Amid 'Blaccent' Criticism, Awkwafina Quits Twitter

Actress, comedian says it was never her intent to hurt anyone
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2022 1:19 AM CST
Amid 'Blaccent' Criticism, Awkwafina Quits Twitter
This image released by Apple TV show Mahershala Ali, left, and Awkwafina in a scene from "Swan Song."   (Apple TV via AP)

On Saturday, Awkwafina posted on Twitter for the first time in more than two years. Within hours, she announced she was quitting the social network, or at least turning her account over to her social media team, per her therapist's suggestion. It all has to do with cultural appropriation accusations. The rundown:

  • "Blaccent": The Asian-American actress, comedian and rapper, born Nora Lum, has long been the subject of discussions around cultural appropriation and, in particular, the use of "blaccent"; see this 2018 Vulture piece for a good rundown. It was this issue Lum addressed in her initial Saturday tweet, which focused on African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Vanity Fair reports.
  • Renewed uproar: The recent issue that sparked outcry is Lum's nomination for an NAACP Image Award for her voiceover work on Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon. Those awards historically honor Black achievement, BuzzFeed explains, and many were irked Lum had yet to comment on the appropriation accusations when she got the nod.

  • Apology? Lum said that "To mock, belittle, or to be unkind in any way possible at the expense of others is: Simply. Not. My Nature," and that she "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." She did not, however, actually say she was guilty of cultural appropriation.
  • Explanation: She also said that her "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," explaining, "Asian Americans are still trying to figure out what that journey means for them—what is correct and where they don’t belong." She added that thanks to a number of factors including the mainstream appeal of hip-hop, internet slang, and "linguistic acculturation, immigrant acculturation," there's a "fine line between offense and pop culture."
  • Criticism: The apology, or lack thereof, didn't satisfy everyone; criticism abounds on Twitter and elsewhere. Says Cheryl Bedford, founder of Women of Color Unite, "Young Black creatives in Hollywood who actually speak using AAVE are not taken seriously. It’s almost cheapening to the content they are trying to make, in their genuine voice. I mean, when someone uses their voice for comedic effect, what do we think that that does?" She added, "It’s making fun of, and it upholds white supremacy by turning the voices of a community into a joke."

  • Twitter exit: As the responses to her statement poured in, Lum posted, "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 followed that up with a tweet calling Twitter an "ingrown toenail" and said she'd still be using "all other socials that don’t tell you to kill yourself!" Her Twitter bio says her social media team is now monitoring the account until 2024.
(Read more Awkwafina stories.)

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