I don’t know about you, but #BlackGirlMagic has been one of the best things to happen to me in the past year.
From gymnast Simone Biles to tennis player Serena Williams to actresses Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson, seeing that hashtag linked to the amazing things we have accomplished has greatly inspired me, boosted my confidence, and reminded me to continue pursuing my dreams of being a filmmaker.
Now, this validation isn’t always easy to come by as we live in a world that constantly tells Black women that we are not desirable, smart, beautiful, or talented enough. Too often, we are told that our anger isn’t justified, that our voices don’t matter and that we are inherently a problem.
And let me tell you, those messages aren’t easy to block out. They stay with you, whether you are willing to admit it or not.
And while #BlackGirlMagic doesn’t erase all of that noise, it does counter this awful narrative. And most important, even if for a tiny moment, the hashtag reaffirms that Black women are some of the baaaaadest species to walk this damn planet.
A notion that I was pretty sure we could all get behind.
So it was jarring to read Linda Chavers's recent op-ed on Elle.com questioning Essence’s February #BlackGirlMagic covers, claiming the term is problematic because it continues to play up the trope of the “strong Black woman.”
In “Here’s My Problem With #BlackGirlMagic,” Chavers wrote:
“Black girl magic suggests we are, again, something other than human. That might sound nit-picky, but it’s not nit-picky when we are still being treated as subhuman.... In order to survive, we don’t fly, we don’t acquire superhuman characteristics. We woman up… 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.)
Now I completely understand that being constantly viewed as the “strong Black woman” and the superwoman doesn’t celebrate us: it actually hurts us. This dangerous myth demands that Black women withstand excruciating pain all while having a smile constantly on our faces. It also rarely allows for us to be vulnerable or indulge in our own emotions, rendering us to suffer in silence.
But nowhere, no how, is #BlackGirlMagic detrimental to our spirits.
Nor does it suggest that Black women aren’t human, can’t indulge in our vulnerabilities or we must have superpowers per se. Simply put, #BlackGirlMagic is an utter celebration of our complexities and the amazing-ness that’s inside all of us.
And that recognition of our greatness is happening outside, and perhaps in spite of how we are being treated by the world. Because white people (and their oppression of us) shouldn’t ever define our worth — we should.
Now how that radical approach to empowerment is a problem is beyond me.
But I also understand that Chavers’s article comes from a place of real pain, given that she is suffering from multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system. For her, she has a hard time feeling “magical.”
“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.”
While Black Twitter came for her, I have more empathy for her because I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes, fighting to hold on to basic functions like talking, writing and walking. But then why not solely focus on that struggle? Why not tell that story, a story that we don’t often hear?
It’s pretty ironic that Elle would even publish this piece in the first place, given that their most recent issue boasts three women of color on its cover. It’s kind of underhanded, but whatever: If Chavers doesn’t feel like magic, that’s her prerogative.
All I ask is that she stop trying undermining mine, because I feel magical every damn day.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Adam Hester/Blend Images/Corbis)