Listen, here’s my problem with Elle’s #BlackGirlMagic piece
It’s always the moments of fellowship within Black communities that get trampled on by mainstream media outlets and White folks. This time, Elle.com just got a Black woman to do their dirty work in a new article called, “Here’s My Problem With #BlackGirlMagic.” But don’t be fooled, this attempted undermining of the popular statement isn’t new.
It’s kind of interesting how the writer, Linda Chavers, substantiates her concerns over #BlackGirlMagic using a plethora of cherry-picked examples. After discussing her ongoing health struggles with MS, she says that the idea that Black girls are magical “rubs [her] the wrong way” because we aren’t magical at all. We’re just human.
Chavers compares the phrase to the Black super woman trope – a term which stemmed from treatment by medical doctors and plantation owners who concocted elaborate theories about Black women’s bodies to perpetuate chattel bondage. She explains that, “Black girl magic suggests we are, again, something other than human.”
Making her concerns into a conspiracy theory, Chavers says,
“These days, when racist practices occur in medicine, they’re more often reported on. But I find it not coincidental that as certain language started disappearing and certain practices started going underground, another language and practice started showing up: the idea of the magical black woman—#BlackGirlMagic.”
And, finally, she calls upon rapist Daniel Holtzclaw and the rampant acts of police brutality against young Black girls as evidence that we are not magic. She summons the names of Black women who were tragically killed to make her point all the while, whether intentionally or not, ignoring the core function of #BlackGirlMagic.
You see, generations of Black women and girls in the United States have been forced to live under the thumb of White Supremacy, a system some have said was predicated on them being considered less than human. But, that’s not the full story.
There was always knowledge that these women were human. Efforts to convince Whites otherwise weren’t based on fact but on a concerted desire to shame, maim, and frighten these women out of their basic humanity. Slavery, rape, forced reproduction/sterilization, and all the varied forms of violence against Black women couldn’t be justified in this Christian land without evidence that these women weren’t real women anyway, right?
Over the years, we have moved away from such explicit assaults on Black women’s bodies (not as far away as we would like). That doesn’t mean the sentiment isn’t still alive and well. This is no different from when folks attempt to justify the murders of unarmed Black men so that they don’t have to face the truth about racialized violence in this country. When White Supremacy and racism are the only logical answers, many Whites will do whatever they must to undermine the question. We have seen this time and again with Serena Williams‘ experiences in professional tennis likely being the most apt example of this process (re: frequently misgendering her or even preferring a horse win “Sportsperson of the Year” over Williams).
What I am trying to say here is that #BlackGirlMagic is not about being superhuman. It isn’t about being a strong Black woman who suffers in silence. Those terms originated outside of our communities and were meant to justify our oppression. Nothing that stems from a source of oppression will ever be a means for our uplift or liberation.
Instead, Black girl magic came from us. It is our recognition of the beauty, perseverance, and endurance of our sisters. It isn’t conditional. It’s not like we knight one another with magic and then take it back when we change our minds. It is a cultural recognition that Black women seed movements. Black women raise communities. Black women survive. Black women do what many others will not, cannot, and choose not to do when faced with similar or much lesser obstacles.
In this way, being magical is not about being able to fly, deflect bullets, or any other imaginary feature of superhuman life. We are re-imagining magic as the mere essence of Black womanhood in the United States. To survive and thrive in this country often feels magical. It feels like we have been victorious. *We* are deciding to be magical. *We* are choosing to see the magic in one another.
How anyone could see that as an issue is completely incomprehensible to me.
What’s more, that Elle.com deployed a Black woman to participate in her own unfreedom is both saddening and predictable. Hopefully Chavers will come to see that one doesn’t have to have superhuman powers to be magical. All one has to do is to believe in one’s self against odds. Failing or succeeding, it’s about trying to be the best version of ourselves each day.
Being me unapologetically *is* magical. And, knowing this alone is a form of resistance.