Older Black women are the unsung jewels of life really, and that’s certainly the case on social media as well. We have Jackee Harry with her risqué humor, Anita Baker with her snappy retorts, and now we have newfound social media star Dionne Warwick, whose questions about the culture moments we take for granted have caused more than a few of us a chuckle or two.
While some people are trying to determine whether or not Warwick is the author of her hilarious musings, there was another question that arose recently when a white man tried to address Warwick with a customary title, typically used by Black folk: Auntie.
Tony Lorino, a veteran radio broadcaster, had a question for Ms. Warwick and he sought to reach her the best way he knew how, through Twitter.
Here’s what he wrote:
It wasn’t long before a fellow Twitter user called our Lorino for his use of the word Auntie.
Clearly, the man was doing a whole lot here. I’m sure Lorino wasn’t intending to disrespect Warwick at all. He was attempting to seriously engage and it was evidenced by his response to the man who attempted to call him out.
Warwick, as you might imagine, was not offended at all and let that be known.
Mob Glow’s approach left a lot to be desired.
Still, I don’t think we should ignore the fact that it was Black people, across the diaspora, who have a history and a habit of calling older Black women Auntie as a sign of respect. It’s not something I’ve seen white folks do with people who are not related to them. And it’s not an honorific I’ve seen Black folks extend to older white women.
It’s a custom very specific to the Black experience. And while Mob Glow would have been cool to sit this one out—or perhaps take a less hostile approach, I can understand the sentiment. It would be far from the first time white folks have co-opted a term of endearment used by Black women and taken it mainstream.
How many times have we been communicating with a white woman only to be thrown for a loop when she randomly and unnecessarily uses “girlfriend” in a way that’s too familiar and out of place? The prevalence of this was so bad that Black women don’t even use “girlfriend” anymore. Partly because that lexicon might have been left in the nineties but I’d also argue because white women started abusing it.
You may have noticed that white people, women and gay men alike, have adopted “Sis,” a word Black people, and Black women specifically used amongst each other to signify a sisterhood different than the one we may (or may not share) with women of other races.
It’s a specific experience to be a Black woman in this country. And I think Black people should have the right to speak to those experiences in language that is ours and ours alone.
We’ve already had to share too much of our culture, with little recognition or reward in return.
What do you think about white people using the word auntie? Is it something they should refrain from doing? Should Black folk check white people when they see it happening?