Just when the phrase #BlackGirlMagic seems to have made it to the mainstream, with both Black and white publications recognizing the brilliance and awesomeness of Black women and girls, Elle magazine decided to publish an article taking the opposite stance.
In her article, “Here’s My Problem With #BlackGirlMagic,” Linda Chavers argues there’s nothing empowering about the catchy phrase. In her opinion, #BlackGirlMagic dehumanizes Black women and girls.
Black girl magic suggests we are, again, something other than human. That might sound nitpicky, but it’s not nitpicky when we are still being treated as subhuman. And there’s a very long history of black women being treated as subhuman by the medical establishment, in spite of the debt Western medicine owes to them. It doesn’t begin or end with Henrietta Lacks and the cancer cells taken from her cervix without her or her family’s knowledge or permission. It doesn’t begin or end with black women receiving less anesthesia, if at all, in surgeries because of the widely held belief that black women felt no pain. It doesn’t begin or end with black women receiving improper and dangerous prenatal care or compulsory sterilizations.
One of our most collectively celebrated images of a black woman is the black woman who perseveres, who survives, who continues on. In pain. Suffering. It is the beautiful tragic epitome of that strong black woman type we also collectively celebrate and simultaneously criticize.
Chavers, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, points to discrimination in the medical community, by authority figures, and systematic racism to prove Black women are not magical, but rather continuously victimized by the system.
Is it because we’re magical that Daniel Holtzclaw thought he could stalk, rape, threaten us, and get away with it? Maybe the Texas policeman who threw a bikini-clad black girl to the ground at a pool partythought she was magical and wouldn’t feel anything. Maybe the school security guardwho grabbed a 14-year-old black girl, body slammed her and threw her across the room, thought she was magical and would bounce off the floor.
Chavers concludes, “Saying we’re superhuman is just as bad as saying we’re animals, because it implies that we are organically different, that we don’t feel just as much as any other human being. Black girls and women are humans. That’s all we are.”
As you can imagine, Chavers’ words did not sit well with a large portion of Black women on social media.
— Ms. Jackson (@redefinedqueenj) January 13, 2016
— Anti. (@fentyxrih) January 13, 2016
While it’s true, Black women are indeed human, Chavers’ ultra literal interpretation of the phrase #BlackGirlMagic is not only odd, but it also ignores how the manta is used.
Black women and girls talk about our magic, not because we believe we are superhuman beings, but instead as a celebration of our humanity and survival, no matter what we’re up against.
Yes, racism and sexism and violence and discrimination are very real challenges Black women and girls face, and yet we’re still here. Simply breathing, putting one foot in front of the other, and choosing to LIVE is our magic.
Too bad Chavers doesn’t recognize her own.