Asian American actor Awkwafina addressed the backlash that she has been facing from fans for appropriating black culture in her films.
Talking about the history of African American culture, she wrote, “There is a socio-political context to everything, especially the historical context of the African American community in this country. It is a group that is disproportionately affected by institutionalised policies and law enforcement policies — all while having historically and routinely seen their culture stolen, exploited, and appropriated by the *dominant* culture for monetary gain without any acknowledgment nor respect for where those roots come from, the pioneers of its beginnings and the artists that perfected and mastered the craft.”
Noting that it is still a relevant problem, she continued, “In life, linguistic acculturation, immigrant acculturation, and the inevitable passage of globalised internet slang all play a factor in the fine line between offence and pop culture.”
She added that as a “non-Black POC” she would strive to be more aware of the history and context of AAVE and “what is deemed appropriate or backwards towards the progress of any and every marginalised group.” The actor-rapper emphasised, “To mock, belittle, or be unkind in any way possible at the expense of others is: Simply. Not. My. Nature. It never has, and it never was.”
While she did not outrightly deny or accept her usage of AAVE or ‘blaccent’, the actor mentioned that as an Asian American, she is part of a group that is trying to figure out where they belong and what is right.
Awkwafina’s statement comes, after years of being criticised for her usage of AAVE in films like Crazy Rich Asians and Ocean’s 8. Earlier in January, the actor was slammed for being nominated for the 2022 NAACP Image Award for her work in the film Raya and the Last Dragon. Many took offence to the fact that she was nominated for an award despite her history of cultural appropriation.
Apart from issuing the statement, Awkwafina also announced that she is leaving Twitter until 2024. She attributed her exit to her mental health and said that she is available “on all other socials that don’t tell you to kill yourself.”