These days, the topic of Black Girl Magic has been everywhere and while it may seem like most people have soaked up the black girl empowerment movement, one woman didn’t take to kindly to it and called “bullshit” immediately.
Dr. Linda Chavers, is a “writer, teacher, and scholar of 20th century American and African American literature with specializations in race and visual culture.” According to her website, her “research interests include southern literature, postmodernism, and fiction.” Her site also boasts that Dr. Chavers holds a B.A. in Race and Gender from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study (magna cum laude). She obtained her M.A. in English and her Ph.D. in African American Studies from Harvard University in 2013. She has also spoken on Ferguson and #Black Lives Matter at the National Cathedral School for Girls, The School of Visual Arts in New York City, and The University of New Hampshire.
I won’t spend too much time critiquing Linda’s article. Believe me: that has been done through and through and after changing her twitter name to avoid the inevitable repercussions, Linda was forced to face the music and deal with Black Twitter. While she did have to experience their wrath, many also reached out to remind her of her own Black Girl Magic.
Chavers’ problem with #BlackGirlMagic seems to be completely personal and riddled with ignorance. She strips herself of her own magic and compares Black Girl Magic to the “Strong, Black woman” archetype that has burdened and dehumanized Black women for years.
But one attitude I’ll never take on is the idea that I can be a “magical black woman.” That somewhere within me is some black girl magic. Because there isn’t. Everything inside and outside of me is flesh and bone and a nervous system (with bad signaling). Nothing magical.
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.
This is where we must bring some clarity to the difference between magical and supernatural and in this case, magical vs supernatural. Black women are obviously human. No Black girl that is activating her Black girl magic views herself as anything other than human. Just like Chavers, we become sick, we become weak and weary and we often times doubt ourselves. On top of that, we carry the weight of the world- a world that does not love us- and move on day to day building, creating and living and that in itself is the magic.
It is for these reasons that #BlackGirlMagic is necessary. Black women, black adolescents and little black girls need this hashtag, we need this movement. Where else is the world able to see hundreds of images of black women succeeding? Certainly not in the pages of Elle magazine where Chavers decided to leak her inner sentiments of self-hate and inadequacy.
‘Black Girl Magic’ started with a Tweet from CaShawn Thompson in 2013—originally as “black girls are magic”—and is a “celebration of the beauty, intelligence and power of Black women everywhere,” according to Thompson’s website.
The biggest issue with Chavers’ piece is the contradiction. Ultimately, she confused others dehumanizing Black girls and minimizing our pain with our own use of imagination & joy to elevate ourselves above these practices. We are all aware of the instances where other groups apply an aura of mysticism that ultimately exotifies and dehumanizes entire peoples and cultures. Black Girl Magic is not that. Yes, there exists countless expectations thrown upon Black bodies that hinder our ability to be flawed, complex, and beautiful. Black Girl Magic is not that either and it sure as hell is not justification to hurt us. It is not to be used against use. Black Girl Magic, for many, is an exercise of radical self-definition in a world that looks to violently smash us into a suffocating box. I’ve never downplayed a certain movement because of a personal problem I’ve gone through. If it didn’t fit me or work for me, I couldn’t shut it down. Especially when it worked overtime for others. Chavers should have let her personal issues be hers, and continue to let Black Girl Magic prosper. No, I don’t feel bad for Chavers who is living with MS; I feel bad for her need to deemphasize such an empowering and inspiring movement and feeling of #BlackGirlMagic. #ByeLinda. The hashtag #BlackGirlMagic has over 100,000 tags on the popular social networking site Instagram. The images are filled of black girl students, teachers, natural afros and relaxed tresses. Scientists and lawyers, musicians and artists and this is only a small example of the infinitely able hashtag. The magical hips of black women have birthed nations. When I see #BlackGirlMagic I see black women uplifting and inspiring one another despite outlying circumstances. Black women are not superhuman, we are magical. Black Girl Magic is about celebrating black beauty in a safe space. It is about celebrating accomplishments of Black girls and women that are rarely highlighted in the media. It is about allowing black women to feel normal and appreciated like our counterparts, not superhuman. Black Girl Magic is about celebrating ourselves in a society where we’re told to “cover up” because our black bodies, no matter what we wear, are sexually objectified and deemed worthless.
