Ridiculous Offense of the Week

October 19, 2019 • 11:45 am

As if society couldn’t be any more censorious about things that aren’t hurtful, have a look at this HuffPo article about a “thoughtless use of a racial slur”. That could be bad, but when you read what actor Gina Rodriguez actually did, it’s ridiculous to cast opprobrium on her. (Click on the screenshot.) Rodriguez, by the way, is the American daughter of two parents who immigrated from Puerto Rico.

According to the Deeply Offender author Janel Martinez, here’s Rodriguez’s sin:

Actor Gina Rodriguez is no stranger to being taken to task for her anti-Black remarks. In an Instagram Story video on Tuesday, the “Jane the Virgin” star was seen getting her hair done while singing along to the Fugees song “Ready or Not.”

“I can do what you do … believe me,” Rodriguez rhymes along with Lauryn Hill’s lyrics. But instead of pausing while Hill says “nigga,” which is expected of non-Black hip-hop fans, Rodriguez goes for it.

Yes, that’s it. She sang a version of the “n-word,” because it was in the lyrics to the song. And she didn’t omit the word, an omission apparently “expected of non-Black hop-hop fans.”

I’m sorry, but chewing someone out for this is ridiculous. The word is in the lyrics, as it is in many hip-hop lyrics, and non-Blacks are supposed to pause rather than sing a lyric? I’m sorry, but I’m not having it, though I don’t sing along with hip-hop songs anyway. If the lyrics are offensive when a white person sings them, as part of a song meant to be sung, then they are offensive when a black person sings them, too.

I’m reminded here of what Grania often told me: if Blacks wanted the “n-word” gone, they should stop using it themselves. If they don’t, then I won’t take complaints seriously when a non-Black person says The Forbidden Word when singing along to hip-hop or rap. (Of course I don’t recommend that the word be used by anyone, especially non-Blacks, in normal discourse.)

Rodriguez even apologized for what she said—twice. But that wasn’t good enough. Her apology wasn’t accepted, and Martinez calls her out for other and equally risible attempts to “erase” Black Culture:

However, Rodriguez is no stranger to this education. In a September 2018 interview with her “Smallfoot” co-star Yara Shahidi, Rodriguez interrupted the interviewer, who was discussing Shahidi’s status as a role model for other young Black women, to say that Shahidi is an inspiration to “so many women,” not just Black women — minimizing Shahidi’s race. While Rodriguez emerged in this industry championing diversity, it’s clear that she prefers diverse narratives and roles that align with her own identity, rather than overall diversity.

This was not an “all lives matter” moment: Rodriguez was saying that a Black woman could inspire everyone. But that wasn’t good enough for the author, either: by saying that, Rodriguez was presumably favoring Hispanic diversity above  “overall diversity”. What is meant here, of course, is the diversity of having more Black people, not ethnic diversity of all sorts.

But wait! There’s still more offense:

[Rodriguez] favors white and mestizo (or mixed) representation in Latinx roles, at the expense of Black actors. When promotion for “Black Panther” began in 2017, Rodriguez tweeted, “Marvel and DC are killing it in inclusion and women, but where are the Latinos?! Asking for a friend…”

Not only did she call into question the significance of the first superhero movie featuring Black actors in all the leading roles, she ignored the two Afro Latinas who have starred in Marvel films: Tessa Thompson, who played Valkyrie in “Thor” and Zoe Saldana in “Guardians of The Galaxy.” Both also appeared in 2019′s box-office hit “Avengers: Endgame.” (Rodriguez has also not publicly recognized the groundbreaking character of Miles Morales, the Afro Latino Spider-Man in the award-winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”)

Yet if an African-American said the same thing about a Latina/o/x movie, saying “where are the Black people?” that presumably would be okay.

Yes, we do have racial problems, and racial discrimination in this country. But if you constantly police people like this for racism, calling them out for their “anti-Blackness” when they’re either singing rap lyrics or promoting their own minority culture, it trivializes the real problems of inequity and of the legacy of slavery that still denies many people the opportunities they deserve.

The only good thing about this article is that, for once, the usually Woke readers of PuffHo struck back, calling out Martinez in various ways for her eagerness to find racism in every corner. There are many critical comments: here are four:

How did we get to this point in our culture where the color of a person’s skin matters not just more than their character, but is the main thing one has to consider? I’m pretty sure that if Dr. King were still alive, and was asked about something like this, he’d use expletives.

