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Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Auntie Diaries’ begs a closer listen

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Auntie Diaries’ begs a closer listen

Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Auntie Diaries’ begs a closer listen
May 26
12:00 2022

Since hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar released his song “Auntie Diaries,” an intimate track off his newest album describing homophobia and transphobia in his community, the internet has been embroiled in heavy discourse about the lyricism.

The song framed a world of religious expectations, social norms and the way his transgender uncle and cousin interact with them depicted through the eyes of a young Lamar. The lyrics, however, quickly became a source of controversy. When members of the LGBTQIA+ community denounced the lyrics as harmful language, they were met with ridicule and their feelings were dismissed as hypersensitivity.

The fact of the matter is, people have the right to be hurt by bigoted language, regardless of context or intention. The callousness shown toward hurt members of the LGBTQIA+ community attests to the lack of sympathy for marginalized communities.

The song is riddled with f-slurs, misgendering and deadnaming — all actions used as tools to depict Lamar’s journey through overcoming his homophobia. The song ends with a wiser Lamar realizing the harm behind his words and resolving to do better. Still, the derogatory language used left a bitter taste in many listeners’ mouths.

This isn’t a matter of canceling celebrities or labeling anyone as homophobic. “Auntie Diaries” is undeniably a great song, and every method of storytelling employed — even the derogatory language — was necessary to accurately depict homophobia and transphobia in Lamar’s community. The song is a brilliant work of art.

This catharsis comes at the expense of the people directly affected by the oppression that Lamar is critiquing. Like any other slur, hearing the f-slur can be triggering for individuals who have been traumatized by it. Though some felt heard by “Auntie Diaries,” others felt hurt and isolated by it. Both reactions are entirely valid.

The response of marginalized individuals to the situations that affect them should be accepted, but it seems like their emotions only matter when they’re palatable by the majority.

Supporters of the lyrics behind “Auntie Diaries” argue that anyone offended by the song simply didn’t understand the meaning — clearly Kendrick Lamar is not homophobic. He speaks of his transgender uncle and cousin with love and respect and is growing from his own ignorance. As he recalls his past confusion and interactions with children in his neighborhood about his family, there’s never a hint of malice.

Knowing this, fans have taken to Twitter to defend Lamar against being “canceled” for his lyrics. After all, everything Lamar has pointed out in the track are very real hardships that queer Black people endure. To avoid the topic entirely would be sugarcoating the issue and a disservice to both the listener and artist.

What’s ironic is that often the people who bash listeners offended by the lyrics haven’t shown any signs of reflection themselves. Lamar ends his song ironically condemning the usage of the f-slur and the homophobia around him.

Listeners should ask themselves: Have I done the work? Have I dismantled my own bigotry? If the answer is no, then they should practice allyship through empathizing with their neighbors.

It seems as if cancel culture has corrupted society so deeply that people have begun to prioritize celebrity personalities over the well-being of their communities. People are more afraid of the social consequences of harmful behavior than the emotional impact on the people affected, and that’s why this discourse has become so toxic.

Through a lens of compassion, the conversation can turn toward a path of healthy criticism and an exchange of perspectives. Maybe “Auntie Diaries” is the spark people need to move toward positive change, allowing proper critique on our society without the messiness of counterproductive commentary.

To combat bigotry, the voices of the oppressed must be heard. When people practice true accountability and correct each other’s mistakes rather than threatening ostracization, free-flowing conversation will create better understanding. All people need to do is just listen.

Featured Illustration by Jazmine Garcia

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Hana Musa

Hana Musa

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