Black History Month is already the shortest month of the year, but folks can’t contain their shenanigans long enough to let Black people shine.
Twitter was not kind to actor-comedian Awkwafina, born Nora Lum, noting the post has a lot of words but is light on an actual apology. Whoever wrote the post uses many big words like “linguistic acculturation” and never manages to say “I’m sorry.”
Sorry, hun, you don’t get to be in the “I’m still learning” phase after pulling in millions and ignoring years of conversation about the issues with your caricature. Also, Black History Month is not the time or place for you to seek absolution.
Really at no point during the year is appropriate, but especially not now.
Quite a few folks responded that she didn’t need to drag other Asian Americans into her non-apology drama. Generalizing people’s experiences of multiple nationalities and cultures is also inherently problematic.
Attorney Namira Islam Anani, a co-founder of the faith-based human rights organization Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, challenged Awkwafina on the claim that the harm caused by her minstrel act was not in her “nature.”
“It’s ‘not your nature,’ but you’ve been doing harm,” Anani tweeted. “You’ve been upholding dominant cultural norms of anti-Blackness and cultural appropriation to make a career for yourself as a non-Black POC. It’s not enough to now lay it on a monothlic Asians’ still figuring it out’ excuse.”
She challenged the actor to learn more about Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama, two Asian American women organizers known for their deep relationships with Black struggles for liberation. Boggs was a prominent figure in the Detroit Black power movement along with her husband, James Boggs.
A 2015 NPR profile of Boggs mentioned that some of her FBI files assumed she must’ve been “afro-Chinese” because of her deep involvement in the Black struggle.
While known for her friendship with Malcolm X, Kochiyama survived Japanese internment with her family and became a human rights activist. As the Zinn Education Project explained, her father died in a hospital labeled a “prisoner of war” shortly after Pearl Harbor.
“This experience and her father’s death made Kochiyama highly aware of governmental abuses and would forever bond her to those engaged in political struggles,” wrote the Zinn Education Project.
Both women are the subject of documentaries detailing their lives and philosophies around justice and equity, including bridging the work of Asian American political movements and radical Black organizing.
Some white and non-Black Twitter users responded in support of the actor, saying she had nothing to apologize for, but it’s not for them to absolve her when the harm was not done to them. Her non-apology comes amid the uproar over Spotify’s ongoing support for Joe Rogan and after it was announced she was up for consideration for an NAACP Image Award.
Instead of responding to the legitimate critiques raised, the actor doubled down in a farewell post to Twitter, calling the site an “ingrown toenail.” But don’t worry, she will still be on other sites where people don’t care about the impact of her words and work on Black people.
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