Actress and rapper Awkwafina has posted a statement on Twitter addressing criticisms of her use of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and “Blaccent” in films, TV shows and music, as well as confirming that she will no longer be using the social media platform.
Blaccent is a term which refers to non-Black individuals adopting a Black voice, connected to allegations of cultural misappropriation. The actress has faced criticism over the issue in some of her recent roles, most notably as Goh Peik Lin and Constance in Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8.
Awkwafina – an Asian-American actress, whose real name is Nora Lum – shared the statement on Saturday (February 5), writing: “As a non-Black POC, I stand by the fact that I will always listen and work tirelessly to understand the history and context of AAVE, what is deemed appropriate or backwards toward the progress of ANY and EVERY marginalised group.
“But I must emphasise: To mock, belittle, or to be unkind in any way possible at the expense of others is: Simply. Not. My Nature. it never has, and it never was.”
Awkwafina went on to explain why she felt her voice often carried that accent. “My immigrant background allowed me to carve an American identity off the movies and TV shows I watched, the children I went to public school with, and my undying love and respect for hip hop,” she said.
“I think, as a group, Asian Americans are still trying to figure out what that journey means for them.”
After sharing the statement, she told her followers: “Well, I’ll see you in a few years, Twitter – per my therapist. To my fans, thank you for continuing to love and support someone who wishes they could be a better person for you. I apologise if I ever fell short, in anything I did. You’re in my heart always.”
Awkwafina later clarified her comment, adding: “I am retiring from the ingrown toenail that is Twitter. Not retiring from anything else, even if I wanted to, and I didn’t drunkenly hit someone with a shoehorn and now escaping as a fugitive. Also am avail on all other socials that don’t tell you to kill yourself!”
See her full statement below.
— nora (@awkwafina) February 5, 2022
Many social media users declared the statement a “non-apology”, also noting that Awkwafina had liked a succession of comments in the replies suggesting she had done nothing wrong, including one which said the actor didn’t “owe anyone an explanation for anything”.
All these words and not one apology.
Awkwafina could have just said: “You were right. I did use a blaccent to make a name for myself and that was wrong. I wholeheartedly apologize, and I’ll do better from now on.” https://t.co/3CDsw962B7
— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) February 5, 2022
I cannot stand when people do this shit. They “”apologize”” but then like tweets of people saying they did nothing wrong.
— (brooke/zen) 🗯️♿ (she/her) (@ZenMeoww) February 5, 2022
Elsewhere in her statement, Awkwafina noted the African American community in America “is a group that is disproportionately affected by institutionalised policies and law enforcement polices – all while having historically and routinely seen their culture stolen, exploited, and appropriated by the *dominant* culture for monetary gain without any acknowledgement nor respect for where those roots come from, the pioneers of its beginnings, and the artists that perfected and mastered the craft”.
Awkwafina was asked directly about using Blaccent last year (September 20, 2021), responding: “Um, you know, I’m open to the conversation,” she said. “I think it, you know, it’s really something that is a little bit multi-faceted and layered.”
The actress has also previously addressed the issue during the Crazy Rich Asians press tour to Yahoo Movies UK, where she made a similar response. “I don’t really take the stance where I’m just like well you know I’m from this [place],” Awkwafina said.
“I welcome that conversation because as an Asian-American identity we’re still trying to figure out what that is, so I welcome the conversation.”
Awkwafina’s latest role is in Marvel’s Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings, where she stars opposite Simu Liu and Michelle Yeoh.
In NME’s four-star review, the film is described as a “smart and satisfying superhero romp that suggests Marvel is nowhere near ready to relinquish its hold on the genre”.