Gina Rodriguez, I Love You, But Hear Me Out

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Gina Rodriguez is best known for her role on hit TV series Jane the Virgin, and films like Annihilation and Smallfoot—but on the internet, she’s also known for her track record of controversies concerning her activism and relationship to the African-American community. Her problematic past remarks were significant enough to be brought up in a recent interview on SiriusXM's Sway In The Morning. During the interview, co-host Tracy G asked Gina for her thoughts on the backlash in regards to comments she's made about representation and diversity—significantly, accusations of her being against the Black community.

Her response was not well received, and she found herself in hot water once again.

Going back as early as 2017, Rodriguez’s comments regarding POC and gender in Hollywood have been met with criticism, with many deeming them as an attack on Black people, often specifically black women. For example, this tweet she made as Black Panther was beginning its promotional run in July of 2017:

There was also a comment she made during an interview alongside her Smallfoot co-star, Yara Shahidi, during their press tour for the film. In the video, the interviewer praises Shahidi by telling her “[she is] goals for so many black women," at which Rodriguez interjects with, “for so many women”.

While these comments may seem innocent enough, they have been deemed by many as attempts at erasure. Most of the controversy stems from the basis that Rodriguez doesn’t seem to allow Black women to be celebrated or have a moment of recognition without turning the conversation back to the Latinx community, or in this case, women in general.

The other part is that in by doing so, it disregards a whole community—those who identify as Afro-Latinx. Her previously mentioned tweet about Marvel and DC’s inclusivity lacking Latinx people, for example, is disrespectful, especially since Marvel actresses Zoe Saldana and Tessa Thompson are both Black and Latina. It seems that her idea of inclusion for Latin actors and actresses didn't include those who are Afro-Latinx.

There was also the backlash from her roundtable discussion with Net-A-Porter back in November, where she stated that Black women make more money than Latinas, which was at the forefront of her Sway interview. While that may be true according to studies, her remark was questionable: why couldn’t she advocate for higher pay for Latina women without making it sound like the progression of Black women is a problem? Why were we her go-to and not white women, or Asians?

Rodriguez had the opportunity to properly address the accusations of her being anti-Black on Sway, and she did not. Her emotional delivery in her interview with was not equal to an apology. In her response, she highlighted her ties to Black people, which some likened to the “I have a Black friend” defense. While I personally didn’t see her comments in that way, it skirted around the root of the problem. It doesn’t matter that she grew up watching Black people on her TV screen or has them in her family, as she claimed. It does not take away from the fact that her comments over the past year and a half are problematic and disparaging. Though we may be living in times where “cancel culture” is an actual thing that is toxic, this situation is not an example of it. People’s criticism towards her is valid, and she should take their words into careful consideration.

It is possible to celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion for one people without tearing down another. We can celebrate films like Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, while asking for more representation of different ethnicities at the same time. Gina Rodriguez needs to reflect on her past mistakes, properly own up to them, and figure out ways to be a better ally in the fight for inclusion. You can advocate for change, but it turns problematic when you begin to detract from other POC who are fighting the same fight. Speaking as a Black woman, it's frustrating to see us being put down. It is something that happens far too often. It's also frustrating when we call someone out for their wrongs and they still can't understand it, and instead plays the victim in the situation.

I do believe Gina Rodriguez is a good person who wants to contribute to making the world more diverse and provide more opportunities for women and the Latinx community. However, she must learn how to do that without tearing down or minimizing another group of people. She needs to learn to speak in-turn, listen to Black women, and reflect on how she is viewed in the Black community. If she really cared about us and feels as close to us as she claimed in her interview, it should be easy for her to appropriately apologize for her past comments.