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April 6, 2022 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Auntie is a word that comes with baggage, and young Black people calling Black women over 40 years old “Auntie” in the public arena are not carrying that baggage.” Imani Perry on the complicated revival of a controversial term: I Just Might Be Your Auntie (sl Atlantic).

"Young Black people are living in a challenging moment. The rise in white-supremacist ideology and violence in the past decade, combined with the backlash against younger generations’ exploration of sexuality and gender identity, the reality of their economic precarity, and the trauma of a global pandemic, weighs heavily on young people. And I think many of them are crafting or imagining fictive kinship bonds with public figures because they’re looking for connection and guidance on not just an intellectual level, but an emotional one, too."
posted by miles per flower (7 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Just so there is no confusion if you come across blak Australians (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) using the term freely, Auntie is both an honorific and mark of respect of an elder that can also define a specific generational kinship relationship amongst a group depending on moiety. AFAIK, it was never used by the colonisers to diminish status.
posted by Thella at 2:34 PM on April 6 [4 favorites]

This is interesting, in my South Asian culture, kids call all people of the older generation aunty or uncle. My kid, growing up in the west, does this too. I had no idea that the term may have racial baggage.
posted by lemur at 5:29 PM on April 6 [10 favorites]

This is interesting, in my South Asian culture, kids call all people of the older generation aunty or uncle.

Yeah broadly this is my experience, though if you're actually related and know how to articulate the nature of that relation*, using that is probably preferred.

*It's not necessarily simple given some degree of language loss over generations in a new country as well as the sometimes complicated ways relations are denoted. Chinese for instance has different ways of saying aunt or uncle depending on whether it is one's father's or mother's sibling as well as their relative birth order compared to siblings. And that kind of specificity can, of course, extend to more far flung relations than aunts and uncles.
posted by juv3nal at 6:08 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]

Same as lemur for South Asians, and there's an intentionality to it in my second gen mixed-flavor-Asian as a way of creating community bonds. Coming from that context, I'm very glad to have this source of additional information about the potential negative connotations for (US) Black people-- it comes as a shock. Asian cultures have not been super great about Black people in general, so this would be a particularly messy mistake to make.

I also appreciate the peek at the intersectional generational divides in culture among Black communities in general.
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 7:01 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]

A fascinating article that answered a question I didn't know I had! Thanks so much for sharing, miles per flower.

I recently read a standalone publishing of James Baldwin's Nothing Personal, with a foreword by Imani Perry. Now that I know her name, I'm really looking forward to finding more of her work in the world. This fpp was such a pleasant surprise. :)
posted by snerson at 8:32 PM on April 6

This is interesting, in my South Asian culture, kids call all people of the older generation aunty or uncle.

Same for Indigenous Canadians. I am an Auntie. And if you're not Auntie or Uncle you are called cousin.
posted by aclevername at 5:35 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]

Auntie is also a term of respect among Hawaiians, and serves the same purpose as explained in the article.
posted by Furnace of Doubt at 12:56 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]

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