Awkwafina’s ‘Blaccent’ Apology Draws Wince From MSNBC’s Tiffany Cross and Guests

“It ain’t complicated. You say you’re sorry,” one guest said

Awkwafina Tiffany Cross
Getty Images/CNN

MSNBC’s “Cross Connection” host Tiffany Cross and guests on the Saturday morning show weren’t exactly buying Awkwafina’s recent apology over the criticism against her use of a so-called “blaccent.”

“You can’t write an apology that is pages long and not even actually offer an apology. You ‘like’ the tweet replies that were written by non-Black people, by white people telling her there’s nothing to apologize for. And then you dip, you leave Twitter?” RUN AAPI Executive Director Linh Nguyen told Cross. “I really think ownership from Awkwafina just would have gone a very, very long way.”

Last weekend Awkwafina 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 on Feb. 5. “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 this statement was the first time she’s addressed the AAVE controversy in earnest.

“This ain’t that complicated. Fisher Stevens back when we were kids who used to play Indian-Americans. You know, ‘The Simpsons’ has changed the voice for Apu. ‘Big Mouth’ has changed the voice for the black girl [Missy]. Just don’t do it. It ain’t complicated. You say you’re sorry. You move on,” fellow guest, Dr. Jason Johnson, a contributor to the program, said.