Historically, Black women have been objectified. We were the mammies, the welfare queens, the jezebels, the sapphires…………….(list continues) so, yes we need and deserve to control the narrative and showcase our magic. We need to utilize our BGM because when little black girls, black adolescents and black women turn on a television, majority of the main characters will not look like them. #BlackGirlMagic is necessary not only to show the world that we can, but to remind each other that YES, WE CAN.
The main point is: Black women are magical entities of the human race, and either way, they will prosper so long as you like it or not.
I was 17 years old when I was formally diagnosed with depression/anxiety. I was also 17 years old when I realized just how much I loved my Blackness. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve known that I was Black, I’ve loved my Blackness but I struggled with my mental stability and the intersection of my Blackness for as long as I can remember. #BlackGirlMagic was and still is reaffirming for me. It reminds me that on those days where I can’t seem to shake off the sadness and feelings of worthlessness, that I have the power within to be overcome it all and push forward. The black women in my life have always had an air of strength and power (magic) that is celebrated as a part of our culture. These women play the role of the head of the household, the support system, the emotional stronghold, and the tie that holds everything together when everything is falling apart. THAT is the archetype of black women in my life and in my culture. Of course there’s the “anger”, the “sexualization”, and other stigmas that have been placed upon us, but my idea of a Black woman is not that.
My biggest problem with the article isn’t that she’s denying the “magic” that black women have, but that she’s saying it’s wrong or harmful to consider ourselves magical. Little white girls are taught about being princesses, having a fairy tale life, and that they deserve to be rescued and pampered above anything and anyone else. That’s what they see on tv, that’s what their daddy’s tell them and it’s what their mothers exemplify. It’s ok for them to be royalty and think they have special entitlements but when it comes to black women we must only be okay with being “human”. We can’t see ourselves as magical because that’s not our reality. Or is it because we aren’t entitled to that? No. We ARE magical because no other minority is born with what we are born with or lives with what we live with. That includes the oppression, the disadvantages, the stereotypes, the obstacles…. But also the drive, the compassion, the love, the tenderness, the focus, the determination, the beauty, the overall spirit of black women to gracefully keep it pushing through the most unfortunate circumstances. The ability to, “woman up” as Dr. Chavers suggests, is not an ability everyone has, rather the very definition of our “black girl magic”.
I’m no scholar on black history (yet), no journalist, or philanthropist. I am a young black woman who sees magic in every other black girl out there, even those like Dr. Linda Chavers who don’t see it in themselves.
While most instances of the hashtag make it clear that users don’t think black women can wave a magic wand or cast a spell to get things done, Chavers’ interpretation is more literal.
The flurry of editorial responses and Twitter rebuttals don’t dispute Chavers on these points, but instead argue that the hashtag serves as a support system to counter daily discrimination rather than fuel it.
#BlackGirlMagic is not a substitute for the damaging “strong Black woman” archetype, especially since little Black girls are magic, too. Black women who exceed the odds that say we should be nothing more than teenage mothers who live in the projects and subsist on food stamps are magic. Black women who live in the projects, subsist on food stamps, and are teenage mothers… who decide to survive despite all of this are magic, too. Disabled Black women are magic. Seasoned Black women are magic. Collegiate Black girls are magic. PhD carrying Black girls are magic. Newborn Black baby girls are magic. Black girls who get thrown to the ground in bikinis by police officers and find the courage to stand up to this abuse are magic.
When Chavers wrongly asserted that “Black girl magic suggests we are, again, something other than human,” I vehemently disagreed. #BlackGirlMagic instead suggests that Black women have an innate divinity that permeates every inch of our existence. Black girl magic is a Black girl’s ministry.
Black girl magic helps Black women DEFINE our humanity; it does not supersede it.
Black girl magic is the appearance of Black women—all shapes, sizes, colors, and societal statuses—in all spheres of influence despite structures that resist our full participation in the world in which we live.
It is a celebration of the beauty, class, nuance, intelligence, and presence of Black women and the acknowledgment of the Black woman’s vital role in the creation of brilliance in public and private forums. It is innately, naturally, and instinctively Black and magic.
• Black Girl Magic Articles •