Awkwafina Clears Up ‘Blaccent’ and Cultural Appropriation During Black History Month

The "Nora from Queens" creator also officially announced she is "retiring" from Twitter.
Awkwafina at arrivals for THE FAREWELL Premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2019, George S. and Dolores Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, Park City, UT January 25, 2019. Photo By: JA/Everett Collection
JA/Everett Collection

Awkwafina is trying to make the conversation surrounding her accent less awkward. 

The “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” star took to Twitter February 5 to address allegations around her “blaccent,” a “voice that stereotypically imitates forms of Black American dialect,” as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

Awkwafina, whose real name is Nora Lum, tweeted that there is “a sociopolitical context to everything, especially the historical context of the African American community in this country.” Awkwafina clarified her use of AAVE, or African American Vernacular English, was a result of being first-generation American (Lum is half Korean, half Chinese).

“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,” the “Nora from Queens” creator wrote. “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. We do this first by failing, learning, acknowledging, hearing, and empathizing…And I will continue, tirelessly, to do just that.”

Awkwafina acknowledged that Black culture has been “stolen, exploited, and appropriated by the *dominant* culture for monetary gain without acknowledgement nor respect for where those roots came from, the pioneers of its beginnings and the artists that perfected and mastered the craft.”

The “Renfield” actress added, “It is a problem we see today — though some may pass it off as a convoluted mixture of the ‘internet TikTok slang generation’ that liberally uses AAVE, to add that hip hop — a genre of music that is ubiquitous and beloved across the country — has now anchored itself as a mainstream genre in music history. And in life, linguistic acculturation, immigrant acculturation, and the inevitable passage of globalized internet slang all play a factor in the fine line between offense and pop culture.”

Awkwafina concluded, “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, what is deemed appropriate or backwards toward the progress of ANY and EVERY marginalized group. But I must emphasize: To mock, belittle, or to be unkind in any way possible at the expensive [sic] of others is: Simply. Not. My. Nature. It never has, and it never was.”

The “Ocean’s 8” alum added, “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…I am retiring from the ingrown toenail that is Twitter.”

Awkwafina previously addressed her “blaccent” during the “Shang Chi” press tour, telling Reuters that she is “open to the conversation” around appropriation. “I think it really is something that I think is a little bit multifaceted and layered, and so, yeah,” Awkafina said at the time.

“The Farewell” breakout star was also nominated for a 2022 NAACP Image Award for character voiceover performance in television or film for “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Per Yahoo!, the NAACP “does not exclusively nominate Black entertainers,” yet there was a social media backlash due to Awkwafina’s alleged “blaccent” for comedic purposes. Awkwafina also told Vice in a 2017 interview that she “refuses to do accents” for roles.

“I’ve walked out of auditions where the casting director all of a sudden changed her mind and asked for accents,” Awkwafina said. “So far, like a lot of the parts I’ve gone out for have been really real characters and being Asian is not part of their plotline. I’m OK with having an Asian aspect if it’s done in a genuine way. I’m not OK with someone writing the Asian experience for an Asian character. Like that’s annoying and I make it very clear, I don’t ever go out for auditions where I feel like I’m making a minstrel out of our people.”

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