One convenient feature of Twitter is ‘trending topics,’ because it allows us to witness culturally relevant events as they unfold. This past Tuesday’s trending topic surrounded Gina Rodriguez sharing a video of her singing along to Lauryn Hill’s infamous verse on the Fugees’ classic “Ready or Not.” The issue wasn’t the song or the odd red eye shadow she was wearing, but it was when she said the N-word very casually. For those of you who do not know what word I am referring to, it is a word created to describe black folks in a derogatory way by non-black people. This led to outrage on social media out of the discomfort that is felt by the black community when non-black people use the N-word. There are already past incidents of Rodriguez making statements that seem anti-black through previous interviews.
In addition to her initial video, Rodriguez later released a video where she apologized to fans for singing one of her favorite songs. She continued to gaslight viewers by saying she is sorry if people were offended by her behavior, thus not even genuinely apologizing for the initial issue. This is a common trend amongst celebrities or brands. They make a decision that offends a specific group of people and because of the speed of social media, they are forced to come up with a genuine apology almost immediately. So, it makes me ask: can we really trust that Rodriguez is sorry for her actions that offended the African American community? Who will hold her accountable? Who will educate her about her mistakes? Is that even someone’s job? These are the affects of ignorance can have upon our social media use.
To be clear, I am not a stranger to the N-word, and we know what word I am talking about. I am also not a stranger to hearing all types of people using the N-word. It is used frequently in the media we consume, mainly as a derogatory term for African Americans and in other times it is used within the African American community to describe each other. It means friend or foe, any gender, but most importantly, it will always be used to describe a black person. I mention all of this to say that it is truly uncomfortable to hear non-black people use the N-word in order to feel culturally hip or cool. There are many opinions on this word — the idea that it’s just a word, the idea that it should be only used by black people, and the idea that it just shouldn’t be used at all. I am not writing this to tell you what I think is right, but to try to convey the discomfort I felt when I heard Rodriguez comfortably use the N-word on social media last week. There is a problem with how we casually disregard the effect that words can have on specific communities. The real question is: how do we solve this problem?