Shang Chi star Awkwafina has been the centre of criticism lately following her nomination for outstanding character voice-over performance at this years NAACP Image Awards. The nomination comes as a result of her voice work in Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. Now This has reported that many critics have called out NAACP for overlooking Awkwafina’s alleged use of black stereotypes, slang and voice tropes in her work. An act that is colloquially referred to as ‘blaccent.’ The Crazy Rich Asians star took to Twitter to address people’s concerns. Shortly thereafter, the actress announced her removal from the platform.
In the first Tweet, (see below) Awkwafina addresses the issue of her alleged use of ‘Blaccent’. In a series of paragraphs, the Shang Chi favorite points out her struggles to find herself amongst the Asian American community, before doubling down on her views of blaccent. Accusations have been thrown at Awkwafina over the years of her use of ‘black aesthetic’ for personal gain and comedic effect, as per a report from Blavity. However, when it comes to making a mockery of other’s cultures, she had this to say, “I must emphasize: to mock, belittle, or to be unkind in any way possible at the expense of others is: Simply. Not. My. Nature. It never has, and it never was.”
However, it wasn’t long before Awkwafina followed up her remarks with another Tweet, where she announced her retirement from Twitter altogether. It would appear that this could be in response to the Shang-Chi actresses statement above. Some critics have branded her response as a non-apology, in particular referencing her reasonings behind her use of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). The Shang-Chi co-star said, “My immigrant background allowed me to carve an American identity off of the movies and tv shows I watched, the children I went to public school with, and my undying love and respect for hip-hop.” This response (see below) from one Twitter user was part of a much wider debate as to whether Awkwafina had been appropriate in her response, and if any further comment was necessary. A report from The Independent shows that there was plenty more criticism of her statement across the platform.
It would appear that ultimately, the criticism and negative discourse pinging back on forth across Twitter is the reason behind Awkwafina pulling the plug on the platform. In a couple of statements Tweeted by the Crazy Rich Asians actress, she refers to the decision to ‘retire’ from Twitter as on the advice of her therapist and calls the social media app an ‘ingrown toenail.’ She ends her statements by writing, “also am avail on all other socials that don’t tell you to kill yourself!”
The end of her statements is particularly pivotal. It would allude that in response to her earlier statement, Awkwafina has been subject to some torrid abuse over the subject. Regardless of who is right or wrong, this goes to show the negative impacts that social media discourse can have on one’s mental health and wellbeing. As well as this, it calls into question the violence that can be caused by merely typing upon a keyboard. For now, though, Awkwafina has freed herself from any further backlash on Twitter, with her account being managed by her social media team until 2024. The question of whether she is in the right or wrong still rages on in the meantime.
The NAACP Image Awards are hosted annually by NAACP, a Civil Rights and Social Justice organisation. The Image Awards are a celebration of performances by people of colour in film, television, literature and music. Awkwafina’s future contributions to the world of film and television include Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid and a reported sequel to Shang-Chi.