter.
Rodriguez’s statements all follow a disturbing pattern that explicitly targets the Black community. Yes, her activism and her consistent advocacy efforts dedicated to highlighting key issues involving voting and pay inequality for Latinx workers is honourable, but she has proven time and time again that she’s just another woke celebrity who prides herself on “women empowerment” yet vehemently excludes Black women from that narrative.
Gina Rodriguez could easily acknowledge that her past comments were antiblack (regardless of if she didn’t intend them to be) and learn to do better and grow but she rather play victim
— destiny’s play cousin (@bluinmoonlight) January 23, 2019
During her tearful apology on Sway, Gina Rodriguez cleared up her statements surrounding equal pay and addressed the Black community directly.
“We didn’t have many Latino shows and the Black community made me feel like I was seen,” said the actor. “So to get anti-Black is to say I’m anti-family.” She then lamented her ancestry, asserting that her father is a dark-skinned Afro-Latinx. “It’s in my blood,” said Rodriguez. “So it was really devastating to me. And I know my heart. I know what I meant. I really wish that we weren’t living in a culture where we’re clickbait because I’ve never said anything controversial about anybody.”
While Rodriguez’s attempts to provide clarity were needed, her statements were met with skepticism on social media. Instead of using this airtime as an opportunity to own her anti-Black statements, the actor opted to weaponize her tears to assuage her own guilt. It’s a typical practice in which white women, or in this case non-Black POC, use their emotions and femininity to assert power over Black people, namely Black women. The tactics are effective due to white women being seen as fragile damsels-in-distress whilst anyone who is positioned as against them is deemed inferior. Given the vastly different social positions white women and Black women occupy in society, white and/or white-passing individuals are able to use their emotions and their privilege as a way to gaslight Black women and Black women’s experiences. What Gina Rodriguez did falls directly in line with this practice.
Gina Rodriguez has never acknowledged Afro-Latinxs, always interjects when black people have a spotlight on them to direct the attention back to white Latinxs and now she’s crying about being called anti-black. cry me a river
— joc (@ricenbeanss) January 23, 2019
Later in the “Sway” interview, she candidly discusses how the anti-Black call-outs affected her mental health—describing it as a “really, really dark time for me”—and says that she never intended to create division between the Latinx and Black communities. “The last thing I want to do is put two under-represented groups against each other,” she says, “Our unification is what is our rise. Our unification is what is going to allow both of our communities to continue to flourish.”
While I would like to believe Rodriguez’s testaments, her comments targeting Black women fail to display the “unification” she desperately seeks. Instead of using her platform to uplift and join forces—and directing her frustrations towards those who contribute to marginalized people’s erasure and pay inequality in Hollywood—she has attacked Black women. Moving forward, my support for anything Gina Rodriguez-related has been cancelled. Owning up to her various mistakes and taking full responsibility would’ve been commendable. Instead, the actor self-righteously positioned herself as a “victim” in the aftermath of the mayhem she created.
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