Awkwafina responds to criticism of her "blaccent" in new statement
7 February 2022, 12:22 | Updated: 7 February 2022, 13:10
Awkwafina has also announced that she is leaving Twitter too.
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The Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings actress, who is of Chinese and Korean descent, has a long history of being accused of cultural appropriation. Awkwafina started her career as a rapper and her 2012 song 'My Vag' went viral on YouTube. She then moved onto comedy, where she adopted a blaccent, which some attributed to her multicultural upbringing in Forest Hills, Queens (However, she actually grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood.)
Awkwafina's comedic success allowed her to secure more Hollywood roles, but since landing a role on Crazy Rich Asians in 2018, Awkwafina seems to have dropped the blaccent. Having built her career on having a blaccent, many have accused her of profiting from Black culture, especially because a lot of Black actors, or Black people in any industry, are forced to change their accents to acquire jobs.
The criticism of Awkwafina only intensified after a 2017 VICE interview where she said she "refuses" to do accents went viral last year. Then, Awkwafina was hit with even more backlash last month after she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for her role as Sisu in Raya and the Last Dragon.
Awkwafina has long avoided addressing her problematic past, previously stating that she's "open to the conversation" but never actually touching upon the issue. But now in a lengthy Twitter statement, Awkwafina has responded to the criticism. She said: "There is a sociopolitical context to everything, especially the historical context of the African American community in this country.
"It is a group that is disproportionately affected by institutionalized policies and law enforcement policies — 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."
She added: "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. 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. And though I'm still learning and doing that personal work, I know for sure that I want to spend the rest of my career doing nothing but uplifting our communities."
She continued: "But, 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. But I must emphasize: To mock, belittle, or be unkind in any way possible at the expense of others is: Simply. Not. My. Nature. It never has, and it never was."
After sharing her statement, Awkwafina revealed that she would be leaving Twitter following advice from her therapist. She tweeted: "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 apologize if I ever fell short, in anything I did. You’re in my heart always."
She then confirmed that she is only leaving Twitter, not acting: "To Clarify: 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!"
As a result of her statements, Awkwafina's name began to trend on Twitter. A lot of people have been left unsatisfied by her statement because she didn't actually apologise for her behaviour or seem to fully take responsibility.
All these words and not one apology.— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) February 5, 2022
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
oh she just booked something BIG! https://t.co/30NW5V2adv— zae | son of apollo (@ItsZaeOk) February 5, 2022
Black people are not your experiment. we are not pairs of shoes to be tried on in a quest to figuring out identity. our culture is not an antithesis to american whiteness and certainly not a page in your book of exploring what it means to not be white in america. https://t.co/Bc4o0BfRrM— 5hahem (@shaTIRED) February 5, 2022
using your immigrant background as an excuse for your pre-fame minstrel act is a pathetic cop out and it doesn’t even work, considering how you dropped the blaccent once you got more serious roles https://t.co/iqZK75Y8N2— simone (derogatory) (@stark_hive) February 5, 2022
a whole lot of words and yet not once were the words “i’m sorry” or “i apologize” uttered. blackness is not a costume to try on for size when searching for your own identity only to then cast aside once it’s made you a career and millions to go alongside it. https://t.co/yaKs1OOpZD— jhaunay-amanie (@jhaunay) February 5, 2022