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Why Biracial People Are Beefing Kendrick Lamar For Racial Gatekeeping.

Kendrick Lamar, Drake, beef, diss track, racial gatekeeping, biracial , mixed racer
Kung Fu Kenny vs Champagne Papi

I'd like to start this with a disclaimer for hip hop heads who might start a beef with me for missing the point. Off the bat, I am not qualified to comment on hip hop beefs, having no deep knowledge of them and I won't try to pick apart Kendrick Lamar's Drake diss tracks, 'Not Like Us', 'Euphoria' and 'Meet The Grahams'. I also have to preface that this essay does not touch on Lamar's claims of grooming, sex trafficking and cultural appropriation. But I would like to beef with his flirtation with racial gatekeeping, being qualified as a biracial East Asian-South African.

'If a person who presents as black and is treated as such can't belong as a black person, what does that say about the internalised workings at play?'

Kung Fu Kenny may have beat Champagne Papi according to public opinion - but at what cost? Lyrics like the ones below call into question Drake's 'code-switching' and use of African-American culture for personal gain but most problematically (whichever way you slice it) (and we will slice it three ways) his qualifications for identifying as black. In the end they not only reflect a huge societal problem with biracial identity and acceptance of that but show a deep rooted and embedded racial prejudice via multitudes of hypocrisy masqueraded as black pride and solidarity. Stick with me on this, let's go.


I try to empathize with you 'cause I know that you ain't been through nothin'/ Crave entitlement, but wanna be liked so bad that it's puzzlin'/ No dominance, let's recap moments when you didn't fit in / No secret handshakes with your friend / No culture cachet to binge, just disrespectin' your mother / Identity's on the fence, don't know which family will love ya - Meet the Grahams

Lamar calls Drake out on having 'no cultural cachet to binge', implying that he doesn't have the right to own African-American and/or black culture and didn't experience the markers of 'true black experience'. Lyrics like this urge mixed race separatists to continue claiming that biracial people cannot opt into owning their black heritage and don't 'belong'.

'Policing 'real' POC is incredibly harmful and has roots in the internalized disenfranchisement and stereotypes of POC.'

As one Reddit user put it, Kendrick has a problem not with Drake's claim to blackness but his 'part-time' blackness. This implies he can only be black and act as such (the implication of which is problematic in itself because what does that even mean if not a limiting idea of blackness in itself) if he does it all the time. The notion that you can't be 'part-time black' has incredibly harmful sentiments about racial purity. James B. Ewers Jr. writes in a piece for Diverse titled,What Does It Mean to Not be Black Enough?, "Media outlets have convinced some of us that there is a uniform Black code of conduct; that there is some unwritten set of guidelines that we must adhere to on a daily basis." He elaborates how this concept itself is actually a reflection of ingrained stereotypes, "It is my belief that many of the characteristics attributed to Black people have hurt us. We have been pigeon-holed into being and acting a certain way."

The act of policing 'real' POC is incredibly harmful and has roots in the internalized disenfranchisement and stereotypes of POC. This sort of thing is not exclusive to blackness, but Asianness and Hispanicness as well. I can't tell you the amount of times I've been told by other POC that I'm not a 'real' Asian because I didn't live in Asia, speak Mandarin, am not good with chopsticks or don't like sushi. As if Asianness is rooted in these facets. Emboldenment in this regard shouldn't ever be allowed to flourish, no matter the guise or intention.


Never code-switch, whether right or wrong, you're a Black man- Meet the Grahams

Lamar's lyrics hit a sore spot not just for Drake but biracial and mixed race people across the world when he accuses Drake of code-switching. This term is generally used to describe minority people using language and appearance to assimilate into white spaces. It's also known as respectability politics (more on that here). In this twist, it's being used in reversal to shame a biracial person for choosing when to be white or POC, depending on how they talk, dress and act as well. It's own kind of respectability politics.

'All biracial people feel at some point that when they interact with their POC culture, they are engaging in a sort of Imposter Syndrome.'

