Jane The Virgin's Racism Story Is More Important Than Ever

Photo: Tyler Golden/The CW.
Going into Jane The Virgin’s "Chapter Sixty-One," I was already nervous. Before the episode aired, its summary warned Jane’s beloved grandma Alba (Ivonne Coll) would be "appalled" by a comment made at her job. Considering Alba is a Venezuelan immigrant who speaks Spanish 99 percent of the time and our country is becoming increasingly vocally xenophobic, this all spelled trouble. A recent tweet from creator Jennie Snyder Urman only made it seem like blatant racism was right around the corner, with the writer announcing, "Have been asked a lot if #janethevirgin will deal with the new realities of the horrific T presidency. We do tonight."
Blatant racism is exactly what I found in "Chapter Sixty-One" along with a very rousing, optimistic Jane The Virgin response. The previously mentioned appalling moment comes while Alba is working at the Marbella gift shop. She rings up a white woman at a checkout, while her co-worker helps a Spanish-speaking Latina women find the sun lotion. As Alba’s customer leaves the shop, she stops in front of the other woman and says, "This is America. You should learn how to speak English."
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Although Alba was so "shocked" in the moment she stayed silent, the Villanueva matriarch is heartbroken and angry by the time she’s back home with Jane (Gina Rodriguez). "You know what I should have said? ‘We the people of the United States,'" she says, going into much of the preamble to the Constitution. "How much of the preamble do you think [that racist woman] knows?" Jane finishes her grandma’s thought, agreeing, "Probably none."
It’s a little scary how true-to-life this fictional scene is, considering President Donald Trump’s comments about the Civil War, which began making headlines the precise day "Sixty-One" aired. In an interview with the Washington Examiner, the Commander in Chief said, "People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?" Almost no one else asks these questions, as we know the Civil War happened because of slavery.
Immigrants on Twitter pointed out they needed to know this exact fact for their citizenship test. Although the President of the United States isn’t sure why the Civil War happened, every immigrant in America does. It’s eerily similar to Alba’s point about the Constitution’s preamble.
Thankfully on Jane, Alba channels her hurt and frustration into a positive decision. She decides to march in a protest, despite being terrified "something" will happen and ICE agents will revoke her green card. She attempts to get her boyfriend Jorge to join her, but he admits he’s an undocumented immigrant and is afraid of ICE agents. Their honest conversation is beautiful and moving, with Alba saying at the end of it, “I know how complicated it is. Especially now. I’ll march for both of us." While we’re watching this on the CW, it’s obvious these kinds of conversations are really happening across the country as rhetoric becomes more xenophobic and our president is demanding a border wall.
Jane has an equally difficult conversation with her sweet young son, Matteo, who asks his parents why "some people" don’t want Alba in their country. Jane explains to Matteo the importance of immigrants in the founding of this country, adding, "some people, well, they can’t see that. And that’s just a stinky old fact."
Racism may be a stinky old fact in America right now, but at least we have shows like Jane The Virgin to remind us there's more to our country than prospective walls across Mexico and questions about the Civil War.
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