People Aren’t Buying Awkwafina’s “Blaccent” Apology

Jaelani Turner-Williams Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with…
Photo Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer for the 2021 AFI Fest via WireImage

On Saturday, Awkwafina tweeted a note that addressed criticism of using a “blaccent” and African-American mannerisms throughout her career.

Awkwafina went to social media this weekend to address her critics, but not all are sold on her apology. The comedian and actress, who has starred in Crazy Rich Asians and ShangChi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, made history as being the first person of Asian decent to take home a Golden Globe in 2020.

Over the years, many have called out her use of stereotypical Black mannerisms in her roles. Prior to become an actress, Awkwafina (whose real name is Nora Lum) was a rapper who went viral for songs like “My Vag” and “Green Tea.” Crazy Rich Asians, where she played Goh Peik Lin, was a continuation of her Awkwafina character. It wasn’t until the more serious The Farewell, when Awkwafina won a Golden Globe, that she started abandoning her more hip-hop-inspired persona.

Noticing that she was accused of being a cultural appropriator, on Saturday, Awkwafina tweeted a statement that acknowledged the backlash.

“There is a sociopolitical context to everything, especially the historical context of the African American community in this country,” she wrote. She then addressed that African-Americans are systematically oppressed while their culture is “stolen, exploited and appropriated by the dominant culture for monetary gain without acknowledgment nor respect from where those roots came from.”

The comedian also noticed that exploitation and appropriation exists on TikTok, although Black creators are rarely celebrated.

“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 marginalized group,” she continued. “But I must emphasize: 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 concluded by saying that she would continue to acknowledge criticism and reshape her comedic approach.

“My immigrant background allowed me to carve an American identity off the movies and tv shows I watched, the children I went to public schools 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 — what is correct and where they don’t belong.

The statement was off-putting for some, who either thought Awkwafina’s note was a blanket apology, or didn’t think there was an apology at all. In the wake of receiving an NAACP Image Award nomination for ‘Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance’, many were shocked that Awkwafina, who was born to a Chinese-American father and Korean mother, was nominated after using a “blaccent” throughout her career. (“Blaccent” is a portmanteau of “Black” and “accent”, defining when a non-Black person uses Black English in their vernacular.)

In a separate tweet, Awkwafina said that she’d be taking a hiatus from Twitter.

See the responses to her statement below.

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