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Awkwafina (Sort of) Acknowledges AAVE Criticisms, Quits Twitter

Photo: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Awkwafina, a.k.a. Nora Lum, is retiring … from Twitter. She tweeted a statement Saturday morning addressing the criticism of her use of AAVE, African American Vernacular English, during Black History Month. She states that, “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.” However, she does not claim in her post that she’s participated in the use of AAVE. Lum argued that her “immigrant background allowed [her] to carve an American identity off the movies and TV shows [she watched], the children [she] went to public school with, and [her] undying love and respect for hip hop.” She writes that “Asian Americans are still trying to figure out what that journey means for them — what is correct and where they don’t belong.” However, that part was immediately called out on Twitter: “Lady please don’t lump us into this,” tweeted Maria Watanabe in response to Lum’s post.

Lum says during her hiatus from Twitter that she is “still learning and doing personal work” and plans to “do this by failing, learning, acknowledging, hearing, and empathizing.” She might have completed the first step of failure with this statement as people responded with further criticism of the actress. One Twitter user, Jonah Sahn, responded to Awkwafina’s tweets to ask, “Thanks for talking about it now by posting these screens, but who are you going to do an interview with? Who are you going to have *the conversation* with? To process all of this?” He claimed to have been blocked by the actress. But two hours later, he said he was unblocked by Lum once the tweet with the screenshot began to gain attention. Others also denounced her statement, calling it a “non-apology,” and reshared her previous responses on the topic. Lum also has been liking tweets from predominantly non-Black people accepting her statement as an apology. She concluded her time on Twitter by stating that she “[apologizes] if [she] ever fell short, in anything [she] did.”

This post comes after years of criticism over her use of the Blaccent and AAVE in her work. She briefly addressed it during a press interview in September 2021, stating, “Um, you know, I’m open to the conversation. I think it, you know, it’s really something that is a little bit multifaceted and layered.” Lum shared with Vice that she’s “walked out of auditions where the casting director all of a sudden changed her mind and asked for [Asian] accents,” again drawing more criticism for her use of AAVE in the early stages of her career.

Some people felt that the more successful Lum became, the less AAVE she used, causing some to believe she only used it until it no longer benefited her. In January, Lum was nominated by the NAACP for “Outstanding Character Voice-over Performance — Motion Picture” for Raya and the Last Dragon.

Awkwafina (Kinda) Acknowledges AAVE Criticism, Quits Twitter