In the end, Rodriguez did no damage to anyone. But that’s never taken into account when demonizing the impure. There are a lot of Big Brothers out there, watching all the time.

60 thoughts on “Ridiculous Offense of the Week

  1. At least she didn’t get convicted of a criminal offence for quoting rap lyrics, like the unfortunate British teenager — a conviction now thankfully overturned.

    1. I agree with his arguments, but I can also see the point of view from people who say that re-purposing this weapon is a legitimate way to take the usefulness of the word away from the racist bastards. It also is a thumb in their eyes, and that I can agree with that sentiment too.

      I feel that reserving the use of the word in most situations is a legitimate way to deal with this vile word; Ms Martinez’ digital diarrhea is not.

      On the other hand, Mr Washington makes some good points. It’s complicated.

      1. If black people want to detoxify the word, they should also let others use the supposedly detoxified word.
        However, some blacks apparently want to use the word at will as an innocent word, with some fancy excuse, and at the same time to use it as a hammer to beat every melanin-deficient person who uses it.
        They cannot have it both ways.

  2. Martinez writes:

    “But instead of pausing while Hill says ‘nigga,’ which is expected of non-Black hip-hop fans, Rodriguez goes for it.”

    Notice Martinez’s use of the passive in the phrase “which is expected.” I would like to know who exactly is doing the expecting.

    1. It is the woke who are doing the expecting. The logic is that it is an inversion of past oppression. Non-blacks are not allowed to do something (sing along) that blacks can do, and that fact reminds everyone of the past oppression of blacks.

      As with most woke stuff, it has a tiny bit of a point to it, but then they take that point and weaponise it.

      1. Here in the Balkans, weaponised reminding of past oppression has caused much suffering. Our experience shows that past oppression is best left in the past, where it belongs.

    2. Meh. A week ago, last time ‘cultural appropriation’ reared its ugly head, I commented “I guess it’s tolerated for me to listen to Bob Marley singing ‘No Woman No Cry’ on my headphones, so long as I don’t sing along?”. I thought I was being sarcastic. But it seems I was just being prescient. 8-(


  3. The word is in the lyrics, as it is in many hip-hop lyrics, and non-Blacks are supposed to pause rather than sing a lyric?

    Reminds me of when I was a kid and used to go over my buddy’s house after school. His mom used to play the West Side Story soundtrack on the hi-fi all the time and sing along with the tunes. When it came to the last line of “Gee, Officer Krupke” (“Gee, Officer Krupke — Krup you!”), she apparently thought the Jets were actually dropping the F-bomb, so would just hum along. That always cracked us up.

    At least you should be outta range of HuffPo in Antarctica. 🙂

  4. I think the author of this boiled tripe shows more “anti-blackness” than Rodriguez. It’s another example of someone playing the perpetual victim card and rolling around in sanctimonious offense taking.
    I agree that, in general, black people are the ones who keep the n-word alive, while at the same time complaining of its continued use by others. Black colleagues and friends use the n-word amongst each other with varying intentions, some affectionate, some derogatory, but I, as a white Hispanic, would never use it unless I was discussing its very use by others, like Kanye or James Baldwin or Trump, or its history or effects. In those contexts, it seems appropriate to use a word that is the very topic of discussion.

    1. This is totally unfair — to boiled tripe, which can be very tasty when prepared in the Florentine or Roman style. 🙂

  5. I used to call people like that “culture vultures” because they lived to catch something they viewed as offensive. I taught anthropology for 35 years and it is often hard to describe other cultures with “neutral words.” I did not use any racist terminology, but the ever alert culture vulture (and they came almost entirely from Womens” Studies and always had a grudge against males. Of course even the use of the word “female” was enough to trigger some. What the hell were they doing in anthropology? In the insistence of purity Womens’Studies was for years allowed to exclude males from their classes because the inclusion of a male would inhibit discourse

  6. Personally I think this whole Woke thing is arrogance out of control. In Saskatchewan we are not supposed to buy Savage brand clothing because apparently it is offensive to Natives. But it is ok to be wholesale derogatory to (baby) boomers and nobody says boo.

  7. I’m with Grania on this one. Perhaps it is time to start asking the question more often, “Why do black people use the n-word so often if they don’t want people to use it?” Of course, we know the answer. A black person using it is not using it in a derogatory way since they are members of the group it targets. That’s just not good enough, IMHO.

    I’m going to start using “whitey”. Ok, probably not.

    1. “Why do black people use the n-word so often if they don’t want people to use it?”

