Awkwafina on Saturday responded to long-standing criticism of 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 Black vernacular has often been appropriated by others throughout popular culture and in internet slang. But she also stressed that it’s never been in her nature to use language to mock 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, what is deemed appropriate or backwards toward the progress of ANY and EVERY marginalized group,” Awkwafina wrote in a Twitter statement. “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’s accent, or “blaccent,” has long been criticized as a form of cultural appropriation dating back to her early work as a rapper and to her character in “Crazy Rich Asians.” She briefly addressed the controversy to Reuters during press for “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” last fall. But Saturday’s statement was the first time she’s addressed the AAVE controversy in earnest.
She continued by explaining that her immigrant background helped her carve an American identity based on the movies and shows she watched growing up, as well as by her love for hip-hop music.
“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 said. “We do this first by failing, learning, acknowledging, hearing and empathizing… And I will continue, tirelessly, to do just that.”
In two separate tweets, Awkwafina added that she’ll also be retiring from Twitter specifically, at least until 2024, though not other social media channels, citing mental health concerns from her therapist.
See Awkwafina’s full Twitter statement here.