It would seem that, in a world finally beginning to celebrate the accomplishments and existence of Black woman, a world where we have a stage to be more vocal than ever before, one could appreciate the acknowledgment that Black women are special.
That’s not because we’re superhuman or because we’ve endured the scourge of standing at the intersection of both gender and race, but because we simply exist and for so long, no one would advocate and/or proclaim that we were, in fact, human.
And even though it would appear the tide is turning — both Essence Magazine and ELLE Magazine released February covers celebrating Black women in Hollywood and activism — the latter publication gave platform to a Black woman who sees the celebratory hashtag #BlackGirlMagic as problematic.
The hashtag lends itself to the “strong, black woman” archetype, Dr. Linda Chavers writes in the ELLE article “Here’s My Problem With #BlackGirlMagic,” a trope that also supports the forgiving Black women who “suffer in silence.” Black girls aren’t magic, Chavers insists, and to push that agenda is to reinforce the historical and otherwise untrue theory that Black people are superhuman.
“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,” Chavers writes.
Chavers, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, says for those living with illness or disability, the “magic” part of the hashtag doesn’t ring true. For her, there is nothing magical about coping with a challenging illness.
“One attitude I’ll never take on is the idea that I can be a ‘magical black woman,’ she says. “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.”
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. And it would be a magical feeling to be treated like human beings–who can’t fly, can’t bounce off the ground, can’t block bullets, who very much can feel pain, who very much can die. When I see “black girl magic,” I think, was Sandra Bland not magical enough? Renisha McBride? Miriam Carey? Perhaps she’d been trying to be magical and, failing, started to blame herself instead.
Chavers, sadly, is wrong. In her very literal take on the hashtag — and what we believe is a very irresponsible conflation of violence against Black women and the hashtag — she misses the exact reason #BlackGirlMagic was created. Yes, to celebrate our accomplishments. But also to affirm, in a society that historically and consistently fuels the erasure of Black women, that we simply exist.
Creator of the hashtag #BlackGirlsAreMagic, CaShawn Thompson, spoke with the Huffington Post about just that.
“I say magic because everyone doesn’t always get it,” Thompson told The Huffington Post. “We seem mysterious and even otherworldly in some of our achievements and even our everyday ways — but we know we are just human like everyone else. That’s part of the magic.”
Even more, condemning the celebration of Black women beyond existing in a world where the odds are against them is unfair given that the largest advocacy for Black women comes from, well, other Black women.
Chavers is exempt, by her own doing, in this case.
“In order to survive, we don’t fly, we don’t acquire superhuman characteristics. We woman up,” she writes. “And perhaps black women tend to do it better than most but that’s because we have to, not because we’re magical. (Most of us fail miserably, by the way; when one of us doesn’t, we call them magical).”
Is it so wrong to celebrate successful Black women?
What Chavers fails to realize is that the hashtag is not exclusive to a certain set of Black women. It’s for all Black women. It doesn’t speak to the actual “magic” of Black girls. It speaks to our existence in a world that, for all intents and purposes, was not constructed for us. It does not aid in the erasure of certain Black girls. Rather, the language encompasses all of our complexities.
Even Chavers’ complexities. It’s just sad that she can’t see that.
Read Chavers’ full article here.