Tea Time with Tagwa: Gina Rodriguez and the N-word

Illustration by Sammy Newman

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, let’s have a chat. Today, I want to help set the record straight; a record I thought was already straight, but obviously I was wildly mistaken. 

The N-word.

My fellow black readers, bear with me as we have a conversation we’ve had countless times. My non-black readers, read my words carefully and comprehend what I’m saying. Ladies and gentlemen, for the last time: If you’re not black, don’t say the N-word.

Celebrities, that goes for you too. Gina Rodriguez, honey, what are you doing? For those of you who don’t know, the “Jane the Virgin” star was caught saying the N-word in a video. And she wasn’t even caught; Rodriguez exposed herself by posting the video to her story. After outrage, Rodriguez posted another video on her story, apologizing for her actions.

On behalf of the black community, apology not accepted. Rodriguez gave such a half-assed apology, I was almost more offended by the apology than her saying the actual word.

“I’m sorry if I offended anyone by singing along to a song I love, a song I grew up on,” she said in the video.

Girl, I don’t care what you love, and I don’t care what you grew up on. Matter of fact, I don’t care if you have black friends or grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood. I’m doing the arithmetic and I’m struggling to find the correlation between your upbringing and your pass to say the N-word. So, now y’all don’t know how to appreciate black culture without offending the black community?

And, what do you mean “if” you offended anyone? Huh? Hon, you did offend someone. You offended an entire community. A community that lifted you up as a Latina actress and rooted for your rise. Don’t act like you don’t know the gravity of the N-word and the weight it carries. Own up to your mistakes: Your apology should’ve said, “I’m sorry for offending you all with my ignorance and bigotry.” I would’ve gladly accepted that apology.

What’s really getting to me is the reaction to this situation. Non-black people of color are running to Rodriguez’s aid. One tweet I saw read: “cancelling this girls career over a fucking LYRIC? you all can talk the shit you want, call me ignorant but there is a huge DIFFERENCE between ‘n***a’ and ‘n***er.’ one is a prejudice word and the other is a slang term, but y’all aren’t ready for that conversation.” 

First of all, you are ignorant. So, take a seat with your uninformed behind. Also, saying “but y’all aren’t ready for that conversation,” doesn’t make you woke. You’re still a bigot. My favorite thing is the author of this tweet isn’t even black. Who are you — a non-black POC — to tell me — a black person — I don’t have the right to be upset over the usage of a term meant to degrade and dehumanize me? Girl, you’re the one who isn’t ready for this conversation; seeing how it has absolutely nothing to do with you.

You don’t get to direct where my anger goes, especially when it comes to a term that holds generations of hate and distaste. A term that’s thrown around to make my people feel like the scum at the bottom of a shoe. We have decided to reclaim that word in order to beat our oppressors; that doesn’t mean you can say it too.

Stop telling me I need to get over things, that it’s just a word. But most importantly, stop trying to tell me there’s a difference between the N-word and the N-word with a hard “R.” I’m aware. Seeing how I’ve been called both in a negative manner, I’m aware. This has nothing to do with you, so again, stay in your lane.

For the final time: If you’re not black, stop using the N-word. Stop using it to mean “buddy,” just say “buddy.” Stop singing it in songs; you know how to filter your words. Stop saying you have black friends who let you say it or that you grew up with black kids. You cannot say it. 

Since none of you non-black people have dealt with the aggressions, stigmas and hate that come with the word, you cannot say it. Period. And that’s the tea.

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