Things like code-switching are not inherently insidious (ie not always used as a way to gain popularity as an artist with a certain demographic) but a valid coping mechanism for biracial people. Although usually used to fit into white spaces, in this case its particularly heartbreaking to watch someone be accused of 'performing' their identity (whether its true or not) because in some way, all biracial people feel at some point that when they interact with their POC culture, they are engaging in a sort of Imposter Syndrome.

I've struggled with this in my own capacity for ages when I wondered (and was once asked) if I had the right to speak out on Asian identity and issues as a biracial East Asian caucasian person who identifies as white but obviously presents as Asian (not by choice or purposefully, but by unanimous public opinion). If a person who presents as black and is treated as such can't belong with black people, what does that say about the internalised workings at play?


How many more Black features 'til you finally feel that you're Black enough?
I even hate when you say the word "nigga," but that's just me, I guess - Euphoria

Atlanta was the Mecca, buildin' railroads and trains / Bear with me for a second, let me put y'all on game / The settlers was usin' town folk to make 'em richer / Fast-forward, 2024, you got the same agenda
No, you not a colleague, you a fuckin' colonizer- Not Like Us

A huge issue for biracial people is the question of belonging. Recently I watched a video of a club full of people shouting 'they not like us'. Before that I brushed this off as another way to bring in more sales from either artist. But this video brought up many feelings for me. I felt like no matter the intention, using a catchphrase that capitalizes on a 'them' vs 'us' concept is a form of othering no matter the verses preceding or following it.

'"I hate Drake. But this is the shit that causes kids who are biracial to feel like they don't belong."'

Many have come to Lamar's defense calling on people to focus on his intention to call out those who are 'not authentic' in the industry, because Drake 'acts tough'. One Redditer explains, "Kendrick rightfully doesn't wanna see people like that walk around like some skinwalker and be accepted and normalised. He's part of the problem." But telling someone they're not black enough to use the n-word is a clear show of discrediting their 'right' to identify as black. Let alone opening a doorway for people use terms like 'skinwalker'. Past that, it can be used to feed into racial gatekeeping. It emboldens racial gatekeepers to continue deciding who 'qualifies' as black enough through things like how they speak, their experiences, where they were raised, by whom they were raised, among many other things.

'Disqualification for Drake to use the n-word reeks of racial policing.'

What we need to remember is that non-POC people (read: white people and vehicles of systemic racism) are not near as discerning. It's enough for them that someone looks remotely black to qualify being treated as such, yet POC sit on the other end questioning whether you belong on their team at all based on non-physical aspects. Truly in this case, Drake doesn't belong and to use that as grounds for disqualification for him to interact with the culture or, yes, use the n-word reeks of racial policing.

In a thread titled 'For people who are trying to virtue signal about Kendrick "using the race card" on Drake' one biracial user explains, "while the criticism of Drake may or may not hold some merit, it has way further reaching connotations on the culture as a whole, and IMO and just from what I've seen on reddit, open up a back door for some lowkey, but brazen racism to become all fun and games."

The above is something Lamar, who has served himself up as a public figure for black pride and solidarity (who has a mixed race wife and mixed children himself) could stand to learn and understand now as he raises his own kids in a world where biracial/mixed kids are discouraged from interacting with their heritage and excluded from their communities based on ever-changing criteria. You cannot fight for black rights and then decide which black people qualify to benefit from them.

As another Reddit user sums it up, "I hate Drake. But this is the shit that causes kids who are biracial to feel like they don't belong. Too many in the white community see them as black, too many in the black community see them as white or not black enough. It's bullshit and needs to stop."


Although this is a common experience for biracial people, it was hard to find a term to explain reverse racial gatekeeping. Gatekeeping usually refers to white people keeping POC out, not POC deciding who qualifies as POC enough. Racial purism usually refers to the idea that anything that mixes with whiteness produces a diluted, stained identity that can never truly be white but is now 'other'. Mixed Race Separatist refers to the belief that mixed race people should keep their identities separate (still not belonging to either but another thing entirely, yet both at the same time). Perhaps it's time to coin this as 'biracial policing'.


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