Awkwafina, an Asian comedienne, was dragged on Twitter for using a “blaccent” and other moments of cultural appropriation in previous roles.
Nora Lum, 33, has been doing this nonsense for years but amidst the releases of two new projects, Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens on Comedy Central and Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, the otherwise obscure actress’ history has resurfaced.
In 2018, Lum was interviewed about cultural appropriation and said that she refused to do stereotypical Asian accents in her roles. So the Chinese-Korean New Yorker opted to steal her comedic style from what she thought represented Black urban women.
“I’ve walked out of auditions where the casting director all of a sudden changed her mind and asked for accents. I refuse to do accents. And I think like—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,” the 33-year-old clown said in an interview back in 2017.
We have Twitter archivist @MonicasFlight to thank for that piece of pre-pandemic history.
“I refuse to do accents. I’m not OK with someone writing the Asian experience for an Asian character. 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.” – Awkwafina pic.twitter.com/o9OtfBXd5n
— Xvengers (@MonicasFlight) August 14, 2021
Apparently, Lum likes doing some kind of accent because she can’t stop poorly imitating Black people. Since it’s 2021 and we’re in a pandemic, this time around, people had time to read the entertainer list all the way down to the letter Z.
i’m so glad awkwafina is getting the long awaited backlash she deserves from her play on the names of black women and that disappearing blaccent act she’s been peddling around.
— tiny dancer. 🍯 (@treofpaperbacks) August 18, 2021
Has anyone on Awkwafina’s team told her to drop the stage name? Cause…. pic.twitter.com/4BnHMcJCFS
— Rebekah Weatherspoon (@RdotSpoon) August 15, 2021
Technically, spelling Aquafina in a manner contrary to its phonetics could arguably be considered anti-Black appropriation.
Next, there is the fact that she insulted Black people to grow her career, and when white Hollywood started to care about her, she went back to being her non-Black self. That’s not a particularly new move, though.
I treat Awkwafina the same way I treat Miley Cirus:
I’m glad you’ve come into your own and did whatever soul searching you needed to do, but I remember your “Blaccent” days and how quickly you discarded it when it wasn’t serving you.
— Brandon Bradford (@BrandonLBradfor) August 16, 2021
This is where shock set in that people actually know who she is.
Then, some Twitter uses took the time to address the assertion that since Awkwafina was raised in a Queens, NY neighborhood, she was “code-switching.”
My Chinese American BIL is from Queens and he speaks in blaccent sometimes like code switching? i genuinely think it’s out of a place of admiration not mockery for a lot of Asian Americans bc we’re 2nd gen so the choice is either to “sound white” or “sound cool.”
— “Specific kind of Joy” Hui Lin 林慧 ปิติ 🥄 (@joyhuilin) August 16, 2021
Awkwafina grew up in Forest Hills & there’s not a lot of Black people in that area. So how is that forced Blaccent a product of her environment when the people in her environment don’t even talk that way?? pic.twitter.com/KbMjtLVcAN
— Bella Goth (@HoodSocialism) August 16, 2021
One thousand cool points to this Twitter user who intellectualized the derangement of coping with a stereotype by playing a caricature of another oppressed group.
overall, i’m tired of people making excuses for awkwafina. do you not understand how offensive it is that there are east asian women who cope with being the “model minority” by being a minstrel character. “people expect me to be submissive and dainty so i have a blaccent now😌”
— Loni (They/Them) (@jaowrites) August 16, 2021
Lastly, this Tweet made the day simply because it put aside deep thought and was hilarious.
When they said this was Awkafina dudjdjkssjksus 😭😭😭😭😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/fG2zFePckQ
— don ✨ (@ddpain_) August 17, 2021
Lum and her obtuse fans have missed a couple of things. First of all, code-switching is something Black people do to survive a white supremacist structure that places Asians above Black people, hence “model minority.”
Second of all, if one’s ability to build on their talent is predicated on appropriation, another word for theft, the talent doesn’t really exist.
Thirdly, AAVE is a real language with bona fide rules. Just as butchering Chinese for laughs would be offensive, the same applies to speaking AAVE.
Understandably, Lum wanted to save herself from getting a job she can do well and chose racism as an option, but those who can– do; those who can’t, explore other career options.
She has not responded. Perhaps the box office numbers will say all that needs to be said.