      Partly because by reclaiming a word intended to harm from those who would use it as a weapon takes the power of the word away. I can agree with that.

        1. It certainly hasn’t taken the power of the word away, quite obviously. The “only we can use it but if a white person says it, I’ll freak out” is just another way of giving racist white people a Super Power To Offend.

          If they really thought the word was The Devil, then maybe hip hop artists should think twice about exporting the word to millions upon millions of white people (usually young white men) who are the largest consumers of their product. If you make hooky songs and don’t expect people to sing/rap along, you are just incredibly naive. So if you don’t want white people repeating the word, stop using it in the songs you sell to them!

          As I’ve pointed out before: my son says the N-word. Because he loves rap, and sings/raps the songs. Never in a million years would he have gotten that word from his parents who raised him not to be racist (which he is not). No, the ONLY reason that white kid is saying the N-word, is because he was taught to by Rap artists happy to take his money while doing so.

          If we really don’t want that word to have currency, it’s time for rap artists to consider their role. Choices have consequences.

    2. There’s another issue: they’re often not “reclaiming” the word. Having lived in a predominantly black neighborhood for several years, I knew and was friends with many black people. Sometimes, “nigga” was used as a term of affection, but almost just as often, it was used as a term of derision. It’s really used among the community just like any other word that can have multiple meanings, making the claim of “reclaiming” kind of moot, or at least far less of a good argument than just simply doing away with the word.

    1. Saw Where’s My Roy Cohn? today. I’ve always had a certain macabre fascination with the monster, as a second-half-of-the-20th-century phenomenon, so already knew most of the story, though there were a few details new to me. More importantly, it’s a damn fine piece of film-making.

      1. I’m going to see it tonight — I can hardly wait.

        There’s another Roy Cohn documentary, “Bully, Coward, Victim…” that’s out on HBO. It was directed by Ivy Meeropol,the granddaughter of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, whom RC helped send to the chair. While it’s been characterized as uneven, nonetheless it’s recommended https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/bully-coward-victim-story-roy-cohn-1244679

        Unfortunately, I don’t get HBO so must try to find somebody who does.

        1. Ivy Meerpol’s late adoptive grandfather, Abel, who along with his wife adopted the two Rosenberg orphans, wrote the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit” for Billie Holiday.

          Not exactly on point, maybe, but a fact I’ve always found fascinating.

  8. I’m sorry (no I’m not), I listen to some hip-hop (mainly because it’s played where I work), and I even like a few of the songs. If a song I like has the n-word in it and I’m singing along, I’m singing the word…and I’m so white I practically glow in the dark. If anyone’s offended, I think they’re saying more about their own twisted state of mind than anything else, because if I sing along with a song, that’s a compliment.

  9. This is even better:

    “A high school security assistant in Wisconsin said an unruly student called him a racial slur several times last week, but when he tried to explain to the student why the epithet was offensive, it cost him his job.

    “The security assistant, Marlon Anderson, said that he told the student to stop calling him a “nigger” during an Oct. 9 exchange at West High School in Madison. Both Mr. Anderson and the student are black.

    “Less than a week later, school officials terminated Mr. Anderson’s employment, citing a zero-tolerance policy on the use of derogatory language by staff members.”


      1. Yes, how else are the ‘Sun People’ (African Americans in this case.) to be protected from the PTSD they will inevitably suffer when they hear the word from ‘profane’ lips (The man photographed probably has too much ‘white blood’ but doesn’t know it.

    1. The plot thickens. Cher has offered to pay the legal fees for the security guard. Good for her, but it’s odd.

        1. Are you asking how do I know it’s odd? That’s my personal opinion. It surprised me that she would make an offer like that. Perhaps I should have worded it: “seems odd to me.” But I’ve long thought Cher to be very odd.

          If you’re asking how do I know that Cher made the offer? It’s being reported by reputable news agencies (again, my personal opinion that the are reputable, in case you ask how I know they’re reputable). https://twitter.com/CBSNews/status/1185611503849934849

          You can find the full story on the CBS news site and on ABC.

          1. Cher — an odd person to me and I’ve never understood her appeal. Her offer — odd in that I wouldn’t have expected her to do that, though I know she’s politically active in other respects.

    2. 100% ridiculous and idiotic. This guy is trying to explain why the use of the n word might be offensive, and he gets fired for using offensive language? Kafka is boring in comparison!

