The Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star Awkwafina returned to Twitter after a two-year absence on Saturday to address longstanding criticism over her use of a blaccent and appropriation of Black culture. After a statement, she decided to quit the platform.
In a lengthy message published on Twitter on Saturday, Awkwafina acknowledged the “fine line between offense and pop culture” but claims her use of AAVE or African American Vernacular English, as well as her “blaccent” — a voice that stereotypically imitates forms of Black American dialect “never was” meant to “mock, belittle or to be unkind” to Black people.
Early in her message, the actress acknowledged the sociopolitical and “historical context of the African American community” in the U.S. as one that has been “disproportionately affected by institutionalized policies and law enforcement policies. All the while having historically and routinely seen their culture stolen, exploited and appropriated by the *dominant* culture for monetary gain, without acknowledgment nor respect for where those roots come from, the pioneers of its beginnings and the artists that perfected and mastered the craft,” she continued. Without outright stating that she has participated in this herself, Awkwafina says that using it in her own language “never was” meant to be derogatory.
— nora (@awkwafina) February 5, 2022
“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 towards the progress of ANY and EVERY marginalized group,” she wrote. “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.”
Later in the lengthy statement, the actress pointed to the “fine line between offense and pop culture,” spurred by how AAVE has been appropriated and passed off as part of the “internet Tik-Tok slang generation” amid hip-hop’s shift into becoming a mainstream genre.
She attributed her own use of it to her immigrant background, public school environment, consumption of TV and film, as well as her “respect for hip-hop. Awkwafina — whose given name is Nora Lum — has been challenged on her use of AAVE and her blaccent by online critics as far back as her Tawk With Awkwafina show on the mobile-orientated social entertainment platform Go90. More recently, she’s faced backlash around her performances in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, as well as during press for Shang-Chi, when old clips of her using a blaccent — as well as her statement in a Vice interview that “I refuse to do accents” when it comes to Asian characters — resurfaced.
Another wave of criticism followed Awkwafina was after she was nominated for a 2022 NAACP Image Award for character voice-over performance in television or film for her work on Raya and the Last Dragon.
Also Read: Awkwafina connected with Sisu’s unique character in Disney’s Raya And The Last Dragon
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