Awkwafina responded Saturday to longstanding criticism over what has been called the use of her “blaccent,” or accusations that she has spoken with an African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) throughout her career.
Awkwafina acknowledged that as a non-Black person of color, she needs to understand the history of how the Black vernacular has often been appropriated by others throughout popular culture and in Internet jargon. But she also emphasized that it has never been in her nature to use language to make fun of other races or cultures.
“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, whatever is deemed appropriate or inverse towards the progress of ANY and EVERY marginalized group,” Awkwafina wrote in a Twitter statement. “But I must emphasize: making fun of, putting down or being unpleasant in any way possible at the expense of others is: Simply. No. My. Nature. He never has, and never was.”
The Awkwafina accent, or “blaccent”, has long been criticized as a form of cultural appropriation that goes back to her early work as a rapper and her character in “Crazy Rich Asians”. She briefly addressed the controversy at Reuters during the press for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” last fall. But Saturday’s statement was the first time he had addressed the AAVE controversy seriously.
She went on to explain that her immigrant background helped her carve out an American identity based on the movies and shows she watched growing up, as well as her love of hip-hop music.
“I think as a group, Asian Americans are still trying to figure out what that journey means to them: what’s right and where they don’t belong. And while I’m still learning and doing that personal work, I’m sure I want to spend the rest of my career doing nothing but improving our communities,” she said. “We do this by first failing, learning, acknowledging, listening and empathizing… And I will continue, tirelessly, to do just that.”
In two separate tweets, Awkwafina added that she will also be retiring from Twitter specifically, until at least 2024, though not from other social media channels, citing her therapist’s mental health concerns.
See the full statement on Twitter from Awkwafina here.