  10. Citizens of Puerto Rico don’t immigrate to the US, they move to the US, since they’re already US citizens.

    1. Yeah, I was wondering about that too. But if they’re American citizens, how can the Tangerine Shitgibbon mark them for especially bad treatment? Or do they, like, not vote Trumpian, or something equally heinous?
      Has Trump held one of his Nuremburg-esque rallies in Puerto Rico yet? Or is he afraid to go there?

    1. That is very funny, but it’s more than funny, it’s a telling social commentary on the use of ethnic slurs, and that’s its genius.

      Here’s Pryor on the word after he returned from Africa. Personally, I don’t think that what he says here negates the humor and value of the SNL skit because the skit to me is biting social commentary, not just throwing the word around for the heck of it or to disparpge black people.

      Richard Pryor on the word.

  11. What if I overhear someone singing along to a hip-hop song and they sing the n-word. I cannot see the person, only hear them. I suppose in that case I need to wait until I know the race of the person I overheard before I can be offended.

  12. Every time I run across yet another incidence of this rule of disallowing the n-word for whites but allowing it for blacks, this little song by Tim Minchin keeps running through my mind..

  13. My experience is limited to New York, but Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and other Latinx groups with strong histories tied to African slavery use the “n-word” very casually. I’ve seen it get a little uncomfortable if the person is very light skinned, but in general you never see anyone have a problem with it if they know the person is Latino/a. I’m going to assume the person who wrote this article does not spend very much time with black or latin people and is not aware of the reality in the community.

  14. “There are a lot of Big Brothers out there, watching all the time.”

    Someone might say that’s an insensitive, misogynistic, hetero-normative thing to say. Or words to that effect.

    But not me. And not anyone with any sense as far as I can foretell. 🙂

  15. I have this kind of impression that Hip-=hop artists use the ‘nigga’ with a kind of pride, part of their culture. It would not be the first time in history that a group would adopt a derogatory term as their designation. The word ‘Geus’ or Geuzen’ for the Dutch insurgents to Spanish rule comes to mind.

    1. To a certain extent “bitch” but it’s used by everyone because women are on the bottom of the grand map of disadvantaged. An example of a pop song is Brittany Spears’s “Work” because “you gotta work, bitch!”

  16. To your point about the latinx movies and black people asking where the black people are, I actually think that’s acceptable because there are afro-latinx (black latinx). Now, the whole conversation about the n word in regard to non blacks is at this point something I’m tired of hearing. I’m slowly accepting the fact that if non blacks want to say the n word, they’re going to say it, regardless of all the information, social media posts, videos, and blog posts that they have access to that literally explain everything for them. I honestly don’t see why white people/non blacks care about the n word. The way I see it, it’s fine that one group has a word that another can’t say. I’m sure that Latinx people have their own reclaimed slur, and asian people have their own reclaimed slurs. Women have reclaimed the b-word and I haven’t seen nearly the outcry about that, that I’ve seen regarding the n word. Whether or not you agree with the reclamation of the n word, it’s not that hard to see where black people are coming from. I just don’t understand why non black people have such a problem with not saying on word. It’s really not that hard to censor yourself while rapping. Teenagers censor themselves around their parents when singing/rapping, so I don’t see the big deal about why non blacks can’t censor themselves when it comes to the n word. I don’t think it’s about the n word and the whole reverse racism mess, but more about the power that comes with reclamation, and not wanting black people to have that. That’s just my two cents (:

    1. Well, I’m a secular Jew, once religious, and neither I nor other Jews have slurs about Jews that we think it’s okay for Jews to say but not non-Jews. These include kike, hebe, sheeny, yid, Christ-killer, hymie, and so on. We don’t like ANYONE saying them, and do not refer to each other affectionately, as “Hey, my kike! What’s up?” In my view, it’s not useful to have a word, a slur that’s okay with the slurred group but not okay for everyone else. It just perpetuates the word.

      And seriously, what real damage occurs when you sing along with a rap song but don’t censor yourself? The demand that one keep silent when a certain word occurs in a popular song is, to be frank, ludicrous. That is my two cents.

  17. This debate will go on forever but at the end of the day I believe it comes down to this… if a word offends someone I don’t WANT to say it. I believe most groups have a word they can say to each other but don’t want to hear someone not in the group say to them. Everyone has freedom of speech and are free to say whatever they want, but their are consequences for our actions. Gina Rodriguez I’m sure has been singing these songs and saying this word for years but posting this on social media was irresponsible and was going to offend someone. Philippians 2:3,4 says, “Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you, as you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” I hold this direction of great value as it promotes peace and